Leveraging the power to do good

The tables aren’t exactly round.

Instead, they’re set up in the shape of a giant square, and those seated around it are taking turns — talking about organizations they represent.

They share what they do day-to-day. They announce upcoming events. They identify current needs.

Some folks in the room are familiar with others. The rest are total strangers.

But all have come to Bridgeway Church, 30660 Wells Road, to attend the inaugural “Wesley Chapel Pasco Difference Makers” roundtable meeting.

David West and Larry Guilford, of Make a Difference, are involved in efforts to make a difference in Pasco County, through a variety of efforts. One of those is called Wesley Chapel Pasco Difference Makers roundtable, which brings people together from a variety of charitable and service-oriented organizations, to create the potential for helping each other. Another roundtable is also held in East Pasco. (B.C. Manion)

The group an extension of the same kind of roundtable that has been meeting,  at the Make A Difference, Inc., headquarters at 12311 U.S. 301, in Dade City.

“Our goal is to bring our community together,” said Larry Guilford, founder of Make A Difference, Inc., which initiated the monthly roundtables.

“We don’t want to get in the middle,” he told those gathered. “We want to help you guys network together.”

Organizations tend to operate in silos, explained David West, who works for Make A Difference, Inc. The roundtables are intended to open lines of communication.

By sharing information, organizations can become aware of new opportunities, such as grants or training in a particular expertise, Guilford said. They also might tell each other about resources, such as  volunteers or equipment — that they need or can provide.

It didn’t take long at the initial session to learn that this assorted group of organizations had diverse immediate needs.

Bridgeway Church, for instance, could use some fill dirt.

It wants to use the dirt to help smooth out a field it would like to use for football and soccer games, said Joel Eason, senior pastor.

Diapers are in big demand at the locations operated by Oasis Pregnancy Care Centers, said Dave Dorsey, organization’s development director.

And, volunteers who can help build houses — especially on week days — would be greatly appreciated, said Jere Ferguson, director of volunteer services for Habitat for Humanity of East & Central Pasco.

Todd Woodfill, executive director of Defeat Suicide Foundation, said he’s in search of a mentor who is especially good at raising money.

He said that he needs to raise $80,000 for some services he’d like to provide next year, and so far, he noted, with a self-deprecating laugh, he’s about $79,000 short.

Jody Armstrong, of Disability Achievement Center, said her group welcomes donations of wheelchairs, walkers and other durable pieces of medical equipment. It cleans up the equipment and gets it to people who need it, she said.

Those were among needs expressed during a roundtable session that offered a glimpse into the wide range of services being provided by multiple organizations operating in Pasco County.

Work being done ranges from providing diabetic testing to encouraging students to read; from providing clothing and personal items for foster kids to supporting athletes for the Special Olympics; and, more.

Guilford said he hopes the roundtable sessions will attract not only organizations that are doing good work, but also members of the community who want to provide resources to help.

“We’re here to help you fill your needs, and also show you other needs in the area that you may not be aware of,” said Guilford, a Wesley Chapel real estate agent, who has been involved in charitable giving for numerous years.

Before his current efforts, Guilford was involved many years doing charitable work in Ukraine, Colombia and the Philippines.

He decided to return home in 2015 to focus on selling real estate and helping people in Eastern Pasco, which has been so good to him.

Make A Difference focuses on serving Dade City, Zephyrhills, San Antonio, Lacoochee and Wesley Chapel.

Its services include a mobile food pantry that distributes food once a month in Dade City and once a month in Zephyrhills. It also provides new shoes to students in need at area schools.

Guilford said he has seen an incredible amount of need in Pasco communities.

Wesley Chapel’s growth and new development has boomed in recent years, making it difficult for some people to realize it has pockets of poverty, he said.

“We don’t see the needs because Wesley Chapel is so promising,” Guilford said.

The roundtables are based on old-fashioned concept of networking.

“We’re open to anybody who is trying to help people in the community,” West said.

And, it’s not limited to charitable organizations.

“There are businesses that are very involved in doing community support, so we’re hoping that we’ll have a pretty good representation of them, too,” West said.

He issues this invitation to them: “Come and listen to what everybody’s needs are.”

The whole point of having the roundtables, West said, “is to find out what people need and to try to find resources for them.”

Pasco Difference Makers roundtables
What: Various charitable and service-providing organizations share information about what they do, upcoming events and immediate needs
Where: There are two locations
The roundtable in East Pasco meets on the first Wednesday of the month, from 2:30 p.m. to 4 p.m., at the Make A Difference office, 12311 U.S. 301.
The roundtable in Wesley Chapel meets on the third Wednesday of the month, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., the roundtable meets at Bridgeway Church, 30660 Wells Road, Wesley Chapel.
Info: Call (352) 437-3466.

Published October 09, 2019

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