By Michael Eng | Managing Editor
As my wife and I sat down for lunch at The Corner Store earlier this week, we saw the perfect example of why we have fallen so in love with Plant City.
A younger female was just about to leave to walk home in the middle of one of our midday thunderstorms. But, an employee stopped her.
You can’t walk home in this, she said. It’s pouring out.
Just then, one of the shop’s regulars, an older gentleman, was paying for his lunch.
I can take you home, he volunteered.
To be clear: I am not advocating getting into a car with a complete stranger. But after some pleasantries (and Corner Store employees vouching for the regular), the two left the shop together — one Plant City resident helping another.
Ours is a city in which these acts of kindness don’t have to be prompted by a plea from Oprah Winfrey. My family has been the recipient of many generous helping hands since we began the Plant City Observer in June.
And now, as our fall season begins to swing, the sheer number of benefits, fundraisers and opportunities to help others in need is astounding. Look no further than our cover story this week. This Saturday, three different events will take place — all for the sole purpose of helping Plant City families with children battling rare medical diagnoses.
That’s not all. There are many more ways to help your neighbors and this community. What follows are just two.
FLORIDA ON FOOT
First-year Bailey Elementary School fourth-grade teacher Aviva Baker wrote to me a few weeks ago. She has launched a new program in her class, Florida on Foot, which tasks her students with choosing a destination city in the Sunshine State, monitoring their footsteps to “walk” to that city of choice, and then, finally, researching the destination city, its economy and its history. In one project, Baker is teaching writing, reading math, social studies and physical fitness.
There’s just one problem: She needs 20 pedometers to help the students calculate their steps. So far, she’s tried to contact some larger retail outlets and corporations, with no luck.
“I’m big on physical education; I completed a half-marathon in February,” Baker said. “And so in the classroom, I’m trying to teach health and promote physical fitness, too.”
Teaching is Baker’s second career. She spent 15 years in the corporate world in marketing for Outback Steakhouse. She started as a server in Maryland and worked her way up the ranks, but her heart always was in education. She completed the education program at the University of South Florida in January and began teaching full-time this year.
“I just wanted to make the world a better place,” she said.
If you can donate money or sponsor the Florida on Foot project, please email Aviva Baker, email@example.com.
DIAMONDS & DENIM
Late last week, Mango Cleaners owner S. Marc Poling stopped by our office to tell me about a donation his son-in-law, Jay Silver, and his company, Helicon Foundation Repair, is making as part of this year’s Diamonds & Denim Gala, which benefits the South Florida Baptist Hospital Foundation.
Instead of making a cash donation, Silver and members of his staff visited Art Lounge Gallery Sept. 15, to purchase several pieces of art for the gala’s silent auction. That way, Helicon would be able to support not only the hospital but also Plant City’s art community, Poling said.
The final selection included works from artists Beverly Farley, Leo “Punk” Watson, LouAnn Creel Watson, Kim Wells and Robert Woods. Each selected piece showcased the unique talents of the community of artists who created them.
“The purpose of our visit to the Art Lounge Gallery was two-fold,” Silver said. “We wanted to support the fundraising efforts of the South Florida Baptist Hospital Foundation in a singular way. In addition, we wanted to fulfill one of our company’s core values — the promise to give back to the community that has contributed to our success.”
Organizers expect more than 500 people at this year’s gala, which will be from 7 to 10 p.m. Sept. 27, at the Florida Strawberry Festival Expo Hall, 2301 W. Oak Ave Plant City. And although the gala itself is sold out, anyone who wishes to make a donation to the foundation can do so by contacting Jana Butler, executive director, at (813) 757-1277.