By James Simpson, SLP Intern

Hello Blog! 

This Wednesday was our Volunteerism Day. The participants got to hear from leaders of some of the most impactful volunteer organizations in Central Florida and spent the afternoon at Parker Street Ministry where we heard about their organization and hosted our “SLP Carnival” for the kids.

Before we got into the “volunteering” aspect of our day, we fueled up on Haven Pastries and heard from Chris Hammond, the Senior Vice President of Portfolio Management at Allen & Company. I’ll admit, when I heard that we were going to be sitting through a “financial literacy” presentation, I was skeptical. Every talk I’ve ever sat through on that subject has been nebulous. I’ve never felt like I could get a straight answer or any specific action items that would set me on the right path. Chris’s talk was not like that. He was straightforward, down-to-Earth and, most importantly, understood that the path to financial health is not always easy. He laid out 4 key steps to being a good financial leader: avoid and eliminate debt, save systematically, invest wisely, and give back regularly. I walked away from Chris’s presentation excited to save money instead of dreading it, and finally felt like I had a grasp of what to do to be financially smart and stable.

After Chris’s presentation, SLP participants had the chance to hear from representatives from One More Child, EMERGE Lakeland, VISTE, and United Way of Central Florida. The most impressive part of the panel discussion was the sheer range of services provided to all sorts of communities in need. From VISTE’s services that work to keep seniors independent, to One More Child’s work with trafficking victims and single mothers, to all the work EMERGE and United Way does in the arena of education, income and health, to EMERGE engaging our young professionals, there are opportunities to work for any cause you’re passionate about. All the speakers emphasized the importance of finding a cause you genuinely care about, and that the best way to start volunteering is to just do it! There are over 3,000 charitable organizations in Polk County, and they’re all looking for help. I was once again reminded that the philanthropic spirit of Lakeland is one of the most amazing parts of this community, and that we can all help in our own ways, we just have to start.

Fortunately, it wasn’t too long before the participants got an opportunity to volunteer their time. They carpooled to Parker Street Ministries where they heard from Sarah Breed, the Development and Communications Director of Parker Street Ministries. She discussed the history of their community-based ministry. They serve only those within a specific geographic area, and that’s allowed them to develop and maintain strong relationships with the residents. Many of the PSM staff live within the neighborhood as well, right beside the people they serve. After Sarah’s presentation, Hannah Scruggs, PSM’s volunteer coordinator, spoke to SLP about volunteer opportunities within their program, and prepared us for what to expect during the carnival.

Before setting up the carnival, we had the chance to serve the campers lunch and get to know some of the kids better. I didn’t meet a kid that wasn’t excited to see a new face and, after finishing our pizza, I was crowned PSM arm wrestling champ (I was able to overcome the 3v1 I found myself in with a group of friends). 

After lunch, the kids went out to recess, and SLP set up our carnival. We blew up the bounce house, started spinning cotton candy and popping popcorn, and set up art stations, face and nail painting, and other games for the kids to play. The kids and participants alike enjoyed the event, and we’re already looking forward to getting back over to Parker Street for our Session 2 carnival. It was a great opportunity to give back just a bit after hearing for weeks how connected and caring the city is. 

After amping the kids up on candy and cotton candy (you’re welcome PSM), we wrapped up our carnival and carpooled back over to Catapult, where Week 3 programming wrapped up with a talk from Mayor Bill Mutz.  

His talk highlighted 10 habits that have made him successful as both a businessman and as the mayor of “one of the best run cities in Florida.” Each point had a corresponding relationship that highlighted and emphasized his keys to success. Mutz’s talk was a reminder that our successes directly stem from our relationships and a great way to end a long and fulfilling day.

After official programming wrapped up, the participants walked over to Revival to spend a few hours decompressing and continuing to strengthen friendships that have been built throughout everyone’s time at SLP.  

Next week you’ll hear from me again about our arts and culture day, but until then have a great one! 



SLP Intern