Charity leaders ring in 2016 with high hopes

The slowly recovering economy helped Central Florida’s charities and nonprofit groups provide better services to those in need in 2015. Some causes – like finding shelter for homeless veterans – scored significant gains.

But the number of people who can’t afford adequate clothing, food, shelter and safety overall is still increasing, while charitable giving and volunteering remain in a slump.

We asked a handful of key players in the public/nonprofit sector what the Central Florida giving community should focus on in 2016.

Be Prepared

“Even after the lessons learned from the 2007 recession, many surviving nonprofit organizations are still not advancing the development of a ‘rainy-day’ fund. The benefits of a contingency reserve are obvious with an emphasis on the fact that current and potential contributed income funders are more likely to look favorably on this best practice behavior. With the topsy-turvy global economy, it just makes sense to prepare and avoid financial upheaval. Make it a top strategic goal for 2016.”
— Bob Kovacevich, president, Avatar Company, a nonprofit-sector research, planning and fundraising consultancy (

Support the Arts

“We at Enzian, to paraphrase a movie line, always depend on the kindness of strangers, and after they visit us, they become very dear friends. It is through the generosity of friends that our community continues to has the courage to aspire to great things. And with friends like that, we can do anything. I expect nothing less in 2016.”
— Henry Maldonado, President at Enzian Theater, Maitland.

Agency & Client Collaboration

“I hope for continued collaboration among agencies to maximize benefits to people in need. There is great work being done to organize resources for comprehensive solutions to the community. I also hope agencies continue encouraging clients to participate in their own wellness. And I hope funders increase support for existing programs — not just for new programs to be developed.
— Vickie Martin, Executive Director, Christian HELP Foundation, devoted to preventing homelessness by helping the unemployed find jobs.

Time & Talent

“I hope that 2016 will provide Central Florida with breakthrough philanthropic leadership in recruiting and deploying volunteers. Orlando was recently ranked 46 out 51 large metropolitan areas in the United States in terms of volunteerism. Volunteers are the “civic soul” of any great community. We need to do better in 2016!
— David A. Odahowski, President and CEO at Edyth Bush Charitable Foundation

Build on Momentum

“I am extremely proud to say Central Florida is leading the state in solving homelessness. The first hurdle is public awareness and empathy. I have watched our community transform from arresting and vilifying people to being empathetic and solving the problem. My hope is we continue our momentum and become the epicenter of change in Florida. ”
— Thomas Francis Rebman (

Focus on the Good

“Continue the great work so many charities do. I don’t think we concentrate enough on all the positive things happening in our community. We are close to finding housing for all homeless veterans, which was a huge push for the City of Orlando last year. There are many charities, too many to mention, that help children. We are a giving community in Orlando.
— Patty Sheehan, Commissioner, District 4, Orlando (

Teamwork & Cooperation

“I hope that we continue on the course of highly engaged civic and government leaders collaborating on significant social issues facing our community, such as homelessness and domestic violence. We’ve made such progress over the past few years, and I’m looking forward to it increasing.”
— Carol Wick, Chief Executive Officer at Harbor House of Central Florida