A heartfelt effort helps charities and givers

Lots of co-workers talk over lunch, share pictures of their kids and occasionally lament the inefficiencies of their supervisors.

Generally speaking, the goodwill from such sessions creates a positive atmosphere. But how many workers realize they can turn those positives into something greater? How many people know they can accomplish so much more if they just pull together?

In this day and age, it's hard not to focus on your own needs. Combine a shaky economy with job outsourcing, high gas prices and potential layoffs, and the phrase "charity begins at home" resonates now more than ever.

Those same reasons are why nonprofit efforts need help now more than ever.

A group of colleagues in the Hillsborough County Clerk of the Court's office have found a way to look beyond their own needs and daily routines.

In December 2006, Clerk of the Court Pat Frank formed an advisory committee of nonsupervisory employees to help improve the "quality of life" in the office. The committee, 26 people who represent different departments, wants to improve customer service, upgrade interdepartmental communications and pursue diversity initiatives.

Earlier this year, a subcommittee called the Have-A-Heart Ambassadors formed to explore nonprofit opportunities.

The ambassadors capped off their first fundraising effort last month at the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation's Great Strides Walk at Lowry Park Zoo. As the event's honorary chairman, my first inclination is to tell you how much money they raised. But the bond formed between the co-workers goes beyond dollar totals.

The ambassadors discovered the husband of one of their colleagues died of cystic fibrosis. The walk itself helped them realize that helping others comes with a pleasing sense of accomplishment. They also discovered how much fun it was to get together outside the office.

In the end, this group, along with various family members, raised nearly $2,400 for the foundation. They also raised spirits and good cheer.

Not only do the ambassadors talk about how much they enjoyed the walk, they are now channeling their efforts towards other projects, and doing so with new enthusiasm.

"They are enthusiastic and caring," said Linda Goldstein, the ambassadors' liaison. "I think we have only begun to tap the enormous potential in this office for internal and external growth."

As the honorary chairman, I pledged that the top fundraising group among those I personally invited to participate in the walk would receive my undying gratitude — and me as a waiter. So last week, with an apron around my waist, I served wings, chips, pizza and dessert to the ambassadors with the help of BJ Brewhouse, one of the foundation's key sponsors.

What I served them fed their appetites. What they served fed the heart and soul.

That's all I'm saying.

Big hearts

The Hillsborough County Clerk of the Court's Have-A-Heart Ambassadors: Linda Forgacs, Jimmye Hudson, Josephine Johnson, Becky Loggans, Vivian Lucas, Darrell Morning, Connie Shay, Loria Steele and Cheryl Wagner. Liaison: Linda Goldstein.

A heartfelt effort helps charities and givers 06/19/08 [Last modified: Thursday, June 19, 2008 11:10pm]

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