ORLANDO – Focused on preventing and finding long-term solutions for pressing problems such as education, healthcare, financial stability and basic needs, the United Way has affected countless lives worldwide.
Locally, their mission is executed through the Heart of Florida United Way. Since its founding in 1939, the Heart of Florida United Way has been Central Florida’s largest supporter of local health and human service agencies, with a mission of fighting for the education, health, and financial stability of every person in the area.
Their tremendous work in the Central Florida region was immediately recognized by the DeVos family when they acquired the Orlando Magic 30 years ago. Thus, it’s only fitting that, as the DeVos Family Foundation carries out its 30 Grants for 30 Years Initiative, the family continued this support with a $50,000 donation to the Heart of Florida United Way.
“Heart of Florida United Way and the Orlando Magic have a 30-year history,” said Jeff Hayward, President and CEO of Heart of Florida United Way, whose relationship initially formed between their organization and the late Rich and Helen DeVos. “When the DeVos family (acquired) the Magic and landed here in Orlando, Heart of Florida United Way was one of the first organizations they supported, and we certainly thank Mr. and Mrs. DeVos for working with us throughout the community.”
This gift, like much of the DeVos family’s philanthropy, supports efforts in underserved communities and seeks to enact meaningful change, while removing barriers and better enabling all to achieve their full potential.
That goal is one clearly shared by the Heart of Florida United Way.
“The mission of Heart of Florida United Way is to assist those families in the community who need help,” Hayward said. “They may need help financially. They may need help with their children learning how to read. They may have an elder couple in the community who needs help. Or there might be veterans coming back from deployment who need some help reestablishing themselves in the community. And United Way is there each and every day.”
Amidst a worldwide pandemic, that help is needed perhaps now more than ever. With more people in need of assistance and charities unable to host many of their normal fundraising events, donations like the one provided by the DeVos Family Foundation are providing a huge lift for organizations when they and the people they support need it the most.
“Over the years, the DeVos family has stepped up and given gifts to United Way across the country,” Hayward said. “During COVID, we got a call from the DeVos Family Foundation, and they made a gift unsolicited. So, to get a call recently from the Foundation to say that they were honoring us again after 30 years – it (evoked in) everybody (the power) of long-term relationships and working with the community. And it was a true honor.”
Heart of Florida United Way is fully aware that health and human service problems have continued to grow and compound over recent years and have created a 211 hotline to provide immediate service across these areas, including a national, confidential, 24-hour suicide prevention hotline to assist with emotional distress or a suicidal crisis. They aim not only to intervene for people struggling with education, healthcare, financial stability, and basic needs, but also to prevent some of the issues from arising for people living in the Central Florida region. The donation provided by the DeVos family will help them in that quest.
As part of the DeVos family’s 30 Grants for 30 Years Initiative, a total of $3 million will be donated to 30 area nonprofit organizations over an 18-month period as they aim to invest in people and projects impacting youth, essential needs for families, and community enrichment across Central Florida.
Thus far, eight of those grants have been announced – with donations to the Orlando Magic Youth Foundation, the New Image Youth Center, Habitat for Humanity Greater Orlando & Osceola County, the Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida, Dress for Success Greater Orlando, ELEVATE Orlando, Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida, and now Heart of Florida United Way.
“The gift that the DeVos family is giving us is an unrestricted gift,” Hayward explained. “So, (the family has entrusted us to) use it in any way that we see fit (and) the best way we can to support the community. It could go to assist veterans, it could go to assist in reading programs, it could help a family pay their rent and literally keep the lights on if they have to pay utilities. This goes right to the core of what we do, and we are so thankful for the DeVos family for (this) gift.”