Light in Darkness

By Hannah Wallace November 30, 2008

Like everyone else, I’m obsessing over the economy. Our “Year In Review” story, which starts on page 26, chronicles a year of foreclosures, closings, bank failures, stalled projects and population decline.

But I’m far from hopeless. Our business leaders and chamber and EDC officials are energized, coming together to discuss ways we can stimulate the regional market. And I am inspired by the businesspeople who open their doors every day, coming up with new products and services and marketing strategies to keep their companies strong. Many of these same people work tirelessly as volunteers and philanthropists. You’ll meet some shining examples in “Angels Among Us” and the profile on global headhunter Robert Warren, who started a foundation to help at-risk youth.

I met another example at one of Biz941’s Biz Buzz events at Canvas Café. Darrell Turner, CEO of Bradenton’s Turner Tree and Landscaping, and I started talking; and our conversation quickly migrated to Meals on Wheels Plus in Manatee County. Turner’s company is one of the region’s largest landscaping firms—he’s installed projects for Disney. But when he and his wife, Mary Ann, were invited to a Meals on Wheels fund raiser about 14 years ago, he developed another passion. Soon the couple was hosting fund raisers; then he joined the board and served as chair for the last two years. This past year, he and Mary Ann invited 480 people to their home and raised more than $250,000. Imagine how many lives those dollars are going to touch—and brighten.

Turner is an enthusiastic ambassador for the good that Meals on Wheels Plus (the “Plus” stands for providing love and unconditional service) does, and he puts in as many hours for it as he does his business.

“We have 17 programs and 500 volunteers,” he rattles off. “We serve from newborns to seniors. We deliver 800 meals a day five days a week. We’re the only food bank in the county, and we supply 85 agencies with food within the county. We have a Reassurance program that calls people every day to check up on them, and an RSVP program that coordinates senior volunteers so they can work in the hospital or the Salvation Army.”

He couldn’t stop talking about the organization, and I asked him why.

“It’s just a good thing,” he says. “It makes a difference.”

So here’s a pitch from Turner to you. This holiday season, with so many more people in our community in need, Meals on Wheels can use your help. So drop off those perishable food items. Call 747-FOOD. And if it’s not Meals on Wheels, donate to your favorite cause. It does make a difference.

Happy holidays, everyone—and let’s make it a prosperous New Year.

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