Charity Magazine

Global Links

Two Tupperware executives, Rick Goings and Elinor Steele, visited Iraq in 2011 as part of a Department of Defense Task Force for Business and Stability. While there, they realized Iraq lacked a small and medium enterprise (SME) sector and a robust entrepreneurial class. Women suffer from this the most; they have the highest unemployment, greater barriers to credit, and weak labor laws. Despite the fact that Iraq is poised to experience double-digit growth in the coming years, women must be a part of this growth for the greatest impact.

These realizations sparked a collaborative effort between Tupperware Brands, Rollins College, and the U.S. Secretary of State’s Office of Global Women’s Issues. It’s awe-inspiring to think a local, Central Florida company and a small, local college can make a global impact! The result is the Global Links Scholar program.

This partnership invites a female professor from Iraq, hosted by Rollins College, to come and learn skills in five key areas: career, culture, curriculum, community, and coaching through a train-the-trainer model. Ultimately, this opportunity provides the professor with the skills for her to return to Iraq and teach and empower other women to contribute to the future of their country.

The inaugural Global Links Scholar, Dr. Amel Abed Mohammed Ali, was selected and arrived on the campus of Rollins College in January 2012, one short year after Rick and Elinor traveled to Iraq. Dr. Ali is an accomplished researcher, focused primarily on change management and thought leadership. Tupperware Brands and Rollins College provides a perfect fit for this highly accomplished professor. During her Global Links experience she participated in a specially-designed graduate level curriculum that focused on entrepreneurship (both traditional and social, notably Rollins College is an Ashoka designated campus), women business ownership, and financial self-sufficiency. During her externship at Tupperware Brands, Dr. Ali learned the fundamentals of sales, strategic planning, market analysis, and general management skills.

Dr. Ali shares the Global Links program will enable her to “develop both the intellectual and economic standard of Iraqi women as well as the Iraqi community”

In 2013, Dr. Ali returned home to teach students the skills she learned through the Global Links program. And, a partnership was formed with Women for Women International (WfWI). Through these developments a career center was formed and social entrepreneurship classes are offered. The students who are part of this program are learning the importance of social entrepreneurship and community engagement. After completing the coursework, the students are eligible to apply for a two-week immersion program at Rollins College. The first group of students spent time with Rollins students in relevant seminars on social entrepreneurship and participated with local community organizations to develop leadership skills.

Over the next five years the goal is to replicate the program, leveraging these lessons on a global level.

Follow the progress of the Global Links Program on their Facebook page.

Ron Ben-Zeev: Shaking the Entrepreneur Ecosystem in Orlando

Ron Ben-Zeev noticed there weren’t many resources in Orlando in 2010 for entrepreneurs. As an entrepreneur, Ron describes himself as a “find a need and fill it kind of person”. There was certainly a need and he knew there were other entrepreneurs in the community that had the same need of resources. Let me digress by sharing how Ron became an entrepreneur then we’ll fast-forward to seeing how this journey allows Ron to see the needs of the Central Florida community in 2010. Without his background, he would not have been able to be a part of the thought leaders that brought an ecosystem for entrepreneurs to Orlando.

 Ron began his entrepreneurial journey as a 13 year-old boy in France. During Labor Day (May Day in France), the beautiful, exotic Lily of the Valley is used in celebration. As a young boy riding his bike through the countryside, he found a field of Lily of the Valley flowers; Labor Day was the following week. Preparedness met opportunity. Luck is where opportunity meets preparation. Ron picked many of the lilies, sold them at 100% profit, and caught the entrepreneur bug.

 During Ron’s first trip to the United States with his parents, he noticed the Sony Walkman trend. Seeing the Panasonic product that was its competitor, Ron made calls, negotiated a contract, and shipped Panasonic’s product to Switzerland. Bringing this product to a new market, Ron, although young, became an accomplished entrepreneur.

 Ron recalls his days as a student at Wharton School of Business. Back in the 80’s “not many studied  entrepreneurship”; he did. However, as a foreign student, Ron wasn’t able to get a job other than on campus and there were no jobs available. Once again, Ron found himself creating his own job. As a “find a need and fill it kind of person” Ron always found a way to make money. Upon graduation, he interviewed with a company and was chosen among the top candidates; but, the only one without a Master’s Degree. As they offered Ron the position, he asked the hiring team why they would choose him. Their answer became Ron’s defining moment. They replied, “We want you because you don’t know it can’t be done; therefore, you’ll find a way to get it done.” Today Ron still finds a way to get it done.

 One of Ron’s pet peeves is people who sit on their idea and never act. He quips, “Ideation without execution is just an hallucination.”

 Ron spent some time in corporate America as an intrapreneur (before the word was even coined). He attacked silos, met resistance, but found solutions. His philosophy during his tenure in corporate America was to be pragmatic and “get shit done”.

 He has certainly been a part of “getting shit done” here in Central Florida. Today Orlando has a Women’s Business Incubator, 3 co-working spaces, 1 Million Cups, Starter Studio, Startup Weekend, and is also Rollins College first entrepreneur-in-residence. Ron has played an integral role in 1MC, Startup Weekend, and Rollins College’s Entrepreneurship initiatives. There are certainly other resources in Orlando; these are just a few.. But, one thing Ron realizes is “it takes a village” and he credits several other entrepreneurs for championing this movement to bring some “big city resources” here for entrepreneurs. I have watched Ron over the last couple of years in several settings; Ron has always given credit to the “village” of people who have come alongside to bring all these resources and events to Orlando.

 Ron says he sits somewhere in the middle between a 4-hour workweek and a 12-hour day philosophy. Although an entrepreneur’s brain never shuts off, Ron knows that family and finding time to give back are important. He says the secret to his ability to be noticed by the Kauffman Foundation (sponsor of 1 Million Cups), Rollins College where he resides as an entrepreneur-in-residence, and sitting on Wharton’s IGEL Board is to give first. When you give and ask “where can I help”, opportunity comes back to you. Orlando’s startup community is competitive, yet supportive and willing to help, Ron says. As a fellow resident and entrepreneur in Orlando, I couldn’t agree more.

Ron currently is founder and co-founder of several early stage startups. He also sits on the board of directors of a for profit and a non-profit in town.  I’m sure we’ll see more from this innovative entrepreneur who “gets shit done” and fills the needs he finds.


    The Big News in Philanthropy Across Central Florida

    Central Florida has a vibrant nonprofit community, and there is always something to share. However, three things have recently happened in Central Florida that are newsworthy in the nonprofit sector because they impact the sector-at-large. I’d like to highlight them briefly here.


    First, the P. Due to the Edyth Bush Foundation’s continued generosity for 15 years to the Center, the Philanthropy and  Nonprofit Leadership Center (PNLC) has changed it’s name to the Edyth Bush Institute for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership. More than 2,000 nonprofit leaders from over 200 members utilize the courses and other resources each year. Since the Center serves so many they are truly a “cornerstone” in Central Florida’s nonprofit community. Margaret Linnane still serves as the Executive Director. Under her guidance, the list of programs continues to grow. Central Florida is truly fortunate to have a resource as comprehensive as the Edyth Bush Institute for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership.


    Homelessness continues to be the hottest topic among the nonprofit community. And, Andrae Bailey, CEO of theCentral Florida Commission on Homelessness, made waves when Cardboard Stories, the media campaign went viral. Cardboard Stories was seen along I-4 billboards, on the news feed of many Facebook profiles, and received local press. Because of his effective and persistent action to shed light on the issue of homelessness, Andrae was awarded runner up as Central Floridian of the Year. His activism has put him and the Commission in the spotlight, garnering the support of politicians and other organizations. Many organizations are coming together in a collaborative effort to implement an effective model to reduce homelessness.


    Third, Charity Magazine  is now in it’s second year highlighting the news, stories, and organizations that are making a difference in Central Florida. Eric English, Editor, has gone from publishing an inaugural issue in 2014 to a quarterly issue in print this year. Two columns to look forward to are written by Mark Brewer and Kaia Forget for the pulse of philanthropy.

    Soles4Soles Hikes to Costa Rica with an Orlando Writer

    One question: “Will you go?” While I was in Nashville, I met a staff member, Lisa Pointe, from Soles4Souls. She kindly gave me a tour after I expressed my interest in social enterprise. From that initial contact I was asked to join a team from Ohio State University that would be doing a shoe distribution in Costa Rica in May and cover the story. What an opportunity! What an adventure!

    A simple request is about to change the lives of several and I get to watch it unfold live.

    As I landed I was greeted by 10 student athletes, their advisors from OSU, and Taylar Proctor from Soles4Souls. We boarded the bus and headed to our host facility in San Jose. The first evening was uneventful, settling in and doing introductions. Although the students came from Ohio State, home of the Buckeyes, most didn’t know each other.

    The next morning though, we boarded the bus early to head to our first shoe distribution at a local school. The team of OSU athletes were diving in, sorting sizes, fitting shoes on little feet, and putting smiles on the little faces. While the kids waited their turn some of our team played soccer, jump rope, and basketball with the Costa Rican children; others put Buckeye “tattoos” on the kids. This team came to serve and serve they did! In under six hours we gave out nearly 1000 pairs of shoes.

    The following morning was much like yesterday. Except today we stopped on the way to the distribution site to see where these children lived. The “shanty town” was little more than tin boxes housing as many as 14 people in a home not any larger than a tool shed. Our host said it was one of the most densely populated “shanty towns” in San Jose. Heartbreaking.

    These kids definitely needed shoes. The OSU athletes worked tirelessly and quickly. Today more than 800 shoes were given out in under four hours! Again, the athletes didn’t just put shoes on the feet of the students; they interacted and played with them putting ear-to-ear smiles on their faces.

    Saturday we were up at 5:00 am to take a bus ride (fully loaded with students and shoes with barely enough room to sit!) for three hours before hopping in a water taxi to ride upstream for an hour. The rainforest was our destination for the third shoe distribution and this was the only way of getting there. By this time the students had become friends. They bus was a frenzy of music, lively conversation, and bantering. Part of the intrigue of the week was watching these students go from nearly strangers on the same campus to a tight-knit group that want to stay in touch when they return home. Somehow serving others will break through the cliques and bind hearts and lives.

    After settling in at the rainforest lodge we board the water taxi once again for a short ride upstream. The town has 400 residents and this distribution is open to all; however, due to our shoe sizes remaining we won’t be able to fit men or larger women’s feet. The team sets up quickly and welcomes the throng of people into a small school room to be sized and fitted. We are seeing moms and babes coming together, many without shoes on their feet. Each leave with a pair of shoes and a smile filled with hope on their faces. Sadly, there were some who were so used to walking barefoot, they left carrying their new pair of shoes. But, for many, entire families lives were changed that day by a pair of shoes.

    Our last shoe distribution was scheduled as we descended the mountain to return to San Jose. Unfortunately, the road was closed and our team couldn’t meet the delivery of shoes to get where we needed to be. The last distribution had to be postponed for another trip.

    Serving others changes lives. As nearly 2,000 pairs of shoes were given out during our six days in Costa Rica we watched the hearts of the OSU students melt. We watched athletes who had never spoken on campus connect on social media and plan to meet regularly once they returned home. We watched as the team stooped on bended knee to share a small gift, a kind word, or a hug with a child that spoke another language. Language, age, and location should never be a reason not to serve. Serving makes all of those things irrelevant and will give you an experience you’ll never forget. I know I’ll never forget how humbled and honored I felt to be invited to write about and participate in a life-changing experience. I had a front row seat as many of these students shared that they had never left the United States to serve others.

    Soles4Souls doesn’t just change the lives of those who receive shoes; they change the lives of all who take a few days out of their life to serve. One question: “Will you go?”


    Hidden Inside a Hug

    Near the Mills 50 District a hidden gem is being constructed. This hidden gem, a custom home, designed and built by Silliman Homes Cityside, will be finished in October 2015. Why is this hidden gem more noteworthy than the other homes they build?

    This 2,594 square foot home, House of Hugs, is being sold at market value and the proceeds are being donated to three of Orlando’s charities: Boys and Girls Club of Central Florida, Florida Hospital for Children, and the Greater Orlando Builders Association’s (GOBA) Foundation. These three charities depend on philanthropic donations. Florida Hospital for Children states one out of every two children who need care in the community are served at the Hospital. The Boys and Girls Club serves nearly 13,000 children in Central Florida each year. GOBA Foundation has given more than $1Million to youth related charities and scholarship funds throughout Central Florida. The fundraising efforts of these organizations obviously touch the lives of many in our community.

    Lives of our friends and neighbors are touched by these organizations and will benefit from the “House of Hugs”.

    The recent groundbreaking was attended by Gary Cain, President of the Boys and Girls Club of Central Florida, Dick Batchelor, Board Chair of Florida Hospital for Children, Marla Silliman, Senior Executive Officer of Florida Hospital for Children, Eric English, Publisher of Charity Magazine, and other community leaders.

    Silliman Homes Cityside is grateful for the support of its contractors and United Legacy Bank. Without their support the construction would not be possible. Hidden within the Mills 50 District is a home that will welcome a new family. In addition, this House of Hugs will serve the youth of our community at-large through the proceeds of the sale.

    “Silliman Homes CitySide is doing good in our local community. Thanks to their ‘House of Hugs’ project, we will have the ability to continue providing over 3 million hours of service and support in the areas of academic success, good character & citizenship and healthy lifestyles for the more than 13,000 young people we serve annually,” said Gary Cain, president & CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida. “We are grateful for this opportunity and thank everyone behind this project for making children a top priority.”
    “Bill Silliman has been a champion of Florida Hospital for Children for many years and we are thrilled with the announcement of his new gift through the House of Hugs. Combining his great talent as a home builder to support one of his favorite charities really is a winning formula. Bill has a deep passion for not only building homes, but building community. It is heartwarming to think that the home owner will not only get a well-built home, but also the special added benefit of knowing their home helped support children’s care at Florida Hospital. Bill really has a heart of gold and the children and families we serve are blessed by his generosity.“ David Collis, FL Hospital Foundation


    Kicking…..for the Kid’s Sake

    The largest high school soccer tournament in the state is run by volunteers. However, the most impressive part is these volunteers do it on behalf of families whose children are diagnosed with cancer. This year the Kid’s Sake Foundation is providing a vehicle to a family that has a 2 year old fighting for her life, going through chemo and radiation treatments. The father is working to support his wife and four young children, including Sophia, the two year old battling cancer. Dad is putting all his efforts into providing for his young family; Mom is physically worn out tending to her little girl full-time and caring for the other three children. The Kid’s Sake Foundation is the beneficiary of the 19th Annual Hickory Point Invitational Soccer Tournament so they are able to provide a vehicle to this family. Twenty-four teams, 16 boys and 8 girls, will travel from their local high schools from across Florida to descend in Tavares, Florida from December 29-31, 2014. They compete at the Varsity level during their winter break. The teams arrive excited to compete while supporting a great cause. More than 2,000 athletes, family members, coaches, and spectators gather to watch the competitive games. We invite you to join us in “Kicking….for the Kid’s Sake” by becoming a sponsor, making an online donation, or attending the Hickory Point Invitational Soccer Tournament.

    Entrepreneurs: Learn, Exchange, and Unite

    The vibe in the room was electric as the kickoff event opened in Orlando for Global Entrepreneurship Week on November 17, 2014!  Orlando’s The Big Exchange helped bring Global Entrepreneurship Week, sponsored by the Kauffman Foundation, to Orlando. Global Entrepreneurship Week was announced as an idea in 2007. By 2008, 77 countries and over 3 million participated in the week-long unconference consisting of over 25,000 activities. This is truly a worldwide movement. In Orlando, entrepreneurs spoke, shared, collaborated, taught, learned, and networked. From the feedback and the “Tweet Wall”, we believe everyone that participated was inspired to further action and found the workshops beneficial. Each day workshops and mentoring “open office hours” were offered. There were several networking opportunities, too. This week could not have been successful without the support of the sponsors, the Root Radius team handling the logistics, and the many entrepreneurs that volunteered their time and talent to attend and assist with the power-packed schedule of events. Orlando’s entrepreneurial community really showed their collaborative spirit and their desire to help others succeed. If you are a Thinker, Maker, Artist, or Educator we hope you’ll join us next year.

    Gratitude: A Legacy for Lake County

    The Leesburg Regional Medical Center Foundation, led by Executive Director Ted Williams, has seen many changes since 2009 when he accepted the position. The Leesburg Regional Medical Center (LRMC) began serving the community in 193 with 15 physicians and 25 support staff members. In their first year they served 2, 357 patients. Today they serve Lake, Sumter, and surrounding counties with the help of their 331 physicians and 1,790 support staff. In 2012 they cared for 52,000 patients. Their legacy continues to be a beacon in our community in many ways including as the largest single employer in Lake County. Ted has championed continued growth as the President of the Foundation and the Vice President of the Medical Center. Ted spends his day dedicated to his work. You may find him bringing a casserole to a sick friend over the weekend, checking on another before surgery at 7am, or reaching out to a colleague who lost a loved one late into the night. He doesn’t do these things because of his job description. He does this because of his heart. Ted’s heart quickly turns strangers into lifelong friends.

    Ted states, “I once read that happiness is an attitude. We can choose to make ourselves happy and strong or to make ourselves miserable. The amount of work is the same.”

    There are many milestones the Medical Center has been able to celebrate under Ted’s leadership and with the dedication of the medical and support staff. The 25 events each year that are done to raise funds for LRMC are highlights for the staff and the community because they understand that everyone at some time will need medical care. Their participation allows those without the means to pay to receive treatment. The largest event, “Go for the Green” Golf Classic, has been their signature event for the last 17 years. It is hosted at the beautiful Mission Inn each September. Whether you are a constituent that comes to golf or an entrepreneur that supports the event through sponsorship and enjoys the opportunity to network, it is a highlight event for everyone. The day encompasses friendly competition, relaxation, networking, a wonderful lunch, and usually beautiful weather.

    The Ladies in Philanthropy are an integral part of the Leesburg Regional Medical Center Foundation as well. This is a group of community minded women who want to change and save lives by collaborating with other women leaders. The Ladies in Philanthropy wish to empower others to fulfill their philanthropic potential by understanding the healthcare needs in Lake County and promote the power of collective giving. The embrace fellowship and strive to educate and inspire women. They provide regularly scheduled lunches and events that allow you to serve on a committee, learn about healthcare issues affecting women, and teach others about the philanthropic potential of women. 92% of men interviewed named their wives as the primary influencer for philanthropic giving (Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund Study 2009). Therefore, our Ladies in Philanthropy program is an instrumental part to our fundraising goals.

    Last fall, the LRMC Foundation launched a capital campaign to raise $5 million of the $10 million needed to add 24 rooms on the hospital’s first floor. Approximately $3 million of that has been quietly raised. “Whether someone gives a little or a lot, just the act of giving something provides enormous benefits not just to the quality of healthcare in our community, but to the physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being of the giver.” Ted prompts us to remember.

    The First Annual Philanthropy Day for Lake County

    The First Annual Philanthropy Day for Lake County was hosted by the Community Foundation of South Lake. Over 100 people were in attendance.

    The day began with an inspiring speech from Renaut Van Der Reit, CEO of Axum Coffee and Founding Pastor of Mosaic Church. Renaut shared how his vision for Axum Coffee was to be different; being a social enterprise allowed them to unapologetically make money to fund justice and mercy projects. Renaut inspired the audience with several profound quotes.

    “If you are not driven by a deep desire of passion you won’t sustain what you are doing.”

    “You can make money for greed or to change the world”

    Once you’ve broken boundaries once you realize they weren’t really boundaries. Someone convinced you it’s a line you can’t cross.”

    Renaut believes that in the nonprofit sector you are limited by resources and access. Just because your resources don’t align with those options on the table doesn’t mean you are limited. It means you need to be free to think outside the box and be free to fail, a message he gives his staff often. Your access is only limited by your relational access. Relationships create access. He allows his staff to fail so they can learn, grow, and succeed. The final thought he shared with the audience is that “your passion point must remain central”.

    After the audience was inspired with these profound thoughts, they were sent to the breakout sessions offered in a track for CEOs and one for Development staff. Speakers for the CEO track were Royce Gomez on a nimble strategic plan, Stephanie Krick on social entrepreneurship, and Gary Cain sharing how to assess our strengths and weaknesses. Each speaker gave relevant, real life examples and even shared some of their personal learning experiences. The Development track speakers were Todd Roupp on data collection, Vanessa Lopez-Littleton on measurable outcomes, and Susan Kelly on strategic planning.

    The evening closed with an Awards Banquet and a Keynote Address by Pat Burke, Founder of HOOPS Life. His message to the audience was investing your time and talents in young people can change the course of their life in a positive direction.

    Bryan Williams, the Executive Director of the Community Foundation of South Lake, shared that there are approximately 1,000 nonprofit organizations in Lake County. In 2012 $107M was given to charity. From that figure 47% goes to religious and educational institutions leaving an average of $53,000 per year given to organizations like the nonprofits in attendance. This gives you a brief perspective on the philanthropic picture in Lake County, Florida. This will become an annual event; the staff look forward to planning an amazing lineup again next year.


    The vibe in the room is electric! Eight social entrepreneurs came to Downtown Credo to pitch their businesses. Each one resonates with the Credo of meaning, impact, and community. The room is full long before the pitches start. The first pitch is from Care Spotter followed by two urban farming concepts, Edible Orlando Junior Academy and Growing Orlando. The next concepts, Market Colors and One Purse, focused on helping women escape from human trafficking. Next, Rebuild Globally shared the 760% growth they’ve had in the first four years of operation. They focus on helping women produce a sustainable income to remove her family from poverty. The last two business pitches focused on our school-aged children in our local community. These businesses are The Human Experience and SourceCode B46.

    The awards will be announced at the third annual CREDO Awards on November 6, 2014. If you’d like to attend, tickets are available here.

    Making Strides in the Lives of Women


    October 13, 2014/in Community Impact /by Royce Gomez

    Julie Colombino went on a life-changing trip to provide disaster relief after the earthquake in Haiti. Little did Julie know it would be more life changing than she could imagine. While she was down there on what was to be a short term trip, providing water and other necessities to the people of Haiti, she was constantly told by the Haitian women, “What I need is a job so I can provide for my family”. Julie was there to pass out water, not give them a job. This statement, repeated over and over again, tugged at her heartstrings. What was she to do? Julie realized that all around her was garbage due to a lack of infrastructure to remove waste. Haitians just threw their garbage in the street, and it stayed there. Tires were abundant in these piles of rubbish. Julie saw opportunity! She came home, quit her corporate job, packed her things, and moved to Haiti to find a solution for these women. August 14, 2010,just 7 months after the unforgiving earthquake on January 12, 2010 that claimed 200,000 lives and left 300,000 homeless and jobless, is the day I will never forget. This is the day we opened the REBUILD Globally (RG) training center and workshop. This is the day that marks the beginning of the bravery of Haitian artisans, a Board of Directors, international and local volunteers and many friends and family. This is the day RG took a plunge to use what most people in the world consider discard-able waste and planned to revolutionize the way waste in Haiti is managed, the way international consumers buy and the way aid is delivered to devastated, poverty stricken communities.

    She collected the tires, taught the women how to cut the rubber, and use the tires to manufacture sandals. Julie began to pay these women a living wage, taking no salary for herself. Julie shares, “People asked for jobs and we worked hand in hand in order to provide a dignified living-wage and livelihood opportunities for four Haitian women and men. On that day, August 14, 2010, that was all we could conceive: four people, four lives.” Through disease, sickness, challenges to grow a business, no funding, and no infrastructure in the country to assist her, Julie persisted.

    The Strides sandal was created. By 2013, REBUILD Globally had an impact of:


    • 17 REBUILD employees earning a living wage
    • 20 vulnerable youth in Apprenticeship Program
    • 5 street boys given full academic scholarships
    • 2 REBUILD artisan landowners
    • 6 REBUILD artisan homeowners,119 REBUILD renters
    • 4000+ tires recycled
    • 920 sandals sold
    • 250 sandals donated to the Phillipines
    • 25 women in microfinace project


    Today, you can find the Strides sandal at the famous Ron Jon’s Surf Shop and support REBUILD Globally. And, you will find Julie spending more time here in the states because she is able to employ local women in Haiti to run the program, while she makes several trips a year to oversee the progress. Julie Columbino is truly a social entrepreneur.

    Meaning. Impact. Community.

    September 10, 2014/in Community Impact /by Royce Gomez

    If you want to be inspired, spend time with Ben Hoyer of Downtown Credo. His
    cornerstones of meaning, impact, and community are what this column is about and what
    has defined my life as an entrepreneur.

    Ben’s Credo states “Life is worth living. I refuse to merely exist. I pursue a life of meaning
    and purpose, fulfillment and joy. The world is not yet as it ought to be. Neither is my city.
    Neither am I. Yet, I reject apathy and despair. I engage the world, my city, and myself to
    make an impact for good. I am not alone. I press through narcissism, isolation and
    self-sufficiency striving to live in authentic community.”

    If this resonates with you like it did for me you might want to apply to pitch your social
    entrepreneurial idea. (I will be submitting my idea. Will you join me?) Ben has worked
    tirelessly to get some of the most successful entrepreneurs to invest their time, money, and
    knowledge in supporting someone with an idea and courage to live with meaning and have
    an impact in their community. I have made Orlando my community over the last couple of
    years and am ready to live with meaning and impact while rejecting apathy. If you have an
    idea, join me. If not, come and cheer on the contestants October 15th.

    Financial Empowerment Through Shopping

    Bajalia, changing the world while shopping the world. Simple tagline, right? But, what exactly is Bajalia? Debbie Farah, founder of Bajalia, believes that financially empowering women brings freedom. As a child Debbie watched women stay oppressed by not having access to their own money. She realized by the time she was a teenager that she didn’t want to choose that life. She pursued a career and empowered herself financially. Bajalia was birthed from Debbie’s personal experience. Now Debbie through a social enterprise business model, Bajalia, empowers women around the world by using fair trade, training, and community development to alleviate poverty, educates girls, and empowers artisans as they improve their lives.

    Bajalia offers women advance payment, assistance to purchase equipment, and training to teach the women how to establish a sustainable income that will support their families long-term. One of the most important things Bajalia does to help these women grow their businesses to a sustainable level is provide marketing channels to share their stories. Debbie has effectively used her corporate training to partner with HSN, international governments, and Business Council for Peace to maximize the effectiveness of their work to provide assistance to the artisans to provide a sustainable living wage for their families.

    Some of the causes that are impacted by Bajalia’s mission is human trafficking, community transformation, AIDS, and helping the disabled. A fair living wage, non-exploitive working conditions, and using eco-friendly products are focal points to be successful in the communities they enter. Bajalia is currently in over 15 countries.

    The impact Debbie’s vision has made on women around the world would make me proud to be a part of her small, but mighty team. Empowering women is an integral part of maintaining a healthy community. Debbie’s vision is coming home; she is working to use the same business model to help women in our local community. If you’d like to be a part of this by partnering with Bajalia, please contact Debbie. Perhaps you’d just like to follow the artisans’ stories, follow Bajalia on social media.

    Trends in Philanthropy…. Right Here in Central Florida

    August 28, 2014/in Community Impact /by Royce Gomez

    What an event Trends in Philanthropy was last week! The sponsors couldn’t have organized a better lineup of speakers. First, we heard from Shawn Seipler, Founder of Clean the World (CTW). CTW has earned the first B-corp designation in Florida. Shawn spent time sharing his business model, his vision, and the new programs he is launching.

    Next, we heard inspiration from Ben Hoyer, Founder of Downtown Credo. Ben shared how a conversation with a friend ignited a spark of an idea which began a journey to visit coffee farmers in a remote region of Guatemala. Today this journey allows us in the community to drink coffee while giving back.

    Finally, Bahiyyah Maroon from Eripio Institute spoke. Bahiyyah is a wealth of knowledge and shares her knowledge as a professor at Rollins College, contributing her knowledge to the Social Entrepreneur students. She shared how the nonprofit sector is the third sector embracing innovation, social transformation, and inspiration. Bahiyyah explained how understanding and digging deeper into your fiscal proxies will help tell your story more fully.

    Mark Brewer from the Foundation always presents a program that gives us inspiration, education, and so much more!

    Go forward…Re-energized

    Losing your job, moving to a new community, or having your hours cut back can have a big impact on your life and your financial well-being.  Many people feel alone in their search, but they don’t have to.  For over 20 years, Christian HELP has been working in the community to connect people with jobs (over 97,000 and counting) and helping to prevent hunger through a full service food pantry that goes beyond the classic canned foods and cereal to stock fresh fruits and vegetables as well as some meat and dairy. Their pantry gave out over 1.4M pounds of food last year alone! As a former recipient, I can share that they provide prayer, a sincere desire to make you feel good, and a week’s worth of food for your family. You never feel like a second rate person while you are served at the pantry. I have seen people that have been asked if anyone has a birthday that week, and they are sent home with a cake to celebrate the birthday! How special is that?!

    The other really cool (can I say cool?) program at Christian Help is Central Florida Jobs Initiative (CFJI). This program takes job seekers through 6 free (yes, free) classes to prepare and aid them in getting back to work. They teach how to write a resume and cover letter, interviewing skills, successful onboarding, and more. It’s truly amazing! I have had the pleasure of working near this program and being involved in several ways. It is truly a pleasure to share your enthusiasm and have gifted facilitators volunteer their time to come in and lead a class, perform a mock interview to benefit someone in getting back to work, and read the success stories.

    If you, like many I have found in Central Florida, are not familiar with all the services Christian Help provides and the recognition they’ve received, you need to attend a “Come and See”. You will be impressed and wonder why you’ve never been involved.

    Follow their page on facebook at or Twitter at @Christian_HELP

    Volunteer opportunities can be found at

    One Woman: Touching the Lives of Hundreds

    Sonia Hane, inspiring to many, saw many kids roaming the streets of the Dominican Republic
    especially along the border near Haiti. This broke her heart and she began to take several of
    these kids home with her, providing them a safe place to sleep and a hot meal. After some time,
    she was able to find a house. This house was a 4 bedroom and yet the need was so great she
    had over 30 kids in there. Sonia devoted herself to these kids while her husband worked to
    support them. Sonia remembers not having enough food for the kids, and taking food from her
    home to feed the orphans.

    Sonia has worked tirelessly without pay since 1993, struggling to save as many kids as possible.
    Finally, she was able to move the children from the small house to a larger facility. This became
    Ninos de Cristo, the orphanage.

    Today that orphanage houses over 160 boys and girls, a private school, a medical clinic, a church, and a
    workforce development program for the women of the community who are trying to provide for
    their families. The children have the opportunity to join sports teams, and they use the athletic
    field at the orphanage.

    Ninos de Cristo also has a boys dorm which began in the original house Sonia started with. Last
    year, however, Marc Anthony’s foundation built the boys facility to give more boys a home. It is
    equipped with a commercial kitchen, laundry room, baseball field and areas for other sports,
    some water games, a school, and much more. Unfortunately, because Ninos de Cristo has
    existed because of Sonia’s tireless efforts without a salary and only a handful of volunteers, this
    has presented an urgent need! There is a need for additional staff, daily necessities, and so
    much more that is required to maintain the grounds that cover several acres of this $2M facility.

    I had the privilege of touring all the facilities in February. It is incredible to see the devotion of the
    volunteer staff and an advisory board consisting of people from Italy, New York, Orlando, and
    other places committed to providing for these children. One major difference I saw was the
    emphasis on an education through college or trade school. That one difference will break the
    cycle of poverty and injustice allowing these orphans to grow up and provide for their future
    families. I was fortunate enough to meet one girl who was raised in the orphanage, recently
    married, and came back to the school as a teacher. Some of these children have come to the
    US to intern with successful entrepreneurs. One woman is making a difference and that
    difference could ultimately affect your community. The world has become a small place; what
    we do in our back yard can have an impact on the other side of the world. Even though these
    children seem to be a world away, they aren’t. If you’d like to sponsor a child’s daily needs or his
    education click here.

    I Believe….It’s a Choice

    “There are people in this world who say – ‘someone should do something about that!’ I decided to take action and be that person who makes a difference,” Marc says.

    Marc Mero has an incredible mission to empower people to make positive choices! Through the nonprofit organization he founded, Champion of Choices, his personal story of tragedy and triumph is impacting lives in Central Florida and worldwide.  A glimpse of Marc’s past will give you insights into why he’s so passionate about his mission.

    Marc was raised in a poverty-stricken area of New York with a loving mother and father and several siblings. However, when Marc was eight his world was turned upside-down. He came home from school one day to find his father packing; his mom and dad decided to divorce.

    Marc lost daily contact with his best friend, his dad. Marc found himself determined to focus on the goals he wrote down.  He wanted a better life.  Marc worked hard to achieve success in hockey, football, and boxing.  Marc was about to become a professional boxer but broke his nose and could not participate in contact sports for a year.

    During that year, Marc had time on his hands. Too much time.  Drugs, alcohol, and parties became the norm for Marc. He worked construction during the day and partied at night.  One year turned to two, two turned into four, and before Marc knew it, life was passing him by.  The dreams he once pursued were now set aside – until one day he saw wrestling on TV and got an “ah ha” moment saying: “I can DO that!”

    Wrestling is where Marc found his biggest success. Money, fame, travel, Rookie of the Year, THE LIFE!  Dreams were coming true for this young man.  Marc traveled the WCW and WWE Circuits, gaining the success he longed for.  He bought a Cadillac, speedboat, and a house for his mom (all goals he had written down as a child!). 

    His sister Andrea was about to start her dream job and had a routine physical. The results found something unexpected – cancer.  Suddenly, Andrea was fighting for her life; Marc lost his sister at age 21.  The tragedies continued… While on Tour in Japan, Marc received a startling phone call: “Your Mother died!”  Two weeks later, Marc’s 21-year-old brother, Guy, died when he fell and hit his head.

    Marc lost his sister, mother, and brother; and sadly, Marc’s father tragically died in his arms after years of cigarette smoking. Money, fame, and success couldn’t replace his family.  On top of this, Marc lost more than 30 friends – mostly due to drugs and negative lifestyle choices.  Marc knows his name could have been on the “Death List.”

    “There are people in this world who say – ‘someone should do something about that!’ I decided to take action and be that person who makes a difference,” Marc says.  Marc discovered a new purpose and he lives each day to the fullest, sharing his message at schools, churches, and corporations.  

    The “Champion of Choices” presentation brings to the theatrical stage Marc’s roller coaster journey of life, sharing snapshots of his family, his career, his successes, and his great losses – all with the goal of helping people make positive choices – find hope and purpose, to set goals, and achieve more than they ever dreamed possible.  Lives are definitely being saved and changed!

    To learn of partnership opportunities, support Champion of Choices with a tax-deductible donation, or to schedule Marc Mero for your next inspirational presentation, visit  

    Marc invites you to attend an upcoming prensentaton at The Venue Church @ Lake Brantley High School Auditorium – April 27 at 10 AM – visit for more info

    It’s Not Just About Tomato Soup!

    Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida (Second Harvest) is a member of Feeding America, a network of foodbanks across the country. Each day they provide 80,000 meals in the Central Florida five county region; each week more than 55,000 people are served through Second Harvest and their partnership with over 550 other non-profit agencies. On Wednesday BJ’s Wholesale Club took time away from their annual conference to do a service project for Second Harvest. When I met up with Sasha, Development Director for Second Harvest, she shared with me a story:

    During Sasha’s first week at Second Harvest she met a client, a single mother with twin five year old boys. This mother came to get food. She shared with Sasha that even though she had a job she didn’t make enough to feed the kids until her next pay check. This mother would go into fast food restaurants and steal catsup packets. She would take them home, empty them into a pan, and add water. This single mother of two told her boys they were having tomato soup for dinner. Sasha’s heart broke; she knew she found an organization that she wanted to be a part of, an organization that made a difference in the lives of many each and every day.

    Second Harvest has an increase in demand as the school year ends and summer begins. Kids that would normally get free meals at school will miss many meals during the summer. In Central Florida one in four kids will go hungry; there are some pockets where it’s as high as one in three kids. The solution: High Five Packs! This is where BJ’s and the service project enters in. BJ’s was challenged to beat a former record for packaging the High Five Packs. These packs consist of nonperishable items that don’t need a stove, can opener, refrigeration, or the help of an adult to open. The 400 plus BJ’s employees, largely General Managers and Corporate Executives, were challenged to put together 21,000 High Five Packs in two hours!! What a challenge! (The former record was achieved by 1400 Kohl’s employees packaging 20,000 High Five Packs.) This meets the need of almost ⅓ of the annual need for Second Harvest. What an impact two hours can make on the lives of hungry children in our community!

    BJ’s operates in 15 states, and likes to give back in the areas of hunger, education, self-sufficiency, and health care. Their spokesperson shared that several years ago the employees noticed the waste of perfectly good food being thrown out, and they brought this to the attention of the Executives. Policies were changed to allow BJ’s to give food to Feeding America Food Banks. In the two and a half years since they made the change to their policies they have given 18 Million pounds of food away! This not only allows many people in the markets they serve to have a meal that would otherwise go hungry; but, also allows them to pass on the cost savings to their members because they no longer pay to have all of the food hauled away as waste. The COO said the idea behind a service project during their annual conference is to “show their employees how easy it is to get involved in the community. Most people think it’s more involved and requires more effort than it does”. Once they see how easy it is to make a difference, his hope is that they go back home and get involved in making a difference in their local communities. Sasha from Second Harvest says, “I love working with energetic people that want to make a difference. People are good and want to do good”. And remember, it’s not just about tomato soup; it’s about the hungry child you’ve passed by today.

    Charity Magazine covered this event at Swan and Dolphin on Wednesday, April 2 2014.