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.


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.


2015 Day of Action

July 7, 2015

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“United Way is uniquely positioned to create community solutions that engage people, companies, faith communities, government, labor, nonprofits and more to create community solutions that drive lasting change and results in communities around the world”.

– Mei Cobb, Director, Volunteer & Employee Engagement at United Way Worldwide

On June 23 2015, the Volunteer Resource Center team at the Heart of Florida United Way strategically partnered with several local organizations and schools to host a day of reading and literacy for underserved students in Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties. This event entailed mobilizing volunteers to participate in fun, interactive literacy games in an effort to promote reading and foster literacy in children over the summer months. Additionally, we engaged nearly 50 corporate and community organizations who hosted their very own book drives in advance of Day of Action by collecting new & gently-used children’s books.

This focus on reading and literacy originates from the phenomenon called “Summer Reading Slide”—or the gradual decline of reading proficiency while children are away from the classroom. In fact, a recent study shows that while in middle-income neighborhoods the ratio of age-appropriate books per child is 13 to 1, in low-income neighborhoods, the ratio is 1 for every 300 children.

Over 400 volunteers contributed nearly 1,000 hours of volunteer service for our Day of Action initiatives. With the help of our community and corporate partners, we collected over 31,000 books, which was enough to provide at least six books to each participating student on Day of Action. Any additional books were distributed to other funded partner agencies. A few of the sites in which Day of Action activities took place included, but were not limited to:

• Numerous Boys and Girls Clubs

• Orlando Day Nursery

• Three Points Elementary School

The Heart of Florida United Way is overwhelmed by the generosity of those who participated in our Day of Action initiatives in the Central Florida community, and we cannot thank everyone enough for their support. We would also like to thank Depend for being a supporter of this initiative and helping make this possible. We are already looking forward to next year!

If you are interested in other ways you can get involved, visit our website at http://www.hfuw.org or feel free to email ashley.pruitt@hfuw.org.

Day of Action was sponsored by Depend.

Depend and United Way are coming together to promote healthy, active, and independent living throughout an individual’s life, with a focus on volunteering.

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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.


Kathy Ireland, World-Renowned Entrepreneur, Philanthropist, Actress and Supermodel, to Headline Women’s Leadership Luncheon

February 1, 2012

With the recent news that Kathy Ireland, CEO of Kathy Ireland Worldwide, is headlining this year’s United Way Women’s Leadership Luncheon, excitement and demand for tickets are building for the March 14 event.

$1.9 Billion Brand & Design Empire
Characterized by Forbes Magazine as the “prototype of model-turned-mogul,” Ireland leads a $1.9 billion brand and design empire that includes everything from home furnishings and fashion to publishing and destination properties. Ireland launched the company in 1993 at the height of her modeling career, which included three appearances on the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition.

In recent years, Ireland has gained respect and recognition for her philanthropic efforts to improve education, reduce poverty and help families prosper – all of which align with United Way’s focus.

With demand for tickets and corporate tables already strong, another sell-out crowd is anticipated for the luncheon, which last year raised $180,000 to help local women and children in need.

Sponsorship Opportunities Available
United Way is very grateful to the generous companies that have stepped forward to sponsor this year’s event. To date, they include Tupperware Brands Corporation, Fifth Third Bank, Lockheed Martin, Orlando Health, the Orlando Magic, Darylaine Hernandez Law Firm and Florida Hospital. Additional sponsorship opportunities are still available.

So we hope you’ll make plans to attend or sponsor this terrific event. It’s a great way to give back, get inspired and make a difference. Click here to purchase tickets or to learn more about corporate table and sponsorship opportunities.


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