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Diana Baker and Alex Sink

We were honored to have Alex Sink, right, speak at the Prosperity Campaign kickoff.

February 2012 brings us 29 days and another leap year. With an extra day in our lives this month I’m hoping we can turn that bonus time into something special for a lot of deserving people.

I recently had the pleasure of being in the company of some amazing people. We assembled at the Hillsborough Community College campus on Dale Mabry to kick off the 2012 Prosperity Campaign of Hillsborough County and focus on the start of free tax preparation season. This service helps low-income, working families with their federal tax filing and helps individuals qualify for the IRS Earned Income Tax Credit or EITC.The EITC can put hundreds of dollars – sometimes thousands – in additional refunds back into the hands of deserving people.

Alex Sink, former CFO for the State of Florida, spoke on the critical financial needs of many Tampa Bay families, citing a study that showed thousands are a single paycheck away from poverty.She has worked to help families find financial education resources and support for many years.She spoke of former President Ronald Reagan, who called EITC “the best anti-poverty, the best pro-family, the best job creation measure to come out of Congress.” Ms. Sink enthusiastically endorsed the Prosperity Campaign and encouraged the community to get the word out to get more people coming in for the service.

U.S. Representative Kathy Castor reminded us that far too many Floridians miss out on the opportunity to get the full refund they deserve. We were also joined by Santiago Corrada, Chief of Staff for Mayor Bob Buckhorn of Tampa, and our host, Dr. Ken Atwater, President of Hillsborough Community College.

United Way of Tampa Bay is the lead partner for the Prosperity Campaign of Hillsborough County – and works closely with the Wealth Building Coalition of Pinellas County – to build awareness of free tax preparation, tax credit qualification, financial mentoring and other resources that assist working families keep more of the income they earn.It is part of United Way’s Community Impact Agenda that focuses on income, education, neighborhoods and safety net services.

Let’s make February the month to spread the word on the regional free tax preparation sites and the Earned Income Tax Credit. Before February 29, let those at your office, school or church know about these important services. Human resource offices should share this with employees – many will qualify.  Tell all your family, co-workers and friends.

Together, we can help others ‘leap’ to a better and more prosperous 2012.

Diana Baker, President and CEO

P.S. None of this would be possible without our funders: Walmart Foundation; Wells Fargo; Bank of America; National Disability Institute; and Republic Bank; and our partners: IRS; AARP; Children’s Board of Hillsborough County; Hillsborough County Family and Aging Services; Hillsborough County Extension; and Bright Beginnings.


John Legend at the piano after sharing his passion for education.

“As I sat on stage at my high school graduation, the crowd around me looked smaller than it had freshman year. Somewhere between freshman orientation and graduation, many of my peers had found a reason to give up on school and drop out. Whatever the cause, they took a path that would forever limit their life prospects just as I was entering a world of opportunity.”

So said John Legend at Mahaffey Theater in December. In town for a benefit for United Way of Tampa Bay, the man with the golden voice shared his passion for lifting people out of poverty through education. It’s a passion shared by United Way and our supporters.

John is well-known for his philanthropy and his Show Me Campaign, an organization that works to break the cycle of poverty through proven solutions. The Show Me Campaign works in Africa with people who live on less than a dollar a day, helping meet their basic needs. In America, Show Me took a different direction.

As the artist said, “I firmly believe that the single best way to help individuals break the cycle of poverty here in the U.S. is through education. And that’s why the Show Me Campaign fights for every child to have access to a quality education, regardless of race, income or what neighborhood they happened to be born into.”

He praised United Way for its efforts in preparing preschoolers for kindergarten, noting that the achievement gap starts at an early age; and for continuing to help youth through out-of-school and development programs. And after exhorting the audience to get involved, he sat down at the piano.
John and the piano. That’s all it took to get hearts thumping, bodies swaying and couples smiling. The diverse audience was on its feet and filling in for John’s back-up singers.

The evening wouldn’t have been possible without’s generous sponsorship. The Royal Theater Boys and Girls Club  was the perfect opening act. The talented boys and girls rocked the Mahaffey with the sounds of Motown and the St. Pete program boasts a 100% high school graduation rate.

If you were fortunate enough to be there, you know what I’m talking about. You’ll hear more about our specific efforts in education later this year. No one could have kicked off our enhanced efforts better than John Legend.




Diana Baker, President and CEO

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