James Garner made a life-long friend through the Best Buddies program
Each year, countless volunteers help out in the Tampa Bay area by lending their time and energy to various community organizations. Some work with ill children, others aid the elderly and still others find specific causes that are near to their hearts. Most of them receive little acknowledgment for their community-building deeds.
This week, however, safety John Lynch helped the Tampa Bay Buccaneers recognize some of the Bay area's most outstanding volunteers at the Buccaneers Community Quarterback Awards Ceremony.
"I commend what you guys do for our community," said Lynch, who himself was recently selected the Buccaneers' Man of the Year for his tireless service in the community "I understand the effort that you guys put forth and the lack of recognition you receive, but it's volunteers like you that keep our communities strong and prospering."
The Buccaneers Community Quarterback Award recognizes volunteers who demonstrate leadership, dedication and a commitment to improving the community in which they live. To find these community heroes, the Buccaneers asked local charitable organizations to nominate their notable volunteers. The team then appointed a review committee made up of team representatives, media professionals and community leaders to review nominations and select the six finalists.
Following the Buccaneers morning practice, Lynch spoke to the finalists about the importance of volunteer work and presented each volunteer with an award and a $2,000 grant for his or her charity. After introducing the six finalists (listed below), Lynch called the name of the overall winner, James Garner, and presented him with a $10,000 check for the Best Buddies program to which Garner commits his time.
"I'm overwhelmed," said Garner. "It was real nice. I'm very, very happy."
Garner is now eligible for the national Community Quarterback Award, which the NFL will name in late December. NFL Charities will donate $25,000 to the organization where the national winner volunteers.
James Garner Best Buddies James may be just a high school senior, but his impact and devotion has already been felt by hundreds of youth in the Hillsborough County and by one young man specifically. For the last four years, James has been intimately involved with the Special Olympics, but his work with special athletes pales in comparison to the time and energy he devotes to his Best Buddy, Lonnie. James and Lonnie have developed a special bond during their three years as Best Buddies that can only be described as 'a match made in heaven.' James has taken Lonnie to the movies, played video games with him, taken him bowling, helped Lonnie win the Mr. Legs contest at Homecoming, thrown a surprise beach birthday party for him and most importantly been his closest friend and confidant when Lonnie's father passed away last year. James has also earned the High School Peer Buddy of the Year Award for Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties for his work with Best Buddies. To James, however, it's not about the awards but the unbelievable friendship he has made.
Jeanette DeYoung All Children's Hospital Whether it's assisting the surgical staff or baking gingerbread cookies for elementary school students, no job is too big or too small for Jeanette. A woman who loves to give of her time because "it makes me feel useful," Jeanette has proven to be the very definition of a volunteer. Jeanette began by volunteering at the snack bar at All Children's, and has since assisted in the recovery room by rocking babies and soothing parents, helped chair the annual charity ball, organized welcome kits for various doctors and helped arrange the forms new patients will need for the doctors. Jeanette has also used her time to help at Mt. Vernon Elementary School, aiding students with their arts and crafts and reading skills.
Jacqueline Manthos St. Mary Catholic Church Jacqueline has been involved with the guardian ad litem program in Hillsborough County for more than 10 years, and in 1998 she overcome ovarian cancer. Neither of these accomplishments, however, is what has her among the finalists for the Buccaneers Community Quarterback Award. For the past several years, Jacqueline has served as the President of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, which requires all of its leaders and volunteers to be unpaid so that 100% of the donations go towards emergency assistance. In her role as the President, Jacqueline is in charge of a staff of 20 people, coordinating home visits, verifying client need and working with local property managers, utility companies and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate aid.
Gordon Peters Alzheimer Resource Center, Inc. Since losing his wife to Alzheimer's disease in March, 2001, after 57 years of marriage, Gordon has volunteered countless hours at the Alzheimer Resource Center. Even as he suffers through Parkinson's disease, glaucoma, and emphysema, Gordon goes to the center almost every day to lend a helping hand. Whether it is handling the mail, attending support groups, telling his story at breakfasts and luncheons or just listening to the stories of other caregivers, Gordon is always up to the task. The most important factor in Gordon's volunteering has been the candid nature with which he discusses the things that he has gone through as a caregiver. Gordon doesn't sugarcoat the struggles that come with dealing with a loved one with Alzheimer's, but he also knows that true love knows no bounds.
Debbie Tapp American Red Cross – Manatee Chapter Creating new and diverse programs on a limited budget is one of the most difficult tasks any charitable organization faces. For Debbie, it is a way of life. As Ruth Duncan, the CEO of the American Red Cross Manatee County Chapter, says, it is Debbie's ability to 'think big' that defines her work. Debbie initiated the Red Cross Babysitter Training Program in Manatee and also became the first certified instructor in the county. In addition, Debbie founded the American Red Cross Manatee County Chapter Youth Corps, which provides leadership development and an understanding of philanthropy through meaningful community service. The Youth Corps then led to the founding of the Red Cross Youth Disaster Response Team, which allows youth to become fully trained in disaster preparedness and response. With Debbie, it's never a matter of if the next idea will come, but when and how big it will be.
Charles Wright Pinellas Association for Retarded Children Having a brother born with cerebral palsy, epilepsy and severe mental retardation is sure to have a lasting impact on any young man. That impact, of course, can be positive or negative. For Charles, it was most definitely positive. Thirty-nine years later, Charles' younger brother is still smiling and laughing and Charles has committed himself to the cause of improving the lives of those with special challenges. He does this through his work with the Pinellas Association for Retarded Children (PARC). Charles gives countless hours of hit time to PARC and does so with flair, telling an infinite string of jokes, dressing up as a pirate to sell soft drinks or just encouraging those he works with to come out and volunteer. Charles' commitment to his brother and to PARC is bottomless and the laughter that he has brought to the lives of so many will always be remembered.
Autographs for Toys
The holiday season is a special time for most of the boys and girls of the Bay area, but for some families it isn't quite the celebration it could be due to economic circumstances beyond their control. On Thursday, Buccaneers LS Ryan Benjamin, WR Keenan McCardell, LB Ryan Nece, QB Chris Simms, DE Dewayne White, G Jason Whittle and WR Karl Williams did what they could to help remedy that situation by signing autographs in exchange for new, unwrapped toys at Metropolitan Ministries.
With a line for autographs streaming out of the Metropolitan Ministries Holiday tent, the seven Buccaneers sat at two tables and signed for every patron who brought toys for the children who reside at Metropolitan Ministries. Barbies, stuffed animals, remote control cars and toy trucks piled onto the tables in the holiday tent as the players signed balls, books, hats, jerseys, t-shirts and any number of other items, including Christmas tree ornaments. Young and old, the fans kept coming and the number of toys kept mounting.
"It was awesome," said Whittle. "Some of these kids are here giving toys for other little kids that don't have anything. It's amazing. You can't say enough about the people working here and the people that are here donating toys out of the goodness of their heart."
To find out how you can donate to Metropolitan Ministries call (813) 209-1000 or visit www.metromin.org.