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American business makes major contributions of treasure, time and talent to nonprofit organizations, and Tampa Bay is no exception. United Way Suncoast recognizes and showcases the spirit of workplace generosity with a unique and special series of awards to highlight the innovative ways companies and workers help the people of Tampa Bay through United Way’s annual Workplace Campaign.

“Throughout the Suncoast region we find some of the most generous people in Florida,” said Diana Baker, President and CEO of United Way Suncoast “and we are blessed to be able to partner with them.” Both major corporations and small businesses continue to prove their leadership in the community by helping others. Our Spirit of Suncoast, Million Dollar Donors and Community Champion awards recognize the bountiful commitments made to United Way; making life better for everyone in our community.”

The Spirit of Suncoast Awards were created to recognize companies that go above and beyond in organizing and energizing fundraising, volunteerism and community engagement at their workplaces.  Recipients demonstrate creativity, enthusiasm, innovative communications and overall participation by management and employees.

Engaging employees creates a connection between the individual worker and the community. By building awareness of the needs of the community, the critical issues facing low-income families, the challenges of education, personal income and health, the employee becomes an advocate for change and a philanthropic partner with United Way.

The Spirit of Suncoast awards are given each year to four companies whose employees exemplify the spirit of giving, advocating and volunteering. Companies are categorized by the size of their workforce.  Criteria for selection include:

  • How the companies communicate the mission, goals and accomplishments of United Way throughout their workforce;
  • How the companies show a spirit of volunteerism in the community, from serving on United Way committees to helping non-profits, schools, and other community organizations;
  • An increase in their overall investment in important programs and projects administered and managed by United Way Suncoast and our partner agencies.

The Spirit of Suncoast Award Recipients for 2012


Category: 1,000 or more employees

Tech Data Corporation continues to implement new strategies to their United Way campaign which yield significant results. They are always in tune with the needs of their community and were involved in more than 42 volunteer projects this past year. They also provided funding to several major United Way events. Tech Data Corporation has partnered with United Way in many different ways including sharing their facility for meetings and training. The company provides a member for our Board of Directors and serves as advisors for new ideas and initiatives. They provide generous sponsorship for the Art of Giving Women’s Leadership event.

Total campaign results for 2012:  $408,087
38% participation by Tech Data Corporation employees


Category: 500 to 999 employees (in United Way Suncoast region)

Mosaic is the world’s leading producer and marketer of concentrated phosphate and potash, with approximately 8,000 employees in eight countries including more than 3,000 in Florida. Mosaic mines phosphate rock primarily from its extensive central Florida landholdings, processes it into crop nutrients and animal feed ingredients, and then ships these finished products via rail, barge and ocean-going vessel to customers in the U.S. and agricultural regions of the world.  A devoted United Way donor, Mosaic has consistently been a leader in corporate support and volunteerism. Contributions from Mosaic’s Florida employees exceeded 2011 levels; the average employee annual gift was an exceptional $629.

Total campaign results:  $736,643.
77% participation by Mosaic employees

Category: 100 to 499 employees

PCL is the 6th largest contractor in the United States, and was ranked a Top Green Contractor by Engineering News Record (ENR) magazine. PCL is currently ranked #73 on the FORTUNE 100 Best Companies to Work For® list and is honored to have been on the list for eight consecutive years.  PCL employees recognize that coworkers, neighbors, and families all benefit from living in healthier, stronger communities, and they help to bring this about by providing financial support to United Way.  PCL was nominated by United Way for the Tampa Bay Business Journal’s Philanthropy Award and the company won in their division.

Total campaign results for 2012:  $156,849
100% participation by PCL Civil Constructors employees

Category: Fewer than 100 Employees

Auto-Owners Insurance was founded in 1916 and is the 17th largest insurer in the country. They consistently receive the highest rankings in growth, financial stability and claims service. Auto-Owners Insurance believes one of their most important responsibilities is supporting the communities they serve. The company’s annual United Way campaign is one way it supports the needs of the local communities across the region.  The company took the 10 percent challenge at the campaign coordinator’s workshop and exceeded the 10 percent challenge accomplishing an increase of more than 30 percent over 2011 contributions. Auto-Owners Insurance is appreciated for their outstanding achievement of 100 percent employee participation.

Total campaign results for 2012:  $2,446
100% participation by Auto-Owners Insurance employees

Community Champion Award 2012

Helios Education Foundation

Helios Education Foundation is a philanthropic organization focused exclusively on education in Arizona and Florida. Established in 2004, the Foundation’s mission is to enrich the lives by creating opportunities for success in education. The Foundation works to improve student success across the education continuum in the areas of: Early Childhood Education; the Transition Years (Grades 5 – 12); and Postsecondary Scholarships. Helios believes education is a catalyst to change lives and strengthen communities. Their vision is for everyone to have the opportunity to attend and be prepared to succeed in postsecondary education. United Way Suncoast has received a generous educational grant to support early childhood literacy programs to help low income students read effectively and at grade level by the third grade throughout the Tampa Bay region.  Helios is recognized with the Community Champion Award for their significant influence on early literacy throughout Florida, but especially for the support and resources provided to United Way Suncoast

Million Dollar Donors 2012

United Way Suncoast salutes the companies that make major contributions of one million dollars or more to regional project and programs. The 2012 recipients of the Million Dollar Donor award are Publix Super Markets, (Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties) contributing $4,464,620 and Raymond James, contributing S1,639,000


United Way Suncoast is a local not-for-profit organization working in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Sarasota and DeSoto counties since 1924 to mobilize the resources of individuals, companies, government, and labor to achieve positive, lasting changes in the lives of people in the community. Their mission is to inspire leaders and partners and mobilize resources to make a measurable difference in the lives of people in our community.

United Way Suncoast views income, education and health as the basic building blocks of independence. By addressing all three of these issues through the human services programs it funds, United Way helps families become stronger and communities more vibrant.

United Way Suncoast helps people build better lives by helping kids graduate and helping families find paths out of poverty.  For more information on United Way visit on the web.


Pete Norden, Sarasota Area Chair; Katie Knight, Sarasota Area President; Barbarb Siemer, Al Siemer and
Diana Baker, President & CEO of United Way Suncoast.

United Way Suncoast is pleased to announce that Barbara and Al Siemer of Sarasota County, will receive the National Tocqueville Award®, United Way Worldwide’s highest recognition within the Tocqueville Society. The prestigious award will be presented at United Way Worldwide’s annual Tocqueville Leaders Gathering in Washington, D.C. on April 12, 2013.

“It is with great delight that Barbara and Al have been selected for this award,” said Diana Baker, president and CEO of United Way Suncoast.  “This is especially wonderful and honors two of our region’s great philanthropists and civic leaders.”  Pete Norden, chair of the Sarasota area board of United Way Suncoast added, “We could not be prouder of our neighbor and friends.  The Siemer family brings so much good to the world with their generosity, I cannot think of anyone more deserving.”

The National Tocqueville Society Award® recognizes outstanding examples of deep and abiding commitment to community service. Membership in the Society is granted to individuals who contribute a minimum of $10,000 annually to United Way programs and services. United Way provides guidance to United Ways in developing local Tocqueville Societies, which recognize outstanding volunteer service by presenting local Tocqueville Society Awards; involving and cultivating new influential leadership; encouraging major gifts among high-wealth individuals; and cultivating additional resources with which to strengthen their communities.

The Siemers are in grand company which includes such notable award recipients as Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan; Microsoft’s Melinda and Bill Gates; Publix Super Markets’ Carol and Barney Barnett; NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle; Secretary of Health, Education & Welfare John W. Gardner; Notre Dame University’s Father Theodore Hesbergh; American labor leader George Meany and many others including the very first recipient, Bob Hope.

“Barbara and Al Siemer’s accomplishments go far beyond their philanthropic leadership,” said Brian Gallagher, President and CEO, United Way Worldwide. “With the Siemer Institute for Family Stability, they have created a model for the future of the United Way network. The only way we can effectively address the issues that face communities around the world, at the scale we must, is by bringing them together to learn from each other and work toward a common purpose in education, income and health. The Institute demonstrates just how the power of our far-reaching network can be harnessed to advance the common good.”

The Siemer Family joined United Way of Sarasota County Tocqueville Society in 2001, and Barbara became active in the United Way Women’s Initiative.  Through the activities of the Women’s Initiative, Barbara and Al supported crisis childcare scholarship, helping a woman named Bridgette not only with childcare, but with Christmas gifts.

By late 2002, Barbara had approached United Way regarding the development of a program that would impact the mobility of students in grades K-12.  She was in the process of commissioning the “Columbus Public Schools Student Mobility Research Project” in Ohio and wanted to explore opportunities in Sarasota.  United Way was the lead agency for the Homeless Continuum of Care and prevention funding was extremely limited.

Under Barbara’s leadership, concepts and outcomes were drafted and an active partnership with the Sarasota County Schools was pursued.  Initial visits were made to the Superintendent and implementation models were explored.  The Superintendent directed school social workers to begin discussion on identification of potential students.  United Way, with Barbara’s guidance, chose the “Single Lead Implementing Agency” model and selected Jewish Family & Children’s Service, Sarasota – Manatee, Inc.  to be that lead agency in 2003.

By June 2, 2003, a six month outline of operational/administrative expenditures for the Sarasota County Prevention of Homeless Program was presented to the Siemer Family with the understanding that as a challenge grant, matching dollars would need to be raised by the United Way for the financial assistance portion of the program.  Barbara answered with the first $50,000 grant on June 26, 2003 and the program began.

Throughout 2003, the Siemer Family Foundation provided dedicated funding for cost effective, integrated case management and emergency financial assistance to improve children’s academic success by decreasing family mobility and supporting homeless prevention.

The Siemer Family Foundation continues to provide a discretionary $10,000 gift each year in addition to the $50,000 funding for the Building Strong Families Program (formerly the Sarasota County Prevention of Homeless Program). Their gift has inspired other Tocqueville families to increase their giving to United Way, by investing in Building Strong Families as well as other programs.

In 2008, Barbara and Al Siemer joined the Tocqueville Society Million Dollar Roundtable.  Their gifts to Columbus, Ohio and Sarasota, Florida have funded and leveraged long-lasting changes by addressing the underlying causes impacting at-risk children and their families.  Their leadership and future plans will create opportunities for a better life throughout Florida.

During the past ten years, integration and maximization of limited resources to support homeless prevention have been leveraged by the Siemer family’s generosity.  In addition, their positive influence built strong collaborative partnerships with numerous agencies, funders and in-kind services.

In May 2009, United Way, with Barbara and Al, invited several other Florida communities to consider implementing a localized version of Building Strong Families with the ultimate same two outcomes: improve children’s academic success by decreasing family mobility and supporting homeless prevention.  Each of the communities approached joined and the Siemer moved to spread the success across the country with Ohio communities as the next expansion.

The Siemer Institute for Family Stability was founded in Columbus, Ohio, and today the program is in 22 communities with eight more to be established by the third quarter of 2013 and seven additional communities by the end of 2013 — helping thousands of children and families.

In 1986, the Alexis de Tocqueville Society of United Way Suncoast – Sarasota Area was founded by eight outstanding donors and joined as a Member of the National Society under the leadership of Jane Cook and Alex and Betty Schoenbaum.  The Sarasota Area Society has won national awards in 2000, 2004 and 2007 and hosted the annual National de Tocqueville Society meeting in 2001.

Barb and Al Siemer own Desco Corporation, a holding corporation for several manufacturing companies in the United States and Europe. Desco also includes Desco Capital Partners, which makes venture capital investments. A graduate of Muskingum College, Mrs. Siemer began her career as a high school English teacher. She is an active board member with I KNOW I CAN and the Columbus Museum of Art. Mr. Siemer is a graduate of John Carroll University. He also holds a bachelor’s degree in foreign trade from the University of Arizona (Thunderbird) and a juris doctor degree from Cleveland Marshall Law School.

The purpose of the Siemer Family Foundation is to provide funding for those institutions and organizations whose purpose is to affect continuing and long-term benefits for societal, educational, and cultural needs of the community.  The Foundation’s goal is to support those organizations which provide solutions for social problems, education and/or training to enable young people to be self-supporting, and support for civic and cultural organizations which enhance the quality of life in this or other communities.  The Siemer Family Foundation was established in 1997 and has focused the majority of its grantmaking in the area of education.

United Way Suncoast is a local not-for-profit organization working in DeSoto, Hillsborough, Pinellas, and Sarasota counties since 1924 to mobilize the resources of individuals, companies, government, and labor to achieve positive, lasting changes in the lives of people in the community. The Suncoast  mission is to inspire leaders and partners and mobilize resources to make a measurable difference in the lives of people in our community.

United Way Suncoast views income, education and health as the basic building blocks of independence. By addressing all three of these issues through the human services programs it funds, United Way helps families become stronger and communities more vibrant.  United Way Suncoast helps people build better lives by helping kids graduate and helping families find paths out of poverty.  For more information on United Way visit on the web.

United Way Suncoast is looking for volunteers to serve as part of a statewide initiative to help young children learn to read at grade level.  ReadingPals is a program focused on increasing the number of students who are reading at grade level by the end of third grade.

United Way will connect volunteers to a particular site based on their preferred location schedule. Volunteers will undergo a background screening and receive training in the curriculum selected for their region prior to being assigned a reading pal. Volunteers will continue to work with children in ReadingPals throughout 2013.

Those interested in becoming ReadingPals volunteers should contact United Way Suncoast. Interested prospective volunteers should contact Nicole Brown, Program Manager, ReadingPals, by calling 813-274-0998 or emailing her at  She encourages volunteers to become a part of the program.  “Great readers eventually become great leaders,” said Ms. Brown.

Volunteers will commit to reading for at least an hour per week throughout the school year with one, two or three children. The program uses proven techniques to meet the needs of each community. Volunteers will read a book out loud, guiding children through literacy activities and general conversations about the book. The program also begins to build home libraries for participating children by sending books home throughout the school year.

Children who read at grade level by the fourth grade are four times more likely to graduate from high school. Graduates earn more throughout their lifetime, make better choices, use fewer social services and statistically are more likely to stay out of trouble.

“United Way Suncoast is working with local school districts, early learning coalitions, children’s services councils and other children’s organizations to help students from pre-kindergarten to third grade,” said Diana Baker, president and CEO of United Way Suncoast. “Through Carol and Barney Barnett’s generosity, we will be able to recruit hundreds of local adult volunteers and launch the program in some of the most challenged public schools and neighborhoods.”

In August, 2012, Governor Rick Scott and First Lady Ann Scott joined former Miami Herald Publisher Dave Lawrence, chair of The Children’s Movement of Florida, and Carol Barnett, president of Publix Super Markets Charities, to launch ReadingPals early literacy initiative. Thanks to the Barnett’s generosity, ten United Ways across Florida will share $3 million over three years to achieve the goal of helping children read on grade level by third grade.

“We so strongly believe that the future of our state rests in the hands and minds of our youngest that we have personally contributed to the launching of  Reading Pals — an early literacy initiative in ten Florida regions. Our goal is to ensure that more children are reading at grade level by the end of third grade,” said ReadingPals sponsor and proponent of early learning, Carol Barnett. United Way is extremely excited to embark on this new journey towards academic excellence and help people throughout the community.

“Today’s third graders are tomorrow’s doctors, engineers, teachers and innovators — tomorrow’s job creators,” said Governor Rick Scott. “What Carol and Barney Barnett are making possible will make such a difference in the future of our state, and Ann and I look forward to working with them on this great initiative.”

“We are a blessed family, and feel obliged to make sure we give back a full measure to our community and country,” said Carol Barnett, who is also vice chair of The Children’s Movement. “There’s no greater investment we could make in the future of Florida.”

“The early years when 90 percent of brain growth occurs are crucial to growing children who become eager students and contributing adults,” said David Lawrence, Jr., chair of The Children’s Movement of Florida. “Learning to read by third grade is crucial, and reading to learn must become the standard by no later than fourth grade. The very future of our state and country depend on this.”

The Florida Department of Education recently released the statewide 2012 third-grade FCAT 2.0 reading scores, and 44 percent – 89,491 students – were found to be reading below grade level. These children, who struggle with reading at a young age, will be four times more likely to drop out of high school than their peers reading at grade level.

Ten United Ways across the state have received ReadingPals grants.  Locally, this includes United Way of Central Florida (Polk and Highlands counties), United Way of Manatee County, and United Way Suncoast (DeSoto, Hillsborough, Pinellas, and Sarasota counties.

United Way Suncoast has made a commitment to work with children and youth to help them achieve their full potential in life by focusing programs on early childhood learning.  This is part of their three-part community impact agenda that includes financial stability for families and health initiatives.  Learn more about United Way Suncoast at .


Amira Forto stood in the shade as she watched the improvements being done on her St. Petersburg home, watching volunteers work in the heat and humidity to get the job done.

The job was a home mini-makeover: complete with interior and exterior painting, plumbing and electrical repairs, and minor carpentry work. What at first glance appeared to be a weekend project from friends and neighbors of Amira was something much more. It was a product of United Way of Tampa Bay Day of Caring.


United Way Day of Caring, held on October 18th, mobilized 130 local companies and more than 2,000 volunteers to assist 58 local non-profit agencies with everything from landscaping to clean up to mini-makeovers like Amira’s.

This project was supported by more than 20 volunteers from Pinellas County Schools, and organized by the Gulf Coast Jewish Family Services, a United Way partner agency. Read the rest of this entry »

United Way of Tampa Bay today honored 10 volunteers for making theTampa Bayarea a better, brighter place.
The awards were handed out at the annual Volunteer of the Year luncheon held in conjunction with National Volunteer Week, April 15-21. Each volunteer is indispensable,” said Diana Baker, President/CEO of United Way of Tampa Bay. “None of the nonprofit agencies in the Bay area – United Way could survive without its volunteers.” More than 400 people attended the award luncheon.

Find out who won the awards by clicking here.

To kick off National Volunteer Week, more than 350 United Way volunteers spent this past Saturday (April 14th) at Bay Pines Veterans Administration Hospital, helping to make the grounds more beautiful for the patients there. Watch the video to hear what our President and CEO, Diana Baker, had to say about the day.

Note: Click the button in the center of the video image. On some browsers you may have to click it twice.

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