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Sunday, Jun 24, 2018
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Steve Otto Columns

Writing about volunteering big perk of job

Clearing out the desk in my last full week is a slow process, largely because I keep finding things I’d forgotten.

One drawer wouldn’t open all the way because a beep ball was jammed in the back. It’s signed by all the players from the Lighthouse for the Blind and my celebrity all stars. I’m sure one day it will show up on “Antiques Roadshow” and be worth a fortune.

“Beep ball” is a game where blind players try to hit a softball-sized ball that beeps as it is thrown. If a player manages to hit the ball, he or she then has to find a beeping base before the team in the field finds the ball.

Our team of semi-celebs plays blindfolded. With my managerial skills we managed to win one game in 25 tries. One of the signatures on the ball is Lee Kimbrell. He plays for the Lighthouse. I don’t think we played any games where he didn’t score at least twice. He is so good we didn’t believe he was blind and made him wear a blindfold. It didn’t make any difference.

A player who was pretty good was Mayor Bob. It turns out Buckhorn can turn the river green on St. Patrick’s Day and also hit a beeping ball blindfolded. He has a future in politics.

I loved those games; learned a lot about the Lighthouse — courage, perseverance and our ability to adapt to circumstances.

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The Lighthouse was only one of so many special organizations I’ve had the privilege of getting to know and write about.

I think most of us know they are there, but until someone close to us needs their services we tend to ignore them.

One of my favorites has been the Judeo-Christian Clinic on MacDill Avenue. It was the idea of the Rev. Jim Holmes, who saw the need for health care services for the working poor more than 40 years ago.

Taking no government money and working with a growing army of volunteer doctors and nurses, the clinic has become the largest of its kind in the southeastern United States.

The list of organizations is a long one. Most include people like Jim Holmes who had dreams and followed through.

I remember standing on Florida Avenue on a cold January night with Morris Hintzman. We were watching a group of men huddled around a trash can that had a fire inside for warmth.

Hintzman had told me about his dream of a center on that spot that would serve homeless people. The result is today’s Metropolitan Ministries with its new facilities and a focus on homeless families.

Maybe this spirit of volunteerism isn’t the most efficient or reliable way of providing services to those who need help, but I think it says something about us as individuals and as a community.

That has been one of the joys of doing what I do; giving a little exposure to some of the good in our lives.

I just had a call from Amy Shimberg, who wanted to pair me with a driver in her beloved Meals on Wheels program, which goes beyond offering daily hot meals. It also provides human contact — often the only contact for those unable to get out of their homes or apartments.

There are incredible stories happening every day in those organizations and others like them.

Do me and yourself a favor if you have the inclination to reach out and contribute a little time. There will be unexpected rewards.

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