The Tampa Bay region is rich with residents who give their time and talents every day, helping in classrooms, cleaning up beaches and parks, comforting patients in nursing homes and hospitals. Most of their work is unseen and uncelebrated. That's the nature of volunteerism; acts of service are their own reward.
Still, the story of Tony March is remarkable. The 66-year-old puts in 20 hours a week at Metropolitan Ministries, a cornerstone charity that houses homeless families and serves thousands of meals across four counties in Tampa Bay. He prepares the food, serves it and gets elbow-deep in dishwater to get the kitchen ready to do it all again.
So does it make a difference that March is a hugely successful business owner, the head of a car dealership empire that earned $672 million last year? Or that he's a winning professional poker player who has won — and given away — large jackpots? On one hand, no. In volunteering, everyone's time is worth the same: nothing and everything. The same motivations that inspire many volunteers bring March to the ministry's kitchen every week: a desire to help others and give back following a childhood spent in poverty.
But Tony March has never sought recognition, and people who work alongside him in the kitchen had no idea of his success. "He could have his name on a building," said Tim Marks, chief operating officer of Metropolitan Ministries. "Instead, he anonymously washes dishes."
It's nothing, and it's everything.