PAR Receives United Way’s “Spirit of Tampa Bay” Award

This month, PAR was honored to be named as a recipient of the “Spirit of Tampa Bay” award from United Way’s Suncoast Chapter. United Way explains that the award is their way of recognizing companies that go “above and beyond” in organizing and energizing fundraising, volunteerism, and community engagement at their workplaces.

Cathy Smith, PAR’s Vice President of Community Relations, was thrilled to accept the award at a special half-time ceremony during a recent Tampa Bay Lightning game. For this honor, however, she credits PAR employees for their commitment and enthusiasm for helping others.

“From our beginning more than 35 years ago, PAR’s mission has included giving back to the community,” Cathy explains. Helping children and families in Tampa Bay is a special priority, and PAR employees have participated in a wide range of United Way Suncoast programs that support literacy, mental health, nutrition, and much more. “Staff participation was always strong,” says Cathy, “but about 15 years ago, we reached the milestone of 100% employee participation—and we’ve maintained that every year since.”

Each year, a large contingent from PAR participates in United Way’s annual Day of Caring, which brings together volunteer teams to tackle various projects that most agencies could never undertake on their own. Last fall, PAR staff helped organize supplies and donations at the Family Resource Center, a wonderful organization that helped more than 11,000 low-income and at-risk families in Hillsborough County last year.

United Way Pledge Week is one of the most fun weeks of the year at PAR. The week includes a series of games (with treats and prizes), from the hotly contested annual Scrabble competition to a ride-like-there’s-no-tomorrow tricycle race through our Distribution Center! The culmination of the week is a luncheon featuring speakers from local organizations who have benefited from PAR’s support through United Way—a wonderful way to end pledge week on a high note.

To learn more about PAR’s ongoing commitment to United Way and to other community service projects, visit our Community PARtners Web page.

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Happy Holidays from PAR!

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Last week, PAR staff delivered gifts to a deserving local veteran’s family.

All of us here at PAR want to send you our warmest wishes for a very happy holiday season. We look forward to helping you and those you serve in 2014. May your New Year be filled with peace, love, and joy!

This year, PAR staff worked with two organizations to spread holiday joy to those in need, by fulfilling the wishes from an Angel Tree for the children and teens served by the Joshua House and by adopting a veteran’s family through Service Source, part of Abilities Foundation. Click on the attached links to learn more about these incredible organizations and learn how you can get involved.

PAR Employees Support United Way

PAR is proud of our ongoing relationship with United Way. During mid-September, employees took part in our annual fundraising campaign. For more than 20 years, 100% of staff members have participated in our annual United Way drive, and this year was no different. We exceeded our fundraising goal, resulting in $120,135.12 being donated to United Way to help continue its mission of helping others in our community.

Want to learn more about how you can help United Way in your community? Visit www.unitedway.org.

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Community PARtners: Creating Connections and Changing Lives

2013 has been a very busy year so far for PAR’s volunteer team!cp_02

PAR staff members and their families kicked off a chilly January with a children’s clothing drive for the Redland’s Christian Migrant Association, a group that serves migrant farm workers and their families here in Florida.

In February, PAR staff members helped organize the annual “Stars and Pars” golf tournament and auction to benefit The Children’s Home in Tampa. The Children’s Home provides a spectrum of social services for families in crisis including foster care, adoption, emergency shelters, child abuse prevention, and more.

What’s a corn-hole toss? Here at PAR, it’s an excuse to come together, test our pitching arms, laugh a lot—and raise funds to support Suncoast Hospice. A not-for-profit organization that serves local families, Suncoast Hospice helps those living with chronic and terminal illnesses, nearing the end of life, or experiencing grief. This year’s “toss,” held in February, helped raise funds—and awareness—for this vital community resource.

In March, several members of the PAR team gathered for a special breakfast in support of the PACE Center for at-risk girls. At the breakfast, recent PACE graduates described how their lives have been truly turned around by the caring, supportive environment at PACE. PAR is delighted to support this wonderful organization.

And let it be known throughout the kingdom (the animal kingdom, that is!) that the Tampa Bay Humane Society “Bark in the Park” trophy has been returned to its rightful place, here in the lobby at PAR! Once again this year, PAR claimed the title of top fundraising team at this annual Humane Society event.

Every April, a team from PAR dedicates one Saturday to Paint Your Heart Out, an organization that helps our elderly neighbors to maintain their homes with a fresh coat of paint. The PAR team takes things a step further, planting shrubs and doing some light landscaping chores to help spruce up the homes even more.

And while one part of the PAR team was painting houses…another team was heading out for the annual Walk for Autism Speaks! This year’s event was a huge success, raising thousands of dollars for autism research.

If you happened to drive past PAR headquarters in April, you would have been greeted by a gorgeous blue “pinwheel garden.” Each pinwheel in the garden represented a person who provided a voice and advocated for children who have been abused or neglected. PAR was proud to be a 2013 Hillsborough County Partner in Prevention during Child Abuse Prevention Month.

Several staff members also volunteered this spring at the Dress for Success (DFS) annual sale. Dress for Success helps women who are re-entering the workforce by providing appropriate professional clothing. Later this summer, the PAR team will be heading up a clothing drive for DFS.

In May, PAR recognized Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day by co-sponsoring the “Breakfast of Champions” for the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County, a leading advocate for children and families in the Tampa area. On the national level, PAR partnered with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) on a virtual event for children’s mental health awareness; this year, the event focused on resiliency and social connectedness as important factors in children’s mental health.

Several members of the PAR team also attended and supported the Hillsborough Family Justice Center fundraising luncheon. The Family Justice Center provides hope and support to victims of domestic violence.

Throughout the year, a growing team of volunteers from PAR deliver Meals on Wheels (MOW) to some of our elderly, house-bound neighbors. For many MOW recipients, the smiling faces that accompany their lunch may be the only visitors they receive during the day, so we all try to spend a few minutes checking in with each our MOW friends.

Florida Blood Services continues to send the Bloodmobile to the PAR headquarters parking lot every eight weeks because they know that the PAR team is a regular source of “the good stuff” that saves lives every day. We are particularly proud of several staff members who were first-time donors in 2013!

These are just a few of the many Community Service projects that PAR is honored to support. For more information, photos, and a list of organizations and activities that PAR supports throughout the year, visit the Community PARtners page on the PAR Web site.

PAR Honors National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day

On May 9, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) held a virtual event in honor of National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day.

The event focused on telling the stories of young adults who have had substance abuse or mental health issues and have developed ways to overcome their challenges. This is an especially important group for SAMHSA to focus on, as nearly 30 percent of young adults ages 16 to 24 years have had a mental health condition in the past year. PAR was a proud sponsor of this important event.

Watch the virtual event, visit SAMHSA online, or comment below to get involved!

Community PARtners: A Success Story

ImageImagine seeing someone’s life turn around before your eyes. A woman who has struggled, financially and emotionally, is preparing for a long-awaited job interview. She has come quietly into a shop and is browsing through a selection of professional clothing. For the first time in her life, she tries on a business suit and emerges tentatively from the dressing room. Looking in the mirror, her face suddenly changes. She has a new look of confidence because she can see it now: She can imagine herself in a professional environment. She is ready to take her life in a new direction. This woman is what Dress for Success is all about—and she is the reason that PAR is delighted to support the DFS Tampa Chapter.

Founded in 1997, Dress for Success is a not-for-profit organization offering services designed to help clients find and retain good jobs. At the Tampa chapter, Dr. Heather Ureksoy, a member of PAR’s Research and Development team, has been an active volunteer, serving not only as a volunteer coordinator and shop manager but also organizing an apparel drive here at PAR that garnered more than 300 articles of gently used professional clothing for women making a fresh start in the job market. In October this year, Heather organized an Excess Inventory Sale to raise funds for the purchase of more plus-sized suits for the DFS boutique. During the two-day sale, PAR employees donated their time to work at the event, while others came to shop.

“Our clients are referred to DFS through various service agencies in the Tampa Bay area,” Heather explains. “In 2012 so far, we have suited approximately 950 clients—and we have also expanded our career center to accommodate more mock interviews, résumé consultations, and technology classes.”

Since its inception almost 35 years ago, PAR has been giving back to the community, and employees are actively engaged in a wide range of community service projects. When Heather came to PAR two years ago, she was happy to be part of an organization that supported her volunteer work. “I knew I wanted to do something to give back,” she says, “but I had no idea how much I would love it! PAR provides a paid day off for employees to do volunteer work. Bob and Cathy [Smith, founders of PAR] have created a real culture of giving throughout the company.”

Clearly, Dress for Success is about much more than just finding appropriate clothing for a job interview. “It’s very personal,” says Heather. “The women we serve want to tell their story. They’ve all had some sort of struggle, and they’re getting back on their feet. Tears are shed! It can be exhausting, but it’s so rewarding. And when they find the right suit—their whole face transforms. It’s really beautiful.”

To learn more about Dress for Success, visit www.dressforsuccess.org and click on the Locations link to find your local chapter.

PAR and the Sports Legacy Institute: Working Together to Understand and Prevent Concussions

The Sports Legacy Institute (SLI) is a non-profit organization focused on solving the concussion crisis by supporting education and research on the causes and effects of concussions and by helping to shape subsequent policy.   SLI’s mission is “to advance the study, treatment, and prevention of brain trauma in athletes and other at-risk groups.” SLI is one of PAR’s valued partners, sharing our commitment to creating connections and changing lives.

This month, SLI announced the launch of the California Concussion Coalition, and PAR was a proud sponsor of kick-off events in Los Angeles and Oakland. The goal of the coalition is “to provide student athletes in the community with the best-in-class resources available to protect them from concussions in sports.” Special guests at the August 20 kick-off event in LA included former NFL players Jim Brown, Michael Haynes, Jerry Simmons, and Shelby Jordan, as well as professional wrestler Rob Van Dam.

Concussion prevention is very important to us at PAR, and we are delighted to be working with an organization like the SLI, which supports education and research that will help protect young athletes from serious brain injury.  In terms of best-in-class resources, our concussion apps, including the award-winning CRR (for parents and coaches) and the CARE (for health care professionals), provide a simple and cost-effective way to help users quickly assess the likelihood of a concussion and take appropriate action. PAR donates 15% of the proceeds from the sale of each concussion app to support concussion research at the Children’s National Medical Center and the Matthew A. Gfeller Sport-Related Traumatic Brain Injury Research Center at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

Have you had a chance to download one of our concussion apps? If not, click on the links above or find us at the Apple® App StoreSM or Google Play. And let us know what you think—PAR wants to hear from you, so leave a comment and join the conversation!