OMYF Spotlight: United Against Poverty

by Josh Cohen

ORLANDO – The statistics on homelessness in this country, especially among children, is disheartening. In a 2015 study, the National Center on Family Homelessness reported that one in 30 American children were homeless at some point the prior year.

Closer to home, the stats were even more depressing. Data at that time from the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness revealed that one in 17 children in Orange, Seminole and Osceola counties combined were homeless, suggesting more needed to be done to combat this problem.

There has been some improvement with this crisis the last few years. Data showed in 2019 that there were nearly 11 percent fewer people homeless throughout this area than there was five years earlier.

One organization that has certainly helped make a difference is United Against Poverty, which inspires and empowers people living in poverty to lift themselves and their families to economic self-sufficiency.

With some financial assistance from the Orlando Magic Youth Foundation (OMYF), United Against Poverty will now have more resources to help those who are struggling. The $50,000 it received from the OMYF will directly go towards augmenting its Success Training Employment Program (STEP), which is dedicated to enhancing job-readiness skills.

“This is wonderful,” said Lisa Blackwelder, director of development at United Against Poverty. “It’s going to help us help so many lift themselves out of poverty. We are so appreciative.”

STEP is designed to help people develop a career and/or improve their current employment position. The classes the students attend focus on emotional intelligence, empowerment training, workplace skills and job acquisition. With more skills and a better understanding of how to conduct themselves in the work setting, graduates of the program are much more likely to land higher paying jobs, which makes it easier for them to take care of their children and other family members.

United Against Poverty was one of 16 organizations that received a combined $1 million-plus from the OMYF this year. Over the past 30 years, more than $25 million has been distributed by the OMYF to empower Central Florida children.

"On behalf of the entire DeVos family, we are so honored to be able to give back to this great Orlando community each year on this very important day," said Magic Chairman Dan DeVos. "The foundation of our family has always been one surrounded in community work whether it is through time, treasure or whatever you are able to give. It is incredibly important because we all benefit so much from this amazing community. I truly am honored to be able to share in the excitement of all of these very deserving organizations."

The DeVos family’s investment in the OMYF covers all administrative costs which allows for 100 percent of all donations to go directly to the foundation to benefit children and families in need throughout Central Florida each year. The OMYF raises community dollars annually through donations, auctions and events such as the OMYF Open Golf Tournament and the upcoming 2020 Orlando Wine Festival and Auction.

The second annual Orlando Wine Festival and Auction, the signature fundraiser for the OMYF, will be held March 13-15, 2020 at the Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes. The weekend of events is set to feature exclusive vintner dinners, an outdoor festival featuring live music, live auction displays, an e-auction, local and celebrity chefs, wineries, and food pavilions, along with Magic players and coaches. Each guest also receives an invitation to the OMYF grant ceremony, where all funds from the Orlando Wine Festival and Auction will be distributed to local nonprofit organizations. Last year's Orlando Wine Festival & Auction raised $900,000 for the OMYF.

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