LOUGHMAN – Imagine a group of workers show up at your door, ready to do everything from painting to landscaping to woodworking.
If 100 people show up at your business, chances are the first thing you might worry about is how big your bill was going to be when they’re done. Save for the very wealthy, few small business owners can afford to have 100 workers show up in one day, to do hours worth of work, then go home.
Rich Mergo wasn’t worried, though. He knew exactly how much the workers were going to charge: not a single dime.
“It’s great for us, because they supply the labor and the materials to revitalize and refurbish areas of the Dream Village,” Mergo said. “It truly helps us because we don’t spend money on projects like that. Any help we can get from corporations is huge for us.”
Mergo is the director of development for the Sunshine Foundation’s Dream Village, a 22-acre resort in Loughman with themed fairy-tale cottages, playground and miniature golf course, where children who are terminally ill or have been abused can come with their families during a Dream Come True trip to the Central Florida theme parks and attractions.
The charitable organization developed a partnership with Rebuilding Together Polk County, another non-profit group that aims to improve the lives of low-income homeowners in the greater Polk County region.
Honeywell International, a Fortune 100 technology and manufacturing firm, contacted Rebuilding Together recently, which suggested they offer the services of their workers to the Dream Village.
“It’s through Rebuilding Together of Polk County,” Mergo said. “When Honeywell three years ago came to their annual sales conference, they connected with Rebuilding Together and contacted the local chapter here in Polk County and asked for charities they could do some work for, and they recommended us.”
Honeywell followed through. Last week, Honeywell Hometown Solutions, Honeywell’s corporate giving and community involvement division, donated more than $10,000 in materials and sent 100 volunteers to Dream Village to do work on the property. It happened on Thursday, Jan. 19 from 1-5 p.m.
“Giving back to the local community is the right thing to do, is good business and is at the core of our values at Honeywell,” said Paul Orzeske, president of Honeywell Building Solutions. “As a national corporate sponsor of Rebuilding Together, we’re grateful for their support and expertise in leveraging our volunteers and dollars to have the most impact.”
It was a terrific charitable endeavor, said Alice Spivey, the executive director of Rebuilding Together of Polk County.
“Honeywell’s three-day service blitz is the largest volunteer event we’ve ever had in Polk County,” she said. “Their thousands of hours of volunteer work will be a huge boost with benefits across Polk County – for children, families and firefighters.”
Honeywell volunteers will devoted their time at the Dream Village to landscaping, painting, building a wheelchair accessible ramp, installing door alarms and new door knobs and building picnic tables.
“Over the past three years, we have come to experience Honeywell’s generosity through their work in renovating the Dream Village,” said Kate Sample, president of the Sunshine Foundation. “Honeywell’s ongoing dedication allows us to continue to make our children’s dreams come true.”
Even for just a single day, it was a huge benefit, Mergo said.
“This was the third year that Honeywell chose us for a work project while they’re here for a conference in Orlando, and this was their worldwide conference,” he said. “We had employees from Italy and Germany all here last Thursday. We had 100 employees here doing work projects, the most they’ve ever sent to us. In the last three years, they had about 50 to 80 employees they sent here.”
Those 100 volunteers worked on some invaluable projects, Mergo added.
“They did a lot of painting and landscaping and poured some cement wraps for the village for handicap accessibility,” he said. “They replaced all the doorknobs in the cottages so the children who can’t use regular doorknobs can now use lever-type doorknobs that they don’t need to turn. They did some landscaping and sod work, and they installed a shed for us for our golf cart. They also built wooden picnic benches for the cottages. It was a great day.”
Mergo said the Dream Village remains in the planning stages for several upcoming events, including a Spring Family Fair on March 31, where “local families and children, and any local schools with special needs children, are welcome to come out,” Mergo said.
The other events are a Run for Dreams at the Reunion Resort on April 21, a 5K Run through the streets of Reunion; the Dream Village’s first golf tournament at Celebration Golf Resort on May 11; and the non-profit’s annual Fundraising Gala at Reunion on Oct. 27.
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