This time of year, we’re reminded of our neighbors in the community who are in need. But we don’t necessarily realize how many of our local business owners give back unconditionally, donating their time and resources out of the kindness and generosity in their hearts and without much recognition.
Three Central Florida business owners share their stories of recognizing the need and dedicating their personal and professional lives in their businesses to giving back to those less fortunate.
Building Beautiful Smiles
Not only has Dr. David Lach of Lach Orthodontic Specialists Orlando helped transform nearly 20,000 smiles in the almost 25 years that he has been practicing, but he also gives back to the community he serves. Dr. Lach created the Smiles for Hope Foundation to provide scholarships for orthodontic care to children who may not otherwise have the opportunity to access the necessary assistance for their smile needs.
It is the mission of the Smiles for Hope Foundation to build self-confidence, inspire hope and change the lives of children in the community in a dramatic way. According to Dr. Lach’s website, “The gift of a smile can do all [of] this for a deserving, underserved individual who, in turn, can use this gift to better themselves and our community.”
The foundation sponsors orthodontic care for several patients each year. Who those patients are is determined by a locally appointed board of directors. An application can be found at www.Lach-Ortho.com.
Offering Thanksgiving Meals
Twenty-four years ago, when Eric Holm was on his way back from a trade show in Las Vegas, he had a conversation with several friends about how blessed they all felt. That conversation led to the idea that Holm, the owner of 14 Golden Corral locations across Central Florida, and his pals should give back to their community in some way.
“We came up with feeding everyone who needs a meal on Thanksgiving Day,” he remembers.
The first Helpings from the Heart event was held in 1992, and the response was overwhelming. Initially, many thought it was an event specifically for the homeless.
“They’re certainly welcome, but there are way more needy people in Central Florida who aren’t homeless,” Holm says, noting that a lot of seniors attend the event because they want company during the holiday.
To pull it all off, Golden Corral supplies some product while Holm and his wife purchase the proteins and Pepsi supplies the beverages. This Thanksgiving, Helpings from the Heart is expected to serve more than 20,000 free meals to residents at the Salvation Army gymnasium on Colonial Drive. Anyone in need of a meal is invited to attend and can even bring a carryout meal home afterward. In addition, more than 8,000 meals will be delivered to nursing homes, shut-ins, local churches and other facilities throughout the Orlando area.
Holm is quick to credit the volunteers who donate their time to make Helpings from the Heart a reality each year. Approximately 1,100 Salvation Army volunteers will assist with serving and delivering 3,000 pounds each of turkey and ham with mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, stuffing, sweet potatoes, cranberries, corn, pie, fruit and beverages. It is estimated that 450,000 meals have been served at Helpings from the Heart since the event first began.
Supporting Children’s Charities
At Premiere Orthodontics, Dr. Jason Battle is known for delivering amazing smiles to his patients. He also knows the importance giving back in his personal life and in his business.
For the past two years, Dr. Battle has volunteered with Kiwanis clubs in Avalon Park and Dr. Phillips, reading to elementary school children as well as gathering Halloween costumes, Christmas presents and school supplies for kids. He has also spent two years volunteering with Give Kids the World in any capacity it needs, from scooping ice cream to helping with events.
On a professional level, Dr. Battle sponsors the newsletters of 10 schools and athletics for four schools, and he provides individual scholarships to patients and their families. He says his philanthropic efforts focus on children’s charities and activities because he believes those efforts deliver the most impact.
“It’s all a continuing cycle of positive energy,” Dr. Battle says. “The more you give, the more comes back. The positive energy grows, more people get involved, and good things start to happen. It is invigorating, so we start the cycle all over again with more giving.”
Giving Back Through Food
At Panera, baked goods like breads, bagels, muffins and pastries can only sit on the shelves for one day. Instead of tossing unsold items at closing time, Panera donates baked goods not sold for business to any tax-exempt rescue mission, food pantry, food bank, soup kitchen, meal delivery program, senior center, nursing home, school or church with a need through Panera’s Day-End Dough-Nation program. Organizations just need to complete an application online and coordinate pickup of the items once approved.
Panera Bread gets customers involved with giving throughout the year by offering specialty items for a specific timeframe and donating a portion of the proceeds to local organizations. Most recently, the Buy a Pink Ribbon Bagel campaign joined the fight against breast cancer. All month during October, Panera donated a portion of the proceeds from the ribbon-shaped bagels, and on Oct. 14, Central Florida locations donated 100 percent of the sales to a local breast cancer organization.