TEMPLE TERRACE – David Long knows the value of networking.
When Long, a longtime member of the Greater Temple Terrace Chamber of Commerce, got wind of a quality-of-life issue affecting a group of formerly homeless veterans, he wasted no time in launching a crusade to help.
The purpose of the campaign is to raise $12,000 to pay for a new air conditioner at the Liberty Manor for Veterans home at 10015 N. 9th St., Tampa. Due to the air conditioning unit’s failure, the average inside evening temperature hovers at 85 degrees.
This facility, along with four others in the Tampa Bay community – including one in Temple Terrace – was founded in 2006 by Connie Blaney, its CEO. Their mission is to provide temporary housing and resources toward self-sufficiency to homeless, honorably discharged veterans who have fallen on hard times.
“Connie is an incredible lady who purchased this home out of her own pocket,” said Long, who also noted she nor anyone else in a leadership position at Liberty Manor receives a salary. “She and our heroes need our help.”
As a result of his communication among fellow chamber members – some who in turn relayed the message to their contacts – $4,000 has been pledged so far toward the effort.
“We are on a roll,” Long said. “Let’s not relax until we get this done.”
Donations include $1,000 from an unnamed Tampa church; $200 from Mike Rogers of Associates Insurance Group; $500 from Christopher Lewis, a partner in The Bayshore Co. and president of Everyday Heroes USA; $565 from Knights of Columbus Council 14084; and $500 from Thomas Long of the law firm of Barnett, Bolt, Kirkwood, Long & McBride.
Dom Cirello, chairman of Temple Terrace chamber’s military and veterans’ affairs committee, was instrumental in soliciting donations from Lewis and the Knights of Columbus members.
“I, myself, am a vet and have some service-related disabilities,” he said. “Vets look after each other.”
Cirello also knows what it’s like to be without a home.
“The trailer I was living in while I was in college was hit by a tornado and for six weeks I had no place to sleep but my car and on the couches of a couple of friends,” he said. “While I wouldn’t compare it to their situations, it was an eye opener. So when I see people like that it tugs at my heart.”
Lewis said he’s been involved in community service efforts all his life.
“And because I’ve had success in my life it makes me want to give back that much more,” he said. “A large proportion of our population are homeless vets and so whatever we can do to help is what it’s all about.”
State Farm Insurance Agent Mark Wilson and Edward Jones financial adviser Perry Jacobsen – both Temple Terrace chamber members whose businesses are in the city – each contributed undisclosed amounts, and the Temple Terrace branch of Republic Bank contributed $500.
“This is not our typical type of donation but we just feel it is an important issue that affects our veterans who have risked their lives for our freedom,” said Diane Tone, Republic Bank vice president and senior business development officer.
In addition, she and Doug Winton, Republic Bank’s Florida market president, each gave $250 from their own pockets.
“We need to raise awareness of the homeless veterans on our streets and the fact that they need our help,” Tone added.
David Canady, owner of the Shell’s Seafood at 2101 E. Fowler Ave., Tampa, will host a Celebrity Wait Night, in which local celebrities will serve guests and all tips will go toward the new air conditioner at Liberty Manor, on Oct. 3 from 5:30 to 9 p.m.
“I am also working on other sources of revenue for that night to add to the kitty,” Canady said.
The most generous contribution to date is that of Mike Charles, a Temple Terrace chamber member and owner of CGM Services, an air conditioning, heating and refrigeration business in Tampa. He has offered to donate all the materials and labor involved in installing new duct work in preparation for Liberty Manor’s new AC.
He estimates his company’s cost at $20,000, noting that the job from another vendor would most likely run more than $50,000.
“When someone is blessed with success beyond their dreams it’s a person’s responsibility to give back,” Charles said. “And most of these vets who have fallen through the cracks of the system are the same age and era I come from, which prompted me to get something done.”
The chamber’s weekly newsletter recently included a plea from Long to contribute to the campaign. It also included a link where people can make donations.
“David has done a great job to assist in finding the resources to help in this effort,” said chamber executive director Dustie Amatangelo. “We’ll do our best to get the word out on the street from this end.”
Blaney describes the caring spirit and support from her fellow Temple Terrace chamber members as “surreal.”
“They don’t just talk the talk. Instead they walk the walk,” she said. “They’ve done more for us than anyone else has and David Long, in particular, is a wonderful humanitarian.”
To contribute to the cause contact Long at [email protected] or call (813) 988-4656. Checks, made payable to Liberty Manor for Veterans, also may be mailed directly to 10015 N. 9th St., Tampa, FL 33612.
Joyce McKenzie can be reached at [email protected]