Offering Family Stability and a Way Out of Poverty
By Alan Scott
The word “charity” often conjures up the image of an organization with its hand out for a donation but nothing to show for its impact. Heart to Heart: Community Care Homes, Inc. is a Central Florida nonprofit successfully challenging that perception.
Ellen Parcell, president and CEO of Heart to Heart explained, “Too often, those who donate to nonprofits see little or no results from their donation. Businesses don’t succeed this way and neither do nonprofits. You have to prove your worth every single day. A charity has to be run like a business – a business with a heart. The Board of Directors and I have tried to focus on meeting our mission with this always in mind.”
Heart to Heart has been around since 1992 and, through leadership and commitment, has used its donations wisely to build a highly successful business model to serve homeless women and children, which is why one of Central Florida’s most prominent businessmen has joined forces with Heart to Heart.
“I am approached weekly by nonprofit organizations for support,” noted Bob Berryhill, general manager of Mercedes-Benz of Orlando’s dealership in Maitland. “As the general manager, I evaluate the organization’s mission, values and leadership—those same qualities we promote and follow. I look for trusted partners who have a vision of molding their charity into a first-class business, serving clients with integrity, vision, commitment and a good reputation.”
Parcell continues to build a future foundation with a solid working board of directors that has adopted well-established business practices, stewardship of money, personal values, and measurable outcomes for the women and children the mission serves.
The mission is to provide housing, which provides stability for the family using collaborative partners, professional case management and education to help support the family from homelessness and poverty into the workplace. In other words, Heart to Heart helps women along with their children move into self-sufficiency and independence with good paying jobs.
“The key word here is ‘family’ because most of our clients have children whose mothers’ lives have been disrupted by abuse, drugs, alcoholism, prison, street violence and poverty. You can go to the website to hear some of the women’s stories,” urged Parcell.
To answer Central Florida’s need for affordable housing, Heart to Heart has chosen to be part of the solution by becoming a Certified CHDO (Community Housing Development Organization) builder for low-income families. To be certified as a CHDO, an organization must meet certain legal and organizational characteristics described in the HUD/HOME regulations. By being awarded in Washington, D.C. with the National Audrey Nelson Award for use of CDBG grant dollars for housing, Heart to Heart is poised to move forward with grant opportunities for opening more housing in Seminole and Orange County.
Heart to Heart, a small organization, currently has 10 units for families – houses and apartments – opened with grant funding from Seminole County and The City of Orlando. Parcell sees the number of homeless growing and believes Central Florida has only seen the tip of the iceberg regarding the future of homeless families and their needs.
The Heart to Heart Board of Directors provides individual knowledge, vision, strategic planning and current and future focus for the organization, and are tremendous assets to the success of Heart to Heart’s mission. The board’s visionary leaders have defined the nonprofit, which is continually exploring and forming collaborative partnerships and alliances in the community. “Board members are involved in the development of a shared vision and are a working board, which promotes creativity. They have a deep appreciation of the strength of diversity on the board, which fosters innovation and organizational growth,” Parcell said.
The organization is currently vetting new, working board members who have homelessness and community housing in the forefront of their interest. As a nonprofit, the organization looks for collaborative corporate partnerships to help fund the organization’s mission and building projects. Heart to Heart is also looking for a commercial property owner who would like to collaborate with the organization on an office space in Orange County. The “Caring Hearts” Auxiliary Board is building membership; this volunteer board helps with fundraising, events and family needs. All donations to the organization are welcome, including monetary, property or housing.
Fundraising events coming up in 2015 include the Winter Park Annual Chowder Fest on January 24 in Winter Park Village, the Mercedes-Benz Golf Tournament on June 1 at the Legacy Golf Club at Alaqua Lakes, and “The Joint is Jump’n” Roaring 20s Bash and Casino Party in November.