Children First Volunteer Celebrated for Long-time Service

March 2, 2020

A girl with a big pink bow in her hair having fun on a seesaw
A boy playing with blocks in a classroom

Children First volunteer Tom Cook was presented with the Be More Involved Mason Dixon Award for Volunteerism at the 15th annual WEDU Public Media Be More Awards. Children First was also recognized as a finalist in three other categories, including the Be More Brilliant, Be More Relevant, and Be More Unstoppable 2020 Nonprofit of the Year awards. The agency was the 2019 winner of the Be More Unstoppable Award and was humbled for the chance to be recognized for the second year in a row.

Steadfast supporter Tom Cook was honored with the Be More Involved Mason Dixon Award for Volunteerism. Mr. Cook became a finalist in the volunteerism category after receiving an outpouring of online votes and was selected as the ultimate winner by Mason Dixon himself, “because just one person can make an extraordinary difference.” For our children and families, that person is “Mr. Tom,” who has been volunteering for nearly a decade. The Head Start learners in our Purple Crayon classroom eagerly look forward to their “Tom Tuesday” visits, where you can find him reading stories, interacting with children in learning centers, or helping to dish out a delicious breakfast or lunch meal. As a stand-out volunteer, Mr. Cook gives generously of his time. His belief in education, giving back to the community, and sharing of knowledge with young people has brought direct impact to hundreds of children and families.

The WEDU Be More Awards was created by WEDU Public Media to help raise awareness for local nonprofits and their service to West Central Florida. Annually, the program helps introduce new donors, volunteers, and those in need of services to the worthy nonprofit organizations. The winning agencies are selected from a 16-county viewing area surrounding Tampa Bay.

As a finalist for the Be More Brilliant Award for Innovation, Children First was nominated for its partnership with the Sarasota Housing Authority. The “Glass Slipper” project officially broke ground in January of 2019 and finished in April, after a previously abandoned modular building was transformed into two classrooms. Both rooms are currently providing early childhood care and education for 14 infants and toddlers during the 2019-2020 school year who had previously been on the waiting list for services. Housing Authority CEO William Russell stated, “This will give our kids the best opportunity to succeed in school and life and break the generational cycle of poverty.”

The Be More Relevant Award for Best Use of Video was another category the agency was nominated for. In partnership with Brad Bryan, owner of BRAD!BRYAN Multimedia Inc., the agency used the medium of video to tell the compelling story of a Children First family. This particular award was chosen by a majority vote after an online campaign, where the submitted video competed against 13 other organizations.

WEDU PBS President and CEO Paul Groves noted that the Be More Unstoppable 2020 Nonprofit of the Year Award is “the most coveted and is determined through extensive research. The winner was selected by an independent judging committee and given to the organization that, through a superior level of service, helps their constituency Be More.” The criteria to be nominated for this award consists of overall organizational excellence and fulfillment of WEDU’s Four Commitments to the Community: service to the organization’s constituency, level of community impact, financial viability, and embodiment of overall community goodwill. Although we did not win all categories, Children First is so proud to stand alongside such amazing members of the greater Tampa Bay community, all working toward a brighter future. It is an honor and a privilege to serve our children and families, today and every day.

Children First CEO Philip Tavill said, “We are deeply grateful to WEDU PBS and the panel of anonymous judges, who spent weeks reviewing every application and submission, for recognizing our volunteer, Tom Cook, for his complete embodiment of the Children First mission and community goodwill. Our entire agency strives for excellence, knowing that more than 900 children and their families depend on us each year to help them find their pathway to success. I would like to thank our strong volunteer corps that help to keep the wheels turning every single day, the dedicated staff, who work hard to create a more unified community through their work of strengthening the most vulnerable children and families, our dedicated Policy Council, Board of Directors, Management Team, community of supporters, and all of the “behind-the-scenes” heroes who keep our mission at the forefront. Thank you to all who help Children First to “be More” every day!”

Check out the full article on the Tampa Bay Newswire here!