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.


13 Ways to Prepare for an Income Reduction

May 11, 2015

This article originally appeared on “Surviving and Thriving” and has been reposted with permission by Donna Freedman.

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A reader suggested an article on preparing for income reduction. Not layoff or job loss, but rather a partial loss of expected funds – salary reduction, an end to child support and the like.

“Where you still have a job, but really need to evaluate the ‘new budget’,” she says.

I’ve written on this subject before, calling it the “financial fire drill.” You figure out how little you can get away with spending – and you do it with an attitude of calm preparation, not fear of deprivation.

This baker’s dozen of tips will get you started.

  1. Figure a baseline budget. This is the absolute minimum needed for basic shelter, food, utilities, and mandated payments like child support or student loans. Best-case scenario: Trimming some budgetary fat partly or mostly offsets the income reduction.
  2. Track current spending. If you haven’t got a budget, build one – with pen and paper or with a free online tool like Mint.com. Again: Knowing where it’s going can show you places to cut.
  3. Pay down any consumer debt. Trimming some budgetary fat, as noted above, can give you extra bucks to throw at debt. Two other potential tactics: Try to negotiate a lower interest rate or see if you can get a balance transfer.
  4. Ease off on prepayments. Have you been paying extra on your mortgage or your student loans? Redirect that money into savings; as my MSN Money colleague Liz Weston points out, even a $500 emergency fund can make a huge difference.

Cut some costs

  1. Re-think your auto. Can yours be a single-car or even a car-free household? If so, sell or garage one vehicle. Don’t cancel your car insurance outright, since it can be hard and/or expensive to get back in. If you truly need wheels, then talk to your agent about raising your deductible. While you’re at it, look for a better insurance rate.
  2. Inventory your stuff. Is any of it saleable? Somebody paid $1,200 for my little plastic statue of Bob Feller.
  3. Cruise frugality sites. May I suggest the following: my site (of course!), The Dollar Stretcher, Wise Bread, Get Rich Slowly and I Pick Up Pennies. May I also suggest that you incorporate changes gradually, so that you don’t burn out?
  4. Seek utility discounts. Some have reduced rates for people in reduced circumstances.

Just in case

  1. Got kids in school? Talk to the financial aid office; a change in circumstances might mean your scholar is eligible for additional help. (Avoid more loans, though.)
  2. Still paying your own student loans? Learn about forbearance now, before you need it.
  3. Know what’s out there. Go to Benefits.gov to learn about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and any other programs for which you might be eligible. Check local resources like food banks and public health clinics, too; visit the 2-1-1 page for links to services in your area. As with forbearance, find out these programs before you need them.
  4. Seek a side hustle. Even a few extra dollars could be a huge help. See “Can’t get a job? get a microjob!” for specifics.
  5. Think about boarders. Maybe a friend or relative (or a grad student) needs a room. Or check out home-stay programs like Airbnb.com and Roomorama; one couple I interviewed pays most of the mortgage this way.

Does all this sound drastic? Remember, you don’t have to do all of it – and you might find more suitable ways to cut costs.

Attitude is as important as any frugal hack. This is not about deprivation, but rather about smart use of available funds. If your income is reduced your outgo better shrink, too. Continuing to live the way you always had would be financial suicide: Those credit-card bills will keep coming in whether or not your ship eventually does.

Readers: Have you had to (or did you want to) cut spending? Got any advice to share?

Donna Freedman has been making a living as a writer for 31 years, the last eight of them as an online freelancer. She recently compiled her expertise into an online course called Write A Blog People Will Read; follow the link for a 25 percent discount.
Heart of Florida United Way is dedicated to changing lives for the better by helping families and individuals gain access to resources they need to stay afloat and succeed financially. For more information about Heart of Florida United Way’s efforts to improve employment and financial stability in Central Florida, visit www.HFUW.org.


Mental Health Month & 2-1-1

May 6, 2015

MHM2015 B4Stage4 FB Cover Image

When we think about cancer, heart disease, or diabetes, we don’t wait years to treat them. We start before Stage 4 — we begin with prevention. When people are in the first stage of those diseases, and are beginning to show signs of symptoms like a persistent cough, high blood pressure, or high blood sugar, we try immediately to reverse these symptoms. We don’t ignore them. In fact, we develop a plan of action to reverse and sometimes stop the progression of the disease. Shouldn’t we do the same for individuals who are dealing with potentially serious mental illness?

When you or someone close to you starts to experience the early warning signs of mental illness, knowing what the risk factors and symptoms are will help catch them early. Often times, family and friends are the first to step in to support a person through these early stages. Experiencing symptoms such as loss of sleep, feeling tired for no reason, feeling low, feeling anxious, or hearing voices, shouldn’t be ignored or brushed aside in the hopes that they go away.

If you recognize these symptoms, reach out for help. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or don’t know where to start, contact Heart of Florida United Way’s 2-1-1 Crisis Helpline by simply dialing 2-1-1. Staffed by trained multilingual operators 24/7, 2-1-1 is your connection to mental health services, crisis and suicide counseling and many other resources.

Like other diseases, we need to address these symptoms early, identify the underlying disease, and plan an appropriate course of action on a path towards overall health. Mental health conditions should be addressed long before they reach the most critical points in the disease process—before Stage 4. Many people do not seek treatment in the early stages of mental illnesses because they don’t recognize the symptoms. Up to 84% of the time between the first signs of mental illness and first treatment is spent failing to recognize the symptoms.

May is Mental Health Month — an opportunity to discuss mental health issues, bring awareness to those in need, and focus on prevention — a key tenant of United Way’s philosophy.

Mental health America has chosen  “B4Stage4” as this year’s theme—mental health concerns are no different than any other illness. It’s important to recognize mental health issues during the early stages, rather than waiting for the critical “stage 4”.

To find out more about Mental Health Month visit www.MentalHealthAmerica.net.

If you are facing a mental health crisis situation or know someone in need of help, call 2-1-1, United Way’s free information and referral helpline.. For more information, visit the 2-1-1 page on the Heart of Florida United Way website.


5 Job Searching Tips for New Grads

April 27, 2015

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Graduation is coming up fast. Along with graduation parties and relief that finals are done comes another milestone—it’s time to enter the real world and get that first job.

For new grads, this can be a scary prospect.

With some preparation, grads can confidently start their job search and land that coveted position. Here are 5 tips to help get started in a tough job market:

  1. Get Started! The job search process can be quite extensive and prolonged. From the time you submit a resume until you get hired can take up to three or four months. A fresh grad with little experience may find it takes even longer to find a position. Start looking for jobs in your industry before graduation if possible so you can get the process in motion.
  2. Tailor Your Cover Letters to Each Job: Don’t just use one generic cover letter for each application. Write a new cover letter for every position. Include specifics about how you are the best fit based on the job description and show your enthusiasm for the industry and company.
  3. Do Your Homework: Sorry guys! Homework isn’t done yet. Research companies you plan to apply to before submitting your application and interviewing. Make sure you understand what that company does, what their culture is like, and who their competitors are. Having a strong foundation about the company will set you apart.
  4. Have Strong References: Make sure you have solid references lined up. As a new grad, your references can be managers from internships, volunteer organizations, or professors. Let your intended references know when you start applying so they’re prepared for that phone call.
  5. Clean Up Your Social Media: Senior week and graduation pictures are fun, but may give the wrong idea to your future employer. Spend some time cleaning up your social media pages to ensure you are promoting yourself as professionally as possible. Delete pictures if needed, reset your privacy settings, and make sure you come off as a competent, reliable professional.

Heart of Florida United Way is dedicated to changing lives for the better by helping families and individuals gain access to resources they need to stay afloat and succeed financially. For more information about Heart of Florida United Way’s efforts to improve employment and financial stability in Central Florida, visit www.HFUW.org


7 Activities to Celebrate Earth Day With Your Child

April 22, 2015

EarthDay

April 22 is Earth Day! Use this observance as an opportunity for you and your child to connect. Earth Day activities can be fun and educational while benefitting the environment.

  • Walk Instead of Drive: Skip the car and walk with your child to school or to run errands. It’s a great way to save on environment-harming fuels as well as fit in exercise.
  • Plant a seed: Let your child pick out seeds to plant. Whether they choose to plant vegetables or flowers, it’s an educational opportunity on the growing process.
  • Create Recycle Bins: Teach your child about the importance of recycling and decorate an old bin or box to be used to hold bottles, cans or newspapers.
  • Cleanup a Local Park: Team up with your child to clean up the local park or playground.
  • Visit a Farmers’ Market: Take your child to the local farmers’ market and pick out fresh produce for dinner.
  • Unplug: Turn off the TV and smartphones and spend some time with your child outside. Play tag, hide and go seek or just enjoy the sunset.
  • Participate in Community Events: Local organizations and communities host a wide range of Earth Day events, from the Kennedy Space Center’s Earth Day Celebration to Central Florida Earth Day.

Earth Day is a great way to disconnect, care for the environment, and spend some time together as a family.

Heart of Florida United Way believes education, both in and out of the classroom, is a lifelong experience and the most influential factor in ensuring a child will grow up to succeed.  For more information about how Heart of Florida United Way invests in education, visit www.hfuw.org.


Using the Cash Envelope System

April 21, 2015

Cash Envelope System


It’s easy to break out the credit card for routine purchases like groceries, gas, clothes, and fast food. The convenience can’t be beat, but using that credit card can cause you to spend more money that you intended and rack up debt. According to a recent study, people spend up to 18% more when they use a credit card rather than cash.

The envelope system is a great way to get a handle on your spending and help you keep to a budget. It’s easy and requires no special tools or software, just some plain envelopes.

To get started with the envelope system, follow these steps:

  1. Make a budget: Review your spending over the past month and your bills. Bucket your expenses into categories, such as rent, groceries, gas, cable, etc. Then create an envelope for each one and label each envelope with a category.
  2. Fill your envelope: Set aside the amount of money for that week for that category in each envelope. For instance, if your grocery budget is $400 a month, you would put $100 in that envelope for the week.
  3. Spend! The fun part! Spend your envelopes on each category as needed. The important part is not to borrow from one for another category—no raiding the grocery budget to pay for shoes! If you run out of money in any category, spending is over.
  4. Adjust: If at the end of the week you have any money left over, deposit the extra amount into savings or pay down debt. Even an extra $5 each month can make a difference over time.
  5. Refill the envelopes: At the start of the next week, refill the envelopes and start again.

If you’re used to carrying a credit card, it may take some time to get used to the envelope system. But give it time. Adjusting to a cash system will make you more aware of your finances and spending, helping you keep on budget and build your savings.

Heart of Florida United Way is focused on addressing the five major building blocks of financial stability in order to provide low-income working families the services and support necessary to succeed. For more information visit www.hfuw.org or if you are in need of assistance, call 2-1-1, our 24-hour information and referral helpline.


The Importance of Volunteering

April 20, 2015

IMG_6460From the time he first came to Orlando, Chad Wilson, District Manager at Publix,  has always been inspired by the dynamic community and was motivated to contribute any way he could. Dedicated to service, he volunteered with a local food bank, providing assistance to the homeless in the area. He first heard about Heart of Florida United Way from the leadership at Publix in 2000.  Chad saw leading United Way volunteer projects as a development opportunity.

“This was a chance for me to see how good of a leader I could be,” Wilson said. “It’s easy to motivate people when you’re the boss and have a say in someone’s job, but when it’s for the good of the community, it takes a special sort of leader to inspire them. My job is to be better, leave the world a little better, and utilize the skills Publix gave me.”

Volunteering and community service is very personal to Chad and he views it as an essential aspect of his family’s life.

“I have two boys, and our work with the United Way has been a big part of shaping them to be well-rounded and compassionate men,” Wilson shared. “It gives them a greater understanding of the community and made them understand they have a responsibility to do more.”

Over the years, Chad has been involved in endless volunteer projects and initiatives. His favorite though was last year’s Day of Caring, where Publix volunteers painted houses to improve a neighborhood. It was a daunting task, but Publix volunteers finished the entire community in record time. Even the professional painters, who had been skeptical the project could be completed in just one day, were impressed—Chad recalls, ‘They said ‘you Publix folks can work!’”

Volunteers make a huge difference, and Chad strongly encourages people to consider volunteering in their community, especially with the United Way.

“There is nothing better than giving back,” Wilson said. “Too often we focus on ourselves and forget the bigger picture. Volunteering focuses on larger issues and allows you to truly be part of the community.”

Volunteer Opportunities

Volunteers are essential to what the United Way does. Our Volunteer Resource Center matches volunteers—both individuals and corporations—with hundreds of local nonprofit agencies to create exceptional volunteer experiences throughout Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties. If you are interested in volunteering, please visit the Volunteer Resource Center.


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