Each year the Tampa Bay chapter of the Florida Diversity hosts a strategic planning session for all who wish to participate. As in years before, the desire to expand the support given to our community partners was voiced. In response, under the leadership of our Community Partnerships Co-Chair Phyllis Timmons, representing Florida Blue, the Tampa Bay Diversity Council (TBDC) recently coordinated a donation drive benefitting the PACE Center for Girls Hillsborough.

Drive DonationsThe donation drive for PACE was held at the FLDC’s annual Tampa Bay Women in Leadership Symposium on March 24, 2017. Themed Be Fearless: influence, innovate and inspire, the symposium paired nicely with the PACE Center’s mission of instilling leadership qualities in girls,12-18, who are at risk academically and socially, by providingan opportunity for a better future through education, counseling, training and advocacy. The significance of hosting collections for PACE’s therapeutic school based program at this signature event was clear to all attendees. There has been great synergy resulting from TBDC’s support of PACE’s evidence based gender-responsive program since they joined our local chapter, including the girls active participation in the Council’s Young Women’s Leadership Symposium held each Spring.

What was collected at the Women’s Symposium by TBDC members and guests and how could donations contribute to leadership development within these young women? Large boxes were filled with miscellaneous items including personal care items and accessories such as purses, jewelry and more. In fact, Walmart donated three very large boxes of brand new items such as lotions, headphones and cell phone battery packs. As valued and appreciated as these items are by the PACE Center, most of it will not be immediately distributed to the girls. Instead, they will be earned by the girls who participate in PACE’s programs which is how these donations are infused with the transformative power to motivate change and create lasting difference.

One element of the PACE philosophy is a belief that the girls deserve to celebrate a life defined by responsibility, dignity, serenity and grace. One of the many ways in which the program instills responsibility is through the support of a points based motivational system. Throughout their day, the girls attend school, therapeutic counseling and various group activities right on site at the Pace Center. Many were accustomed in the past to receiving punishment and consequences in and out of school, but perhaps for the first time, they are now receiving rewards for their positive behavior. The Pace Center has a point system where the girls are recognized for successfully attaining goals. As the girls are able to demonstrate consistently strong positive leadership, their points culminate into buying power. In addition to weekly rewards, once per month the girls get to use these hard earned points toward the purchase of highly prized items like the donations collected by TBDC.

Thank youSometimes, it is easy to lose sight of how we can make a difference in the lives of others and therefore do nothing. Time is a most precious commodity and organizations like PACE place high value on volunteers who offer to mentor or read with the girls, yet, as this donation drive has shown, our donations matter too. They are motivational tools that the PACE staff may utilize to help the girls forge their own paths to Be Fearless: influence, innovate and inspire.Just as Tanya Hollins, Executive Director of Hillsborough’s PACE Center, sent a heartfelt thank you note and picture to us, we are equally grateful to see the smiling faces of these future leaders whom perhaps one day may choose to take an active role within the Tampa Bay Diversity Council.

Written by Cate Baierlein MS, CRC
Communications Co-Chair Tampa Bay Diversity Council
FL Department of Education, VR Division

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