My wife is a social worker in Ocala, and she often comes home distraught about the living situations and conditions of the people she has to see on a day to day basis. She often tries to help them as much as she can by giving food or even by donating her old laptop. She often tries to get help to families from some of the larger charities, but is often denied, or there is so much red tape she is unable to get them the help they need. One day she asked me if she bought a tarp, would I go up on someone’s house and cover the holes to keep the rain out, I then realized that I had to come up with a better solution.

Thanksgiving of 2012 was coming up and my work often gathers food for United Way and various other large charities. Many of the people in our offices always just seem to not want to give, including myself, as you never really get to see where you donation is going, or the larger charities have grown so big that their overhead has grown as well. So after listening to several of the folks, I asked them all if they would consider adopting some of my wife’s families. The crowd was unanimous, and everyone agreed that adopting a family or two would be best. So I called my wife and asked her if she would accept the food and donations on our behalf and deliver it all to the families.

Needless to say, we had a very successful food drive. She gave us basic information about 3 families, as to not violate HIPPA rules and regulations. We didn’t know anybody’s name, or really who we were helping, just that Family One had a son, Family Two had a daughter and Family Three was an elderly couple with roof troubles. We trusted her experience as a social worker, and it worked out great.

“These families were not asking for help, they were not transients and they were continually trying to help themselves.”

We had three VETTED families. These families were not asking for help, they were not transients and they were continually trying to help themselves. This was the key mix that we felt strong about. We surprised Family One and Family Two with a bunch of food for each of the families and items gathered for their children by the employees of the City of Ocala Information Technology Department. My wife and I also made sure each family had a large turkey for Thanksgiving.

Unfortunately, we have not been able to help out Family Three with their roof issues as that was something we just couldn’t get a donation for such a large project.

You can read more about the families as they are our first families we are going to try and assist. They were so grateful and so kind and so very surprised to be helped. That’s when I realized that this had to continue. Keep it small, use social media to crowdfund small projects (Thanks Vince Megale at Pi On Broadway!), give my wife a tool to use where she can get assistance with those she wishes to help, when she can’t get them help anywhere else.

I spoke with a friend in Miami, and told him what was going on. They have a foundation down there that has helped many people and have the experience in helping. I asked him if he would be interested in helping with some of these families. He said that they are a foundation, foundations give to charities and charities give to people. It’s a learning experience right from the start! He said to incorporate and to get the IRS 501c3 status and we would talk. He helped me form the articles of incorporation, and Ocala Outreach Foundation, Inc., was born.

Then I found out I needed to have board members and a bank account and a treasurer and an accountant. Again, all a learning experience. I spoke with my boss, the soon-to-be-retiring IT Director with the City of Ocala. She said that she would be honored to be board member. I spoke to Sam Betty at Ocala Caregivers, and another friend, Dean Guntner, with Stifel Nicolaus, and they both were on board.

I immediately wanted to discuss this process and everything leading up to it with Rondo Fernandez, with Mojo Grill and Catering. He continually helps people in the community and focuses a lot on helping children. Needless to say, he liked it, agreed to be a board member and told me to have my wife contact him about sponsoring the two children in the first two families.

I asked Rondo if he recommended any other people to be a board member and he immediately told me to contact Kelli Fuqua-Hart. He told me some of the things she has done in the community and naturally I was impressed. I usually procrastinate, but chanced at giving her a call, and she was available for a meeting. She to loved the idea and the process and agreed to be a board member as well.

After speaking to Tom McDonald of Pi on Broadway, Crystal Loomis of Ocala Tax Accountants, as well as my wife, Amy of ORS Homecare, we had all the board members we needed for now. I could go on and on about the process but I guess I should just round this out and say that I’m truly thankful for the people that are coming together to take ownership of this vision and help me see it through. None of the board members are in need of anything except they all share a basic need to help others.  We do not draw salaries from the foundation at all.

If you don’t like giving to churches, give to us. We are not faith-based, but also not without faith. We just want to help, we are help-based.

If you don’t like giving to large charities as you don’t want to see large portions of each dollar go to corporate expenses, give to us. At the moment, we have all our costs listed out and plan to continue to do so. We give 100% of each dollar to help the family, or Outreach Project, you choose.

If you don’t like to give where you never get to see what your donation did, give to us. We plan to post a story of a family in need, leverage social media to share their story without identifying them due to HIPPA laws when applicable, and to make sure that all donations go to the targeted family. We will also offer updates as we continue to help each family.

Our goal is to reach out into our community, and surrounding area, to directly help those in need with focused compassion. We can’t do it without your help though. Donate today.