A 50-year-old wanting to know how to text, 'I love you,' to his wife. A young adult learning cursive so he can sign his name. A grandmother hoping to vote for the first time.
These are the stories that inspire Ron Schorsch to give back.
Schorsch is a dedicated volunteer at the Adult Literacy League, a Central Florida nonprofit that provides literacy education, training and information for adults. Since 2006, he has logged nearly 1,000 tutoring hours with adults to help improve their reading, writing and communications skills.
"I have the privilege of talking with students when they reach out for help after perhaps a lifetime of not being able to read," said Schorsch. "So it's a real honor at that moment. I get to talk to them about why they're there, what they want to do. You get so much out of the volunteer work that we do… [but] I certainly don't seek recognition."
Schorsch certainly deserves recognition, however, which is why somebody else sought it for him. It's also the reason the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Community Quarterback Awards exist.
Adult Literacy League Executive Director Joyce Whidden, thankful for her volunteer's big heart and humble demeanor, nominated him for the annual awards presented by the Buccaneers to a handful of hard-working citizens who make a big difference in the Bay area community. The Buccaneers agreed with Whidden's assessment and named him one of their five Community Quarterback Award winners for 2011.
"Ron is one of the most committed, reliable, hard-working, dedicated and empathetic volunteers we have ever seen, and we have seen thousands of volunteers in our 43 years history of developing readers to build a strong and literate community," Whidden wrote in her nomination, which was submitted through Buccaneers.com. "Like a quarterback, he knows how to work with a team and get things done, but he is also able to take leadership and independently works his way towards the goal line, which for him means another adult learning to read, write and communicate in English."
Last week, the Buccaneers personally thanked Schorsch and his fellow award-winners for their efforts.
On Tuesday, Schorsch was honored along with Lance Arney, Cathy Phillips, Tanya Williams and Erik Youngs as the Buccaneers' 2011 Community Quarterbacks during an award ceremony held at One Buccaneer Place. The Community Quarterback Awards are given annually to citizens who have made extraordinary contributions to the community through volunteer work. Like Schorsch, this year's other recipients were selected from nominations received through Buccaneers.com.
The ceremony at the Buccaneers' state-of-the-art training facility included dinner by the team's Executive Chef, Mike Beadles, and inspirational words from former quarterback Parnell Dickinson. Dickinson, who was the first African-American quarterback to be drafted by the Buccaneers, remains connected to the team through his role as the local NFL License Inspector and his work with the NFL Retired Players Association.
"Me being here is so small for what they do for other people," said Dickinson. "I'm just happy that I've had an opportunity to bump shoulders [with these winners]. Those people that do things like this are who I consider superstars, because they're doing something for the benefit of other people."
The former quarterback was particularly touched by the work of Cathy Phillips, whose charitable efforts have greatly enhanced a local hospital's care for its sickest patients.
Phillips initiated Tampa General Hospital's "Compassionate Companion" program. The program organizes volunteers to spend time with dying patients who don't have family or friends to be with them during their final days.
"We deal with something that nobody wants to deal with, and that's death," said Phillips. "You don't think, 'Gosh, today when I get off from work, I'm going to sit with someone who's dying,' but that's what we do. We do it because we enjoy it and we feel blessed to be able to spend that time with those people and share that time of their life."
Phillips' positive view of death as another part of life has helped her provide care, comfort and support for strangers as they prepare to pass away.
"A lot of people do have a hard time dealing with it, but I'm just not one of those people," said Phillips. "I do feel very blessed to be able to sit and hold someone's hand as they're passing. They look in my eyes and we have a bond together. It's a great thing."
As part of Tuesday's awards, Dickinson and Buccaneers Director of Community Relations Miray Holmes presented the honorees with commemorative footballs and a $2,000 donation in each Community Quarterback's name to the charitable organization of his or her choice.
"I think it's just awesome," said Phillips about the event. "My favorite part about it was that I was actually able to invite the people to come that do back me up because I can't do this without my family, and they never ever get any credit for what they do. I can't tell you how many times family gatherings have been stopped because I've got to go. They're all understanding of it and they support me 100 percent, and it's really great that they got to be here and enjoy this tonight."
Added Schorsch: "It's a humbling experience. You realize how much people are changing the lives of others in our community, and it's special to be able to do that myself, but also to see how so many other people do it in amazing ways."
Below is a brief description of the 2011 Community Quarterbacks:
- Lance Arney is the volunteer Executive Director for the Moses House, a community-based nonprofit organization that uses creative expression, activism and education to improve the quality of life for at-risk children from Tampa's Sulphur Springs neighborhood. Following a number of organizational setbacks, Arney helped successfully re-establish Moses House by gaining community support and local grants, including nine funding requests within the past year. In addition, Arney is a doctoral candidate in Applied Anthropology and a Research Assistant in the University of South Florida's Office of Community Engagement, dedicating his time to uncovering solutions for the variety of social problems facing youth in low-income neighborhoods.
- Cathy Phillips serves on the Volunteer Board of Tampa General Hospital. Phillips helped bring the national "No One Dies Alone" patient initiative to Tampa, starting the hospital's "Compassionate Companion" program. The program provides a volunteer to spend time with a dying patient who has no family or friends to be with them during their final days, offering much-needed comfort, conversation and support. Phillips often fulfills this duty if no volunteers are available, all while managing a separate business of her own.
- Ron Schorsch is a dedicated volunteer at the Adult Literacy League, where he has shared his time and efforts since 2006. Schorsch has logged almost 1,000 tutoring hours with various students to help improve their reading skills, and frequently undergoes new training to improve his teaching methods. In addition to tutoring, Schorsch volunteers 10 hours a week to help interview and enroll prospective students into the program, showcasing a true desire to help adults read, write and communicate effectively in English.
- Tanya Williams is the founder of Hearing Me, a program at Howard Phillips Center for Children and Families that assists children, parents and families who live or relate with hearing-impaired individuals. Williams, who was born hearing impaired, initiated the program after recognizing the lack of resources and support available to help the deaf and hard-of-hearing community. Hearing Me touches the lives of hundreds of people in Central Florida through bi-monthly support meetings and annual holiday events, and it remains the only support group of its kind in the region. On top of her duties as founder and primary administrator for Hearing Me, Williams is a full-time Team Supervisor at the Developmental Center for Infants & Children, a part-time student in pursuit of her Master's degree, a wife and a mother.
- Erik Youngs is a teacher at the Culinary Operations Academy at Chamberlain High School in Tampa. Youngs helps provide hands-on learning for his students that exposes them to industry professionals and real-world experiences. His passion and dedication to enriching their lives has inspired numerous students to pursue careers in the culinary industry. Through fundraising and work with various business partners, Youngs has also enhanced Chamberlain High School by helping to establish an Outback Café on school property.