Every month for the past two years, The Burke/Cox Group takes time out of their busy schedules to serve meals in Sanford at the Rescue Outreach Mission of Central Florida, the only emergency homeless shelter in Seminole County.
Founded in 1986 by the late local pastor Mother Blanche Bell Weaver, the Mission focuses on helping men and women return to self-sufficiency by providing transitional housing and case management. The 501(c)(3) nonprofit’s Loaves and Fishes program provides two meals a day, five days a week, to shelter residents and anyone else hungry for a meal, no questions asked.
Fritz Voltaire, manager of community relations and volunteer programs at the Mission, says the organization feeds lunch to its 99 residents every day, plus 30-45 members of the community. Dinner brings up to 60 non-Mission residents to the dining hall.
“We have a small staff and rely on volunteers on a daily basis,” Fritz says, adding that mealtime is just one of the many opportunities for giving back. “People can help paint a room or sit down and speak to residents and help change lives.”
Fritz explains that although the Mission is home to dozens of volunteers – including corporate team members and everyday people just lending a hand – more volunteers are needed to keep up with the daily work. While the organization employs a full-time tutor, volunteers are still welcome to assist with the education of resident children and adults. Fritz notes many adults need just as much help as the kids. Some members of the homeless community can’t read, and many need assistance with job applications or computer skills.
“Volunteering is a way that we can provide tangible support to the staff of the Rescue Outreach Mission and make their life just a little bit easier,” says Brian Cox, Senior Vice President and cofounder of The Burke/Cox Group. “The staff are the ones who are on the ground at the Mission every day taking care of the men, women, and children.” Brian also serves as the 2019 Board Chair for The Christian Sharing Center in Longwood.
Ken Burke, who along with his two sons Garrett and Brendan make up the Burke family portion of The Burke/Cox Group, credits his client Mike J. Good, CEO of the Briar Team, for putting the Rescue Outreach Mission on the team’s radar. Mike has been a longtime generous supporter of the Mission.
In any given month, Garrett says four to five of his team members venture to the Mission to help feed residents and members of the community. They arrive with a purpose and with compassion for assisting others.
The Rescue Outreach Mission of Central Florida is currently undergoing an internal rebuild following the hiring of Rosalyn Thomas, LCSW, Ph.D., as its new executive director last fall. The team is busy reviewing the Mission’s current programs to be sure they are offering the proper services in order to make a difference.
Rosalyn is the former CEO/owner of a consulting company in Tampa and says she was seeking a move to the Orlando area to be closer to family when she heard about the opening. With experience in child welfare and human services, she is a perfect fit for the role.
“I was intrigued, so I stopped in one day and just had that feeling,” Rosalyn recalls. “It hit me that I wanted to try this.”
Rosalyn’s goals moving forward are to grow the staff and expand services, including accommodations for single dads and whole families.
“I would like more holistic comprehensive services that put our residents in a more independent position,” she says.
At The Burke/Cox Group, there is a complete buy-in from the top down about the Mission’s path and its work, and the team was recognized as the 2018 Volunteer of the Year by the Rescue Outreach Mission of Central Florida.
“Watching them do their work at the Mission without a lot of recognition or fanfare has earned our respect and motivated us to provide them with backup on the days that we volunteer there,” says Brian.