In South Florida, retirees are struggling to feed themselves on a regular basis. According to a report by the National Foundation to End Senior Hunger, one out of every seven people age 60 and older living in Florida faces the threat of hunger. There are a number of factors involved with this growing issue: the growth of the “old-old” segment of the senior population (consisting of people age 85 and older), the strain on Social Security, the increase in the cost of living, and the decrease in individual mobility (Lade). Similar to Frenchtown, the food deserts of South Florida are sprawling with disparity, health issues, and general negligence of community members’ needs.
After realizing the importance of community engagement to not only my academic, but also my personal growth, I began to research food deserts in my home of South Florida. It was so eye opening to learn about the silent struggle of those in my community. There are several programs in place already to help alleviate the issue of elderly hunger in the South Florida area. For roughly six months in 2015 my mother volunteered with one of the established organizations in the area. Simply shopping for one’s own groceries is more than a matter of convenience; it’s a matter of maintaining one’s own sense of self. In an interview with the SunSentinal, a South Florida newspaper, retiree Linda Kaplan, 76 conveys this same sentiment. Kaplan summarizes, “I don’t want to just exist. I want to live” (Lade).
Lade, Diane C. et al. The Hidden Hungry. 2015. http://interactive.sun-sentinel.com/senior-food-deserts/
I entered my parents room, hands on my hips and chin jutting towards the sky. “I know what I want to
be when I grow up,” I declared, “I want to be a doctor.” What was it about the field of medicine that led
my six year old self to plan her entire future around? Besides the endless supply of Snoopy Band-Aids, I
was enthralled with the idea of a career focused on helping others. As I grew older and quickly veeredfrom my medical pursuits, I discovered the many other ways I could communicate my empathy for
others, all while continuing to pursue my other interests. Volunteering and community service have always been a big part of my extracurricular activities. Additionally, I began to become more engaged in
domestic/international human rights and social activism.
When I came to college, the scalability of my involvement grew exponentially. I am now faced with
opportunity to research, travel, and engage myself in the global community. I could explore foreign cultures and learn about their conflicts and structural, economic, and health deficiencies. Frankly, I was
overwhelmed with possibility. What I learned though, as I enter the final leg of my first year in college, is
the best tools are often found in our own backyard. Before I can begin to think about exploring foreign
cultures and offering international relief, I first must understand and develop my own community.
My experience with Heritage Hub has expanded my world view in more ways than I could have ever
imagined. What I have found though, is the deep connection between my involvement in my community
and my own personal growth. Involving myself with first hand experience so early on in my college career proved incredibly helpful in planning my future educational and career paths. I am grateful that I
now know better where I would prefer to see myself in the professional world. Additionally, working in
the nonprofit sector will provide me a solid base for any future work in the field of social entrepreneurship. I hope to continue to explore the other sectors and add on to this first, foundational
With finals approaching and assignment deadlines getting closer, it is time to wrap up and say goodbye to TAC and the wonderful staff that make it such a great organization. It is hard to believe that the semester is already over, since it seems like we have only just begun our work during this highly productive semester. I have had the pleasure of working alongside very hard-working interns, and being mentored and supervised by Linda Alexionok was nothing short of amazing. Linda’s drive and dedication to making the lives of Florida’s children and families is inspiring, and being able to contribute to her work as made my internship very rewarding.
During my time at TAC, I contributed to the development of Linda’s new organization known as Voices for Florida. The problem we focused on is the declining quality of life for Florida’s children and families. The solution VFF is working towards is system reform and social change, and the goal is to produce new norms and enhance quality of life for all of Florida’s children and families. I was able to apply my knowledge of social entrepreneurship into developing Voices for Florida. Linda pushed my partner Jaqueline and I to be absolutely creative and innovative in developing the framework for the organization. After may hours of critical thinking, my partner and I were able to successfully develop a logic model for VFF, and a strategy that is operationalized through the logic model.
Although the organization is still in the works, I can say that I am very satisfied with the progress we have made in only a few months. The connections I have made and the friendships I have built during my time at TAC will follow me into my future endeavors. I am grateful to Linda and TAC for providing me with such a great experience, and to the Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation program at FSU for making it all possible. Although the semester is almost over, I look forward to continuing my work with Jaqueline and Linda in days to come.
My time at TAC is coming close to an end, and everyday I feel more and more happy to be part of such an amazing organization. My internship at TAC continues to provide me with valuable experience that I am going to carry with me on my future endeavors. Through TAC, I have been given the opportunity to make connections with the staff, and to build new friendships with the rest of the hardworking interns.
Linda has been a fantastic supervisor, mentoring me and advising me on my work. Linda’s driven personality and passion for helping Florida’s children and families is inspiring, and makes me want to push myself and do my best to have an impact during my time at TAC.
I continue to work with my partner Jaqueline, a sociology student at Florida State University, and together we continue to make progress with Voices for Florida. Linda’s method for mentoring is to give us complete control and creativity with our projects. Thus far we have completed a logic model for VFF, and we continue to work on the infrastructure for Voices for Florida with diligence.