Hearts of Gold
They range in age from 12 to 89. They include a computer store owner and a pro golfer, a concert booker and a radio personality, a college student and a middle schooler, among others. They help children and veterans, arts organizations and hospitals, the hungry, the homeless, the helpless. They live among us and inspire by example. They are 11 local people with “hearts of gold” who give back to this community in so many ways.
Generosity never goes out of fashion
HER COMMITMENT: Harriett Lake, 89, is one of Central Florida’s most generous philanthropists, supporting so many causes with her money and time that she has lost track of the number.
HER PASSIONS: Fashion, getting out the vote, cancer research and the performing arts.
HER CAUSES: Lake’s recent contributions include $1 million to the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, $500,000 to the breast cancer center at Florida Hospital, $500,000 to Orlando Health, $500,000 to the University of Central Florida theater program, $250,000 to Women Playing for TIME to fund a dragon boat racing program for breast cancer survivors, $100,000 to the Orlando Shakespeare Theater and $100,000 to the Orlando Ballet, as well as a donation to the building fund for Congregation Ohev Shalom. She also has donated $10,000 a year for more than 12 years to the Headdress Ball, a black-tie fundraiser that benefits a center that assists people with AIDS. “The donations section of my tax return is nine pages long—I don’t remember everything I’ve contributed to,’’ Lake says. “Only the IRS knows for sure.”
A SENSE OF HUMOR: When the performing arts center folks asked if they could name something in Lake’s honor—like a building—the vivacious benefactor suggested they name the first-floor ladies room for her.
WEARING MANY HATS: Her collection of clothes and accessories—especially her trademark hats—is legendary. For the past few years, the Orlando Museum of Art has displayed dozens of Lake’s bejeweled Judith Leiber purses during its annual Festival of Trees. Asked what will eventually happen to her collection, she chuckled, “That’ll be for my daughter (Shelley) to figure out. Half of what I have is ‘one size fits all.’ That’ll be one big flea market sale.”
YOU MAY NOT KNOW THAT…: Lake, a native of Pennsylvania, served in the Marine Corps’ Women’s Reserve in World War II.
LAND OF LAKES: In 1956, Lake and her husband, Hy, got in their car and drove from their South Florida home to Orlando because Hy, a lawyer, was eager to invest in real estate. That day he bought two square miles of palmetto scrub and swamp around Sand Lake for $350 an acre. Within a year he sold the land for a $1 million profit to a realty company after the Glenn L. Martin Co. (later Martin Marietta, now Lockheed Martin) announced it was opening a facility nearby. The Lakes kept reinvesting over the years, with stellar results.
RELUCTANT MOVE: The new venture required Harriett to move from Miami to Orlando: “I was heartbroken. Orlando didn’t have a department store and they didn’t have a bagel.” She got over her disappointment, earning a master’s degree in education from Rollins College, becoming a master bridge player and involving herself in making Orlando the kind of community that she wanted to live in.
A GOOD FEELING: “It’s nice to know that something you’ve given is helping a stranger you may be passing on Orange Avenue.”
MEMORABLE MOMENT: “I got 875 girls out to vote on the 87th anniversary of women’s suffrage [in 2007]. I was very proud of that.”
He’s still true to his school
THE EPIPHANY: As a teenager in the 1960s, Ron Rogers and a Jones High School classmate took a summer job laying irrigation lines in a field. They lasted about a week. “We realized we could do better,” says Rogers, 59. They did, with both going to college at a time when few blacks could take advantage of higher education. Rogers became a city planner and executive assistant to the mayor of Eatonville (1976-87). Meanwhile, his buddy, Belvin Perry, became a lawyer and today presides as the chief judge of the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court of Florida.
MORAL OF THE STORY: Education is the key to a better life. With that homily in mind, Rogers founded, in 1991, the Orlando chapter of 100 Black Men of America. It’s a group of African-American professionals dedicated to inspiring minority youth to attend college, awarding scholarships to some students. Rogers, president of the group, and several successful black men meet once a month with about two dozen students at Jones High.
THEIR MISSION: To help the students embrace scholastic achievement and prepare them for college. “You’ve got to learn to reach down and help somebody up,” says Rogers, now a business consultant.
SIGNS OF PROGRESS: Jones rece-ntly obtained a “B” grade, the highest mark it has ever gotten from the state Department of Education. The school also has raised its graduation rate to 93.7 percent, third highest among Orange County public high schools.
THE KEY TO COLLEGE: 100 Black Men of Orlando holds an annual event that’s attended and sponsored by heavy hitters in business, politics, education, law and medicine, raising $100,000 to fund scholarships. The money is parceled out as $5,000 scholarships to five or six graduating seniors as well as to scholarship winners still in college.
MR. ROGERS’ NEIGHBORHOOD: Rogers, who still lives near his high school alma mater, sees the group’s investment in education yielding a return: “When you’re able to ensure that people in your community get an education, it raises the level of economics and social activity in that community,” he says. 100 Black Men also provides Thanksgiving dinners to families and prom attire for Jones students, among other goodwill gestures.
A FUTURE OF PROMISE: Calvin Hayes, a Class of 2006 graduate, is in his senior year at Florida A&M, studying public relations as well as Mandarin and Portuguese. Last summer he interned with the U.S. State Department in South Africa, and he plans to enter the diplomatic service after grad school. Hayes says the 100 Black Men scholarship relieved him of some of the financial pressures that force some students to drop out of college. “If not for the scholarship money…” he wonders, his voice trailing off.
HOW YOU CAN HELP: Contact Ron Rogers at 321-662-4431 or at email@example.com
A voice of compassion
HER JOB: In 2007, Jayde Donovan moved to Orlando from Los Angeles to become a co-host of Johnny & Jayde Morning Show, a popular radio program broadcast Monday through Friday from 6 to 10 a.m. on XL 106.7 FM. Last August, she attracted national attention by filling in for Kelly Ripa on TV’s Live With Regis and Kelly.
HER INSPIRATION: “My parents have always encouraged getting involved in the community,” says Donovan, 27. “But I think I really have to give credit to Johnny at work.” That would be her co-host, Johnny Magic, a tireless, longtime supporter of charitable causes. “When I moved here, seeing how much he cared and how big his heart was and how much he gave to Orlando, was very touching. And it just kind of rubbed off on me.”
HER CHARITIES: Donovan don-ates her time and effort in support of many charitable organizations, including Susan G. Komen for the Cure, for which she’s served as a host/emcee for Race for the Cure for several years; Baby DJ, which was started by Johnny Magic and for which Donovan helps to collect donated toys and distribute them to children at Christmastime; B.A.S.E. Camp Children’s Cancer Foundation, for which she hosts events to support children battling cancer; PACE Center for Girls, for which she hosts fundraisers; Operation: Princess Project, which she started at 106.7 to collect prom dresses and distribute them to high-school girls; and Give Hope Foundation, which helps families with a loved one battling cancer.
HER NEW PROJECT: At a charity event in 2008, Donovan met and began a friendship with a young teenager from Longwood named Brittany Hamilton, who had terminal cancer. Donovan noticed that after chemotherapy, the girl would rest in her hospital bed in whatever position caused her the least amount of pain. That gave Donovan the idea of giving Brittany an iPhone, so the teen could communicate with friends, listen to music, access the Internet and generally stay connected without changing position. “Technology can be this great bridge, a window into the world,” says Donovan. Brittany passed away two months after receiving a phone, but Donovan was inspired to create Apple A Day, a foundation in the girl’s honor. Apple A Day will strive to get iPhones to kids in similar situations, as a way of easing their lives.
HER REWARD: Giving back, says Donovan, “is like a drug. Once you start getting involved and you meet the people that you’re helping, it comes back to you.”
HOW YOU CAN HELP: To become involved with most of the charities mentioned here, contact the appropriate organization directly. To help Donovan with Apple A Day, e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org
In tune with the needy
THE INSPIRATION: While a pre-med student at the University of Central Florida in 2005, Chris Goyzueta attended a banquet intended to make participants realize what it was like to be homeless and hungry. He was given a ticket depicting his new life, income and social class. Chuck D from the rock band Public Enemy spoke to the crowd about doing something versus watching the problem happen. Goyzueta decided to take action. Within a year, he had set up a nonprofit group called Rock for Hunger to raise awareness of homelessness, hunger and at-risk children.
ROCKING FOR A CAUSE: The organization’s signature event is an annual concert at Festival Field, beside the Florida Citrus Bowl, featuring both local and national musicians. Why a rock concert? Goyzueta, 29, has experience in that area: His regular job is lining up acts for Orlando’s The Plaza Live Theatre entertainment venue. The fifth and most recent Rock for Hunger Fest was held in November. The concerts have raised a total of $63,000.
MORE GOOD VIBES: Rock for Hunger also stages a weekly Monday Night Food Sharing, in which volunteers feed the homeless around Lake Eola. Also, the group awarded its first scholarship at Rock for Hunger Fest 5 to Robert Jean from New Image Youth Center, an Orlando after-school program that helps inner city youngsters succeed. The $4,000 scholarship will allow Jean to pursue his dream of becoming a chef.
A BRIEF MOMENT OF DOUBT: A few months ago Goyzueta says he hit a low point and started to wonder if what he was doing really made a difference. He related his feelings to a friend, who responded, “Dude, I’m not even homeless and you’ve changed my life.’’ To Goyzueta, “Hearing that was really motivating, and I think what I’m doing is helping.”
HOW YOU CAN HELP: Go to rockforhunger.org for details about the concert and the food sharing event.
A 12-year-old speaks out on hunger—and walks the talk
A HELPING HAND: Last year, while a fifth-grader at Princeton Elementary School in College Park, Abbey Brunault was assigned to do a research project on a non-profit organization. She was intrigued by the thought of helping those less fortunate. And because her father had participated in an office fundraiser for Second Harvest Food Bank, Abbey decided to become involved with that organization.
MORE THAN A PROJECT: Abbey created a video that addresses hunger in Central Florida and urges people to join the fight. She also became a regular volunteer at the food bank and was asked by Second Harvest’s president, Dave Krepcho, to speak at the group’s annual Feeding Hope Breakfast in June. She talked about her belief that local hunger problems are solvable simply by donating and volunteering.
WHAT SHE’S ABOUT: “She’s always had a compassion for other people that have any sort of problems—whether it’s financial or physical,’’ says Abbey’s mom, Paige Brunault. “She understands that not everyone’s life is perfect and if there is a way to help, then we should help.’’ That goes for animals too: Abbey also has volunteered at the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey in Maitland.
SECOND HARVEST DUTIES: Abbey, now 12 and middle schooler, packages take-home meals for Second Harvest’s Hi-Five Kids Pack Program, and helps to sort out unuseable over-the-counter medications by checking for broken packages and expiration dates. “Volunteering is really cool, so it makes me feel pretty good to do that kind of stuff and help out the community.”
HER VIDEO: Abbey’s production highlights Second Harvest’s volunteer work and provides facts and figures on hunger in Central Florida. “I wanted to make a video to raise awareness. It was the creative part of the project,’’ Abbey says. “I used a computer program to complete it; it was a lot of work, but it turned out pretty good.” You can view the video by going to youtube.com and searching Abbey’s name.
WHAT’S NEXT: “Well, I actually had an idea to create a 5K running team for Second Harvest to benefit them and raise money,’’ Abbey says. “I can get some of my friends to come and run with me.”
HOW TO HELP: For information on volunteering at or donating to the local Second Harvest chapter, go to foodbankcentralflorida.org
Kate and Justin Rose
Filling backpacks with goodness
THEIR STORY: Kate Rose, 34, competed internationally for England (as Kate Phillips) in acrobatic gymnastics in the early 1990s. Her husband, Justin, 30, ended 2010 as a top-30 world ranked golfer, thanks to two victories on the PGA Tour last year. The Roses understand the value of good nutrition in the performance equation, which is why the Lake Nona couple’s charitable foundation supports Blessings in a Backpack, a national initiative that supplies weekend foodstuffs to elementary school students who are at risk of hunger. “I can’t expect to turn up and play good golf if I’m undernourished and haven’t put the right fuel in my body to go and perform,” says Justin. “So how can you expect a kid to go away on the weekend, not be looked after and come back (to school) and be expected to do anything productive? From that perspective, it’s the foundation of learning, really.”
THE COMMITMENT: Last June, the Roses hosted a Blessings in a Backpack golf outing at Lake Nona Golf & Country Club that raised $160,000, which was distributed among four public schools in Orange County. “That gave us funding to help sustain our program for nearly three years,” says Lino Rodriguez, the principal at Grand Avenue Primary Learning Center, which spends $600 a week to fill the backpacks of 225 children each Friday during the school year. “Bottom line, our students are hungry. They tell us they’re hungry, they write it to us, and they appreciate anything we can do for them, from providing healthy snacks during the school day to providing some food for the weekend to sustain the family.”
WINNING ISN’T EVERYTHING: The Roses’ Blessings outing was staged two days after Justin won the Memorial Tournament, his ninth victory as a pro but first on the PGA Tour. “And I was sitting there at the fundraiser thinking, ‘Is it really bad that I’m enjoying this so much more than the win?’” says Kate. “Even though that was huge, because we’d been wanting him to win on the PGA Tour for years, I was sitting there thinking this is more meaningful. Sorry,” she adds, glancing at Justin, who just smiles and shrugs.
HOW TO HELP: The date for this year’s Blessings in a Backpack event hasn’t been set. Go to blessingsinabackpack.org for updates and entry information.
One community’s hope
HIS STORY: Lifelong Orlando resident Tim McKinney, 40, has been a professional baseball umpire and mortgage broker. He cites a four-year experience as care giver to his great aunt as the catalyst behind his plunge into full-time humanitarian work in 2003, when he co-founded a not-for-profit called United Global Outreach. After researching the needs of Central Florida communities, UGO targeted Bithlo in east Orange County. “The experience with my great aunt made me realize there are people out there who can’t defend themselves,” says McKinney. “I can’t stand injustice. And to me, a great injustice has been done to these people (in Bithlo). People out here are struggling to make it through 24-hour segments of their lives.”
BITHLO’S PLIGHT: Long synonymous with rubes and junkyards, Bithlo is one of the poorest communities in Florida. Illiteracy is common among its estimated 6,000 residents. Groundwater contamination has rendered its well water all but undrinkable. Lynx bus service was suspended in 2009 because of budget cuts. Bithlo boasts an impressive public park, but its baseball fields are used almost exclusively by kids from surrounding communities because most Bithlo parents can’t afford the Little League fees. There are no movie theaters, restaurants or retail establishments, except for gas stations. “Even Mayberry had Floyd,” says McKinney. “In Bithlo, there’s no place to get a haircut.”
PROGRESS REPORT: In partnership with the First Baptist Church of Bithlo, McKinney founded the Orange County Academy to serve children who likely would struggle in the public school system. OCA enrolled its first 22 students last fall, and expects to soon accommodate 39. McKinney also helped broker an agreement with the Community Health Centers charity to open Bithlo’s first full-time medical clinic this year. Meanwhile, he has been probing the source of Bithlo’s groundwater contamination as part of an effort to compel Orange County government officials to correct the problem. Also on his agenda is the restoration of bus service.
McKINNEY’S MANTRA: “Our underlying principle is that we treat everybody first class,” says McKinney, citing examples of new Apple computers on order for a public Internet café at Orange County Academy and the high quality of free food and clothing distributed at community events. “Then these folks can feel like they’re important, and there’s hope.”
BITHLO’S MOST URGENT NEED: “Unconditional love,” says Mc-Kinney, meaning donors, partners and volunteers who aren’t judgmental. “This is a community that has just lacked advocacy.”
HOW TO HELP: United Global Outreach (ugo2.org) needs money, volunteers and clout. McKinney can be reached at 407-898-8775 or 407-810-2214 or email@example.com.
building homes for disabled veterans
THE IDEA: Bill Criswell, a Navy World War II veteran from Windermere, decided to volunteer with the West Orange Habitat for Humanity after his wife passed away 13 years ago. The mission of Habitat for Humanity is to build homes for families in need, but Criswell, now 85, thought, “Who could be more deserving [of a home] than a combat-wounded disabled veteran?” After he presented the idea to the West Orange Habitat’s board of directors, Home at Last was born in 2007.
THE MISSION: To build disability-friendly homes for veterans and their families free of a mortgage. “We’re looking to help them restart their lives, really,” Criswell says. So far, homes have been built in Central Florida for two disabled veterans and their families. After completion of the third home in February, construction on a fourth will begin.
HOW IT HAPPENS: “It was my idea, but I don’t take much credit for it. A lot of others made it happen,” says Criswell, who co-chairs the Home at Last project. Those include local building contractors Winter Park Construction, Hensel-Phelps Construction Co. and A.D. Owens Construction. The Habitat team organizes the contractors, subcontractors and material suppliers to work together and build the homes. Support from the community has been key as well, Criswell says, with help from corporate sponsorships and individual donors.
HIS HOPE: West Orange is one of only two of the country’s 1,500 Habitat for Humanity affiliates that builds homes for disabled veterans (the other is in Orange County, Calif.). “I just would hope that other Habitats would pick this up,” Criswell says. “It’s an opportunity for the community to share and express their appreciation for these veterans who risk their lives daily.”
HOW TO HELP: Anyone can nominate disabled veterans as candidates for homes. The recipients don’t have to be from West Orange, but they must be willing to move there. To make a tax-deductible donation, make checks and money orders payable to the West Orange Habitat for Humanity and mail to P.O. Box 38, Oakland, FL 34760, indicating your contribution is for Home at Last. Contact Criswell at 407-876-2472 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Making prom dreams come true
HER INSPIRATION: When Caitlin Connolly was a senior at Manatee High School in Bradenton, a TV news segment about a group that donated prom dresses to students in need caught her eye. “I thought it was very cool, but they didn’t do it specifically for foster children,” Connolly says. Because a close friend had struggled with being adopted, Connolly felt a connection to foster youth. The desire to have them experience prom led Connolly to start her non-profit organization, Prom for Dreams, in her hometown in 2006. Two years later, when she came to the University of Central Florida to pursue a degree in non-profit management, she moved Prom for Dreams to Orlando. “I knew that this was a way I could make a difference.”
THE MISSION: Working with the Foundation for Foster Children, a non-profit organization in Orlando striving to enrich the lives of foster children through outreach programs, Connolly in the past three years has helped make it possible for about 60 Orlando-area foster youth to enjoy an event they otherwise might not be able to afford and attend.
The Experience: Connolly, 21, gives students who qualify a personal shopping trip at Prom for Dream’s annual boutique event, as well as hair and makeup services and gift cards for dinner, limousine rentals or flowers.
How You Can Help: “Just go through your closets,” Connolly says. “It’s a very easy thing to do that can change that moment in the student’s life. They can get to say that they went to their prom.” Prom for Dreams accepts prom dresses, tuxedos, suits and prom accessories. Monetary donations are welcome as well. Donations can be dropped off at the Prom for Dreams office at 2807 Edgewater Drive in Orlando. For more information, visit promfordreams.org.
Gigabytes of goodwill
HIS COMMITMENT: Paul Rosarius, owner of Palm Tree Computers in Oviedo, spends most of his spare hours directing the Gift From God Computer Foundation, an organization he founded that refurbishes discarded computers, mostly for disadvantaged students.
HOW IT STARTED: In 2003 a missionary friend of a friend asked if Rosarius could find a few used computers for a home in Namibia being built for children who had lost their parents to AIDS. Rosarius and his wife, Cindy, aired an offer on their talk show on Christian station WTLN-AM: Bring in a used computer and get $180 off a new one. “We got slammed,” Rosarius remembers. They gathered and refurbished 160 computers, then delivered them to Africa.
SEEING THE NEED: Rosarius, 51, spent 25 years working for the U.S. Defense Department overseas so he’s well acquainted with the dire needs of the developing world. But, “We need to take care of people right here in Central Florida,” Rosarius says. So today, most of the foundation’s work is focused locally.
HOW THE GROUP WORKS: Using mostly high school volunteers working out of the back room of Palm Tree Computers, the Gift From God Computer Foundation rebuilds, cleans and upgrades donated computers, which costs the group about $30 per machine. A network of guidance counselors in Orange and Seminole County schools helps identify recipients, and the foundation delivers about 150 machines every month. The impact is huge: Rosarius points to two homeless teens who received computers as high school freshmen who are graduating with honors and says, “These parents and kids break down in tears when they get their computer.”
MEMORABLE MOMENT: Rosarius received a letter from a recipient thanking him for making it possible for her to eat lunch at school for the first time in two years. Because she had no computer at home, she had to spend every lunch hour in the school’s library doing homework that required a computer. “She could finally sit with her friends and eat during school, and she was so grateful,” he says.
HOW TO HELP: “We especially like getting batches of computers from companies because they’re usually all the same model, which makes it easier and less expensive for us to refurbish them,” he says. The Gift From God Foundation especially needs clean, working mice, monitors and keyboards. Drop off your donations at the Palm Tree Computers retail store at 119 N. Central Ave. in Oviedo or check out the foundation website at giftfromgod computerfoudation.org. Most of the computers are given to young students, but adults in need also can request them.