7 Activities to Celebrate Earth Day With Your Child

April 22, 2015


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.

Target Helps Ventura Elementary

April 17, 2015


Since 1962, Target has supported communities with projects through the United Way. In 2014, Target team members nationwide volunteered nearly 250,000 hours as part of the annual United Way campaign.

Target looks to provide opportunities for team members to be involved in the community and make a difference, particularly in the area of education, a core focus area for the United Way as well.

Recently, 88 area representatives from 18 Target stores—including employees from as far away as Gainesville and Ocala—joined together to help Ventura Elementary in Kissimmee.

Ventura Elementary was chosen for Target’s Annual Wellness Day partly because of a recent incident at the school. In February, the school playground was set on fire, resulting in over $60,000 worth of damage to the grounds.

“We knew we had to do something,” said Target employee and volunteer Laisa Cotto. “We wanted to do something for both the kids and the teachers that was a real and visible change.”

Target’s Executive Leadership Team was motivated to help the school. They reached out to Danielle Wolfe, a United-Way funded Americorps VISTA and coordinator at Ventura Elementary to see what they could do.

“It was the perfect time for Target to reach out,” said Danielle. “The kids and teachers needed to know the community was thinking of them.”

With Danielle and the school management, Target identified several projects, including improving the school’s landscaping and repainting the teacher’s lounge.

“We’re constantly looking for how we can help,” said Target District Team Leader Mike Slaton. “Education is a key focus for us, and this was an opportunity to make an impact. I have three boys of my own in school, so this is near and dear to my heart.”

With donations of plants and mulch from Uncle Jutty’s Nursery in Kissimmee, Target volunteers were able to freshen and rejuvenate the school’s campus, making it a source of pride for the students and community.

Students and teachers alike now have a beautiful and revitalized campus and they know firsthand that the community cares deeply for them and for their continued success.

For information about how your business can take part in volunteer activities, visit the Volunteer Resource Center.

2nd Annual Heart of Florida United Way Community Volunteer Excellence Awards

April 16, 2015

quoteVolunteers are at the core of what we do each and every day. Without them, Central Florida non-profits would not be able to make an impact in the community and work for a better future. Our volunteers dedicate their time and talent to make a difference.

The 2nd Annual Heart of Florida United Way Community Volunteer Excellence Awards will take place on July 14, at 5:30pm at the Rosen Centre. At this reception and awards ceremony, outstanding volunteers who have gone above and beyond in the Central Florida community will be recognized.

We are now accepting nominations in the following categories via the below link. The deadline for submissions is May 15, 2015.

  • Outstanding Corporate Group
  • Outstanding Faith/Student Group
  • Outstanding Professional Volunteer
  • Outstanding Individual Volunteer
  • Outstanding Youth Volunteer
  • Outstanding National Service Volunteer
  • “Above and Beyond”
  • Outstanding Volunteer Manager

Click here to fill out the nomination form! 

Volunteers from any nonprofit, government, or educational organization serving Orange, Seminole, and Osceola counties are considered eligible.  Winners will be chosen by a panel of independent judges.  All winners will receive a commemorative award and will be recognized at the award ceremony and reception on July 14.  All nominees and their nominators will be invited to the event and all attendees will receive a token of appreciation.  Refreshments will be served.

Chef’s Gala Social Media Contest

April 15, 2015

2015 Chef’s Gala Social Media Contest Winner

Last month, we issued a social media challenge to our fans and followers. By posting a recap of their experience at the Chef’s Gala Media Preview with a photo and tagging Heart of Florida United Way, participants were entered into a drawing for a $75 Primo gift card.

We had dozens of entries, but the lucky winner is Lisa Wilk @WineChix. Lisa is a local food blogger at @TasteCookSip.


A special thank you to Primo at the JW Marriott Grande Lakes for hosting the event and to the chefs who previewed their creations:

Illy Crusted Beef Tenderloin, Roasted Bone Marrow Mousseline, Hog Island Oyster, Crispy Potato
blu on the avenue, Chef Anthony Krueger

Root Vegetable Gnocchi, Palmetto Creek Farms Pork Ragu, House Made Ricotta Cheese, Fried Garden Basil
K Restaurant, Chef Kevin Fonzo

Duck Confit, Foie Mouse, and Kumquat Sandwich
Primo by Melissa Kelly at Grande Lakes Orlando, Chef Mariano Vegel

Florida Rock Shrimp Escabeche, Creamed Parsnips, Chicharrones, Burnt Onion Jam

Urban Tide at Hyatt Regency Orlando, Chef Jared Gross

Ghanaian Chocolate and Passion Fruit Milk Tart
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Bakery, Pastry Chef Amanda Lauder

 For those who couldn’t attend the Media Preview but still want to taste all of the delicious dishes, Chef’s Gala is on May 16. For more information or to purchase your tickets, visit ChefsGala.org.

Live United Victory Celebration

April 15, 2015

More Than $18.5 Million Raised for Heart of Florida United Way in 2014-15 Campaign


Heart of Florida United Way concluded its 2014-2015 campaign last night with fanfare at the annual LIVE UNITED Victory Celebration. Campaign Chair Tony Massey, COO and President of Massey Services, announced that the campaign exceeded last year’s total by nearly $300,000, with the final total reaching $18,502,184!

Hundreds of workplace giving campaign participants attended the celebration at the Heaven Event Center in Orlando.

“Million Dollar Champions” Lockheed Martin, Publix Super Markets, and Walt Disney World led workplace giving, instituting robust engagement campaigns that inspired their employees.

“The dedication and generosity of the organizations who participated in this year’s Campaign was overwhelming,” said Massey. “The funds raised over the past several months will allow United Way to continue funding hundreds of programs that help our neighbors in need.”

More than 400 Central Florida companies and organizations ran workplace campaigns to benefit local non-profit programs supported by United Way that provide services in HFUW’s core focus areas: health, income, education and basic needs.

Other special recognitions included:

  • The Spirit Award was given to CNLBank to recognize their powerful and motivated campaign.
  • The Exceptional Employee Campaign Manager award was given to Karen Clesen of Enterprise Rent-A-Car for her work organizing team involvement.
  • The Executive Champion award was issued to Chad Wilson of Publix Super Markets, recognizing his ability to inspire and lead by example.
  • The Chairman’s Award for exceeding volunteer, leadership and financial expectations was given to Adventist Health System.
  • The special Diamond Anniversary Award was given to Publix Super Markets for their exceptional philanthropic commitment, volunteerism and community impact.

Top campaign partners, raising more than $300,000 each, included Wells Fargo, Darden Restaurants, Inc., Tupperware Brands Corporation, AT&T, Orange County Government, City of Orlando, UPS Florida, Florida Hospital and SunTrust Bank of Central Florida.

Major Partners, each raising more than $100,000, included Lowndes, Drosdick, Doster, Kantor & Reed, P.A., Orlando Health, CenturyLink, Duke Energy, SeaWorld Orlando, FedEX Corporation, University of Central Florida, Siemen’s Energy, Inc., Bank of America, Adventist Health System, OUC—The Reliable One, Enterprise Rent-A-Car and CNL Financial, Inc.

Thousands of people in Central Florida have been helped by Heart of Florida United Way. Donations received through the campaign help our neighbors in need, building a sustainable future for the community. We are proud of what we have accomplished this year and look to build on this success and achieve even more for next Campaign as we continue to change lives.


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