Smith Barney's Joel Swallow will celebrate 40 years in the financial services industry in 2007. But perhaps what he's most proud of is serving Sarasota and Bradenton's neediest families through nearly two decades of volunteering with the bi-county Mayors' Feed the Hungry program.
Last holiday season, the all-volunteer organization collected enough money from donors to purchase more than $100,000 worth of supermarket gift cards and gathered 25 tons of food through food drives in the schools. Agencies such as SPAARC, Senior Friendship Center, the Red Cross, Florida Army National Guard, Goodwill South County, Jewish Family Services, Manatee Glens and St. Jude Ministries then distributed the food and gift cards to their disadvantaged clients.
It's a remarkably cost-efficient operation because it consists of a simple solicitation letter. "Our only expenses are postage and mailing," Swallow says.
Remarkably, too, he says, "We get the mayors of Sarasota, Bradenton, Longboat Key, Venice and North Port to sign the solicitation letter to the community. Can you imagine five politicians agreeing on a subject that they want to help out?"
Swallow says working with the Mayors' Feed the Hungry program has opened his eyes to the hidden needs of this well-to-do part of Florida. "There's a real hunger problem in this community," he says, "and unless you're involved in something like this you might not know about it. Three out of five children miss one of three meals a day, and that means they're in danger of going hungry."
Swallow says it also feeds his desire for civic engagement. "The community has been very, very good to me and my family, and this really enables me to give something back," he says. "I feel good about that."