A Lifetime of Service:  Bill Wilson, Holland & Knight

September 24, 2015

Bill Wilson

Bill Wilson,  Partner at Holland & Knight, goes beyond normal standards of dedication. First becoming involved with United Way when he was just 20 years old, Bill views United Way as an essential part of the community and an important part of his own life. Now a major contributor to Heart of Florida United Way’s Investing in Results Council and Board, Bill shares his expertise and experience to help guide United Way’s efforts to make the most impact.

What inspires you to be involved with United Way?

I have been very fortunate in my life and I firmly believe that for those to whom much has been given, much is expected. It is my duty to serve the community and help those who need it.

At the Corporate Leadership Breakfast in September, I had the opportunity to meet a woman named Madelyn who was helped by United Way. Her story was amazing and an incredible example of the kind of work United Way does. Madelyn moved to Orlando from Massachusetts and she really struggled finding a job. Her skills just weren’t translating to a good job here. She enrolled in the United Way-funded Culinary Training program at Second Harvest Food Bank and spent six months learning essential job skills. She now has a great job as a line cook at a popular Italian restaurant. She loves her job and she now has stability. That makes me proud to know I support an organization that helped make that happen.

What is the greatest community need in your opinion?

Our infrastructure is what makes it so difficult for our ALICE—Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed—population. With few affordable housing options and unreliable public transportation, it makes it so much harder to have a good job and earn and steady wage. Without a car, it’s difficult to improve one’s circumstances.

What do you think the business community can do to address this?

It will take the business community to partner with organizations like United Way and local politicians to advocate for change. We need to make access to affordable housing and transportation options a priority to help people get employed and on their feet.

What is one word you would use to sum up United Way’s work?

Opportunity. United Way is the place to connect individuals to new opportunities and personal growth.

What is one thing about United Way you think most people don’t know about?

2-1-1 is still a hidden gem. From serving veterans through Mission United to offering crisis support, 2-1-1 is a major asset to the community. 2-1-1 helps those facing unemployment, medical bills or a unexpected car repair bill and is a key service for Central Florida.

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Volunteer Spotlight: Eddie Soler

August 20, 2015

Orlando-Eddie Soler-Administration-4x6 2014As Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Florida Hospital, to say that Eddie Soler has a lot on his plate is an understatement. With 2,100 beds and seven hospitals within the system, Eddie is tasked the enormous responsibility of serving the community while managing an incredibly complex health system.

But Eddie is not a man who takes a break; when he sees there is a need, he acts.

He was especially motivated to take action in 2011. That year, CBS’ “60 Minutes” program did a report on homeless families—including those with children—living in their cars or cheap motels. It was a watershed moment for Eddie.

“It was a real eye-opener for me,” he said. “It was a real motivation to get involved with local champions to make a difference.”

This motivation led him to Heart of Florida United Way, where Eddie serves on the board and continually volunteers his time and expertise.

What made you get involved with United Way?

United Way always had such a strong relationship with Florida Hospital, so I was introduced to United Way’s work through my professional relationship. The more I learned about United Way’s work, the more I realized how much they do in the community. The scope of their work is incredible, from ending homelessness to improving graduation rates in Central Florida.

Then when I joined United Way’s Board and saw the accountability process—where partner agencies are evaluated and results are measured—I saw firsthand the kind of impact United Way makes.

What causes you to volunteer?

It’s part of Florida Hospital’s culture. We have a Bible verse printed on a lot of our materials that promotes caring for the community “because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” Helping just one person benefits the whole community and that has shaped my own personal philosophy as well.

What do you think is the biggest community need in Central Florida?

Homelessness in Central Florida continues to be a major issue, but the ALICE report really startled me; the data is staggering. There are so many people in our area who are working hard but can barely make it. They’re just one unexpected expense—a medical bill, a car repair—away from financial disaster. These are huge issues that needs someone to lead the charge to make it better, and that someone is United Way.

What do you think United Way should tackle next?

Education is key. There is a direct link between the level of education and income and lifestyle. United Way has the potential to make great inroads in helping students graduate and get a post-secondary education or learn a trade so they can make a good income.

What is one word you would use to describe United Way?

I can’t pick just one, but how about a phrase? “Community Champion.” United Way provides comprehensive solutions for sustainable change.

What is one thing about United Way you think most people don’t know about?

So many people think that United Way just helps the poor, but it is so much more than that. It offers assistance for all people, from education to health. The 2-1-1 Information and Assistance helpline is amazing, providing crisis aid. The reach of United Way is much bigger than most people realize.


Volunteer Spotlight: Marie Martinez

July 23, 2015

MARTINEZ Marie007Interviewing Marie Martinez is like interviewing a force of nature—she is filled with vivacity and overflowing with passion. When asked about her work and volunteerism, she stops abruptly.

“It’s hard to sum up what it means to me,” she said. “So let me tell you a story. There was a parent here who had a child named Mike who was 18 months old. He wasn’t making eye contact. He would spin and spin if she didn’t stop him. And during a busy party, he never stopped looking at the ceiling fan in the room rather than look at his mom or anyone who came to celebrate.  Everyone kept telling her she was paranoid. That it was cute, a phase or that he’d grow out of it.

The mother was referred to our Developmental Center program and he was diagnosed with autism. She was afraid and had that moment of panic, thinking ‘I’ll never dance with my son at his wedding.’

But we have a wide range of programs and services that can help. And she took advantage of those—and we made a difference. He’s six now, and he crawls into her bed every morning to cuddle and tells her how much he loves her. He’s succeeding at school. He has great friends and he rides his bike. And unless services like ours existed, that wouldn’t have been possible. Helping children like Mike makes it all worth it.”

As the Operations Manager of the Howard Phillips Center for Children & Families, Marie is dedicated to helping children. It’s a lifelong focus for her, spending the past 20 years working as an advocate for children in the community.

With Marie at the helm of the Howard Phillips Center, the focus has always been on prevention instead of intervention for children’s welfare. That makes her a natural fit as a supporter and volunteer with Heart of Florida United Way.

Why is child welfare so important to you?

In Orange County alone, there were 14,000 cases of abuse among children and families last year. That’s the second highest in Florida. And that has to change.

By providing a safe place for children, a place where kids feel comfortable, we help kids recover and help prevent abuse from ever happening in the first place. The Howard Phillips Center for Children & Families has six programs available that served over 15,000 families last year. From the Healthy Families Program, which helps prevent abuse before it starts, to the United Way-funded Teen Xpress Mobile Healthcare Clinic, we ensure children are healthy, cared for and prepared to take on the world.

Why is United Way important to you?

Quite frankly, the United Way is important to me because it has been a great supporter of the Howard Phillips Center. The United Way’s dedication and focus on prevention is evidence of a community leader that is willing to stand up and make a difference in our community. The impact of what we will accomplish together continues to be measured, but we already know that we are moving the needle and making sustainable change. It’s easy to support the United Way—they support change.

What is one word you would use to describe United Way?

I can’t pick just one! Support. Uplifting. Partner. Network. It all comes together because of the United Way’s work; we succeed with the United Way and identify new ways to help families.

What motivates you to volunteer?

It’s important to me to give back to the community, to make a difference and to live with purpose. I gain great meaning and fulfillment from helping children and families. By helping out, we can impact the community for the long-term.


Volunteer Spotlight: Tony Ortiz

June 12, 2015

Commissioner Tony OrtizWhether it’s his deep booming voice, gregarious greetings for colleagues or his commanding presence, when Tony Ortiz enters a room you know it. When you consider that the City of Orlando Commissioner for District 2 is also a former police officer and retired Marine, it only adds to his stature. Tony describes serving in the Persian Gulf War as an honor and emphasizes the camaraderie developed between veterans. But when you see your comrades hurting, suffering or in-need at home, it’s “mind boggling.”  This is why Tony joined United Way’s effort to do something about it.

What are the biggest challenges for our veterans in Central Florida?

We have to find a way to connect veterans with the resources that are available and the people/organizations they trust who are there to help them. There isn’t a shortage of resources. The problem is that it is just near impossible to navigate the system successfully in a timely fashion.

For the average veteran family, money is also a big issue. Many won’t be financially stable and won’t be able to readjust immediately to go back to work. They’ll need to be retrained to go back to work first.

We need a central location for veterans to go to and find the assistance and direction they seek and need.

On June 11, United Way launched a new initiative for veterans, Mission United. You have been part of that effort since the beginning. What needs do you see Mission United filling?

A lot of our veterans are coming home and don’t know where to start to get help. Mission United makes an easy one-stop shop for veterans. All they need to do is call 2-1-1 to begin the process.

Besides the challenges with the system, our young veterans need direction along with the support services. Mission United is focusing on the areas of education, legal assistance and employment. Many are coming back with a unique set of tools. Some are usable, some are not. But the character building that happens in a time of war, it’s a profound experience. They need direction and need someone to take their hand and help them readjust. I see Mission United as that support that takes them by the hand and guides them where they need to go to get the help they need and deserve.

As an elected official, you are closely connected with the community. How do you see United Way’s work in the community?

United Way has always been there for our community.  They are an essential part of our community. I remember when I was in law enforcement that I used to refer some victims to United Way to get help.  I’ve also seen a lot of people during these tough economic times looking for help and they go to United Way for assistance.

United Way helps the homeless, those who don’t have food, families weathering bad times when the economy collapsed; United Way is always there for them.

What do you see as a community need?

Right now, homelessness is possibly the community need with the most demand. A lot of our military personnel are coming back to a very challenging dynamic. I’ve encountered quite a few homeless individuals who are veterans. I also see the need for educating our most vulnerable people to learn about the resources that are out there. United Way is definitely a pathway for people in terms of getting help, knowledge, access, etc. It fills the gap in so many ways and acts as a liaison between entities. United Way ties everybody in.

What value do you think United Way brings to the community?

United Way brings a sense of humanity, which is possibly the most important value. It brings a sense of duty towards our fellow human beings. We have to get involved. What’s neat is seeing how United Way is growing. It goes with the principle “if you give, it will come back” and often, ten-fold. It’s the nature of giving. I’ve seen how the institution has grown and the people getting involved have a lot of enthusiasm. More so, these are people who have extensive expertise to help guide the way as well.

What one word would you use to describe what United Way brings to Central Florida?

“Empowerment” — empowers with knowledge, resources, confidence, and helps find solutions for people.


Volunteer Spotlight: John Pisan

May 13, 2015

John Pisan

John Pisan, Senior Vice President/Regional Managing Director with Wells Fargo Wealth Management Group, lives and breathes the mission of United Way. Originally from New York, John has been involved with United Way for over twenty years. Upon relocating to Orlando, he began volunteering with Heart of Florida United Way to effect real change in the community, particularly in education. He is a strong proponent of philanthropy being a regular part of life.

Why were you inspired to become involved with United Way?

I have been incredibly blessed — with my family, my wonderful wife, and with my company, Wells Fargo Wealth Management. All of that has combined to give me the mindset that if I don’t give back, who will? It’s part of everyone’s duty to strengthen their communities and build up their neighbors for success.

It’s had a huge impact on my family. My children have been involved in making a difference since they were young. My son and daughter have organized fundraisers and events. They were not told how to accomplish these tasks/activities. It’s just part of who they are. My involvement with United Way has been a large contributing factor to that.

From your perspective, what is the greatest community need?

It all comes back to education, and Heart of Florida Way President/CEO Robert H.(Bob) Brown has been a huge influence on my involvement. If a child is given a strong education, they have a foundation that will last them their whole life and make an impact for generations afterwards. One of the greatest improvements we’ve made so far is with the Americorps VISTA program, where we place mentors in schools to work directly with students. Just a handful of mentors each year has made an tangible difference.

Hunger and homelessness isn’t going away and it’s an issue that is nowhere near solved. Through education and prevention, we can begin to chip away at generations of poverty and need.

What can the business community do?

Businesses have a responsibility to serve where we live and work. For example, Wells Fargo does an amazing job; we are all about the community. From days set aside for volunteer work to participation with organizations like Heart of Florida United Way, volunteering is core to what we do as Wells Fargo team members. By developing a culture of giving back, we can come together because that’s what it will take — all of us working together to change our communities for the better.

What is one word you would use to describe Heart of Florida United Way?

Passionate. Not just the volunteers’ passion in the work we do for the community, but the staff demonstrates passion each and every day. It starts with Bob Brown and it’s evident in everything they do. There’s just a passion for changing the lives of people in Central Florida.

 What is one thing people don’t know about Heart of Florida United Way?

People are unaware of 2-1-1. Unless they have personally used it, they don’t know the full scope of services offered and what it can do for people. From housing assistance to suicide prevention, 2-1-1 is an incredible service to the community.


Volunteer Spotlight – Ron Piccolo, Crummer Graduate School of Business at Rollins College

March 16, 2015

2015-Newsletter-Windows_Piccolo-SpotlightRon Piccolo’s students at the Crummer Graduate School of Business at Rollins College would probably agree that he’s a passionate guy. Listen to one of his enthusiastic lectures about processes or vehement dialog regarding organizational management and you’ll be a believer, too. United Way is fortunate that Ron brings equal passion to solving complex community issues.

How did you get involved with United Way?

I became meaningfully involved with United Way in 2010 when I began serving as the chair of the developing healthy children and families cabinet. All of these community leaders were around the table who are determined to make a difference. I knew this is where I wanted to be. I also serve on the board of directors for Heart of Florida United Way.

Sitting on the cabinet, you’re one of the subject matter experts who decide how the dollars United Way raises are allocated. How do you see the organization’s actions making an impact?

I see United Way as an important steward of community resources – the crystallizing organization for the nonprofit sector in Central Florida. United Way does provide direct services – like 2-1-1, case management, and more – but I see it as the place to steward resources, funneling time, dollars, talent into one place and distributed accordingly.

What was your “aha” moment as to why you’re involved in the community?

I visited one of United Way’s funded partner agencies, BETA Center. There, I saw 13-year-old girls with heavy backpacks on one shoulder filled with books they needed for the 8th or 9th grade. On the other shoulder, they carried diaper bags. These girls were living dual lives – mother and high school student. I remember thinking, “And they’re the lucky ones who have support from a program like this… How many others don’t?” There are so many other kids out there facing adult situations – parenthood to homelessness to abuse – who need our help. That’s what inspires me to continue to be involved.

Are you hopeful for what the next generation of business executives will bring to the table in terms of caring for the community they do business in?

At Rollins College, service-learning and social responsibility is built into the curriculum from undergraduate studies to my business classes. It’s our hope that all of our students go on to be responsible citizens and will recognize the importance of for-profits practices to address non-profit needs.

If you were to describe United Way in a couple of words, what would it be?

“Prudent steward”

In what area do you hope to see more from United Way in the future?

What United Way has been doing is what is needed most… creating meaningful collaboration between sectors to share resources and develop solutions together. It takes an entity like United Way to break down silos and encourage a more systematic approach to issues. There can be much more cross sector and inter-agency partnerships, so I hope United Way continues down that path.


Volunteer Spotlight: Shawn Bartelt, WFTV/WRDQ

February 18, 2015

2015-Newsletter-Window-Shawn-SpotlightShawn Bartelt is a busy lady. Whether she’s bouncing from sales meetings or to her teenager’s school activities, Shawn finds time to be present. She carries that same belief over to her philanthropy and community. We caught up with Shawn, United Way board member, to hear how she manages to do it all.

What inspires your volunteerism?

I’m fortunate to be in a position where I can give back. I think it’s very important. Really, I think that giving committed time is a tremendous gift. I started with mentoring at my kids’ schools with some young students from Haiti. Their mom worked a lot of hours, and they didn’t get to have a present adult as often as they needed. I spent time reading with them and got to see firsthand what a huge difference it makes. Their grades improved significantly and they were more involved in school.

There’s a gift in giving. It makes you feel so positive to be able to make a difference in someone else’s life… and also help them make a difference in their own life.the-lorax-quote

What is a quote that you live by?

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

– Dr. Seuss

You served as campaign chair for the United Way 2012-13 campaign. What did you learn from that experience?

I learned a lot, but the main thing was how impactful doing the right things at the right times are. I think one of the great things about the way United Way operates is that the results are measurable. They’re not just throwing money at something and crossing fingers for a better outcome.

It was a tremendous experience to be able to be around a bunch of people who care about the same things, are passionate about making our community a better place, and provide resources for people to grow.

How does the community benefit from the United Way mission?

I look at the United Way like a mutual fund. As a donor, you know the dollars that you’re investing are going into multiple buckets, and being scrutinized to ensure they’re creating the biggest bang. United Way is taking a hard look at the investment in community programs and is making sure that the investment is moving the needle. United Way has a broad portfolio of programs, from hunger and homelessness to education. I like to know that my dollar is going to whichever bucket where support is needed the most.

Being on the inside as a board member, what do others not know about United Way?

I don’t think people realize how efficient United Way is, especially with managing the entire 2-1-1 system. People aren’t aware of how much rigor there is involved in selecting organizations that receive funding. And, finally, the scope. United Way impacts everything from infants to seniors… access to books and mentoring… and a lot in between.

What one word would you use to describe United Way’s impact on Central Florida?

Dynamic – I think it’s dynamic because United Way moves very quickly to address community needs that arise. For as large as it is, it’s nimble and able to move resources in new and creative ways to help Central Florida.


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