Local YMCA recognizes service of Volunteers of the Year

Published February 22 2017

Larry Eaton, Michelle Smith, Robert Lindsey and Mike Hurlburt represent what is best about the YMCA, especially when it comes to the nonprofit's facilities in the SouthShore and Brandon area.

Officials honored the four as YMCA Volunteers of the Year during the organization's recent annual Community Impact Dinner. It's a distinguished designation determined by the staff at the facilities they represent.

Eaton serves on Camp Cristina's advisory board and also uses his mobile Kona Ice business as a conduit to raise money for its various camps and to provide free treats to kids in the after-school program and summer camps.

What's more, camp counselors, students, teachers, staff and custodians in the area's schools he regularly visits also reap the sweet rewards of his generosity. Rather than draw a salary, Eaton uses his earnings to put smiles on the faces of others.

"If you talk with almost anyone they will tell you he would give anyone the shirt off his back," said Mark Battig, executive director of YMCA Camp Cristina in Riverview.

Battig also noted Eaton, in addition to donating money to Camp Cristina, often lends a hand with its campus cleanups and other projects.

Eaton, a transplant from the Northeast, traded in his corporate job for one that also involves his wife, Jackie, and provides greater personal satisfaction.

"I always go home happy," he said.

Smith, the mother of three young children who has served for several years on the Campo Y's advisory board and is youth development director, initially joined the Y hoping to get back in shape after the birth of her second child.

But she soon realized that her innate passion for kids coupled with her role as a former fifth grade teacher called her to serve in a leadership capacity.

In 2016 she helped lead the charge to build the Campo Y's Bella Patel Courtyard, an outdoor shaded fitness area where families can work out together and enjoy social events.

She's currently organizing a six-week "Try for the Y" initiative beginning on April 16 to encourage people to engage in fitness activities for a minimum of 150 minutes every week. A triathlon will follow in May.

"I can't imagine what my life would be like without the Y," said Smith, who generally travels four days a week to the site.

She surmises she received the notoriety because she treasures her friends there like family members.

"She is just an amazing, amazing lady," Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA Vice President of Operations Rob Gray said.

Lindsey is the Big Bend Road Y's advisory board chairman, a role he took on prior to the 2015 groundbreaking at the site, which is not yet developed except for a soccer field and open-air basketball court.

He's recruited 10 fellow board members and overseen a fundraising effort among local businesses that raised close to $15,000.

"I feel good that we're all motivated toward a common goal of getting it open," said Lindsey, a banker with Regions.

Hurlburt, who recently stepped down after serving on the North Brandon Y's board for about nine years, engaged in many of the outlet's initiatives.

"I've cooked pancakes and I've mopped floors," said Hurlburt, owner of Hurlburt Construction.

But Hurlburt rates his contribution to a Christmas project at Seffner's Lopez Exceptional Center as his biggest contribution.

"Mike has given his blood, sweat and tears to the North Brandon Y, and is a stalwart in making Christmas special for Lopez's special needs kids," Gray said.

Contact Joyce McKenzie at [email protected]