One of Easterseals Northeast Central Florida‘s biggest champions for the past several decades has been David Hood. We learned earlier this week that David passed away with his family by his side. We at Easterseals are heartbroken at this news, while at the same time we continue to be grateful for his life, legacy and all he’s accomplished for our Easterseals families.
David was an incredible leader in Easterseals gift planning initiatives, and through his personal dedication and widely embraced leadership style, helped Easterseals realize some of its most spectacular wishes and dreams. David’s leadership made possible Easterseals Autism Center of Excellence, Easterseals Charter School, Easterseals Tennis Everyone! program, and Easterseals nearly $3 million capital campaign, which he co-chaired with the late Gloria Cook.
And, this is just the beginning of what David helped Easterseals achieve since he became a volunteer director more than three decades ago.
After serving as a board member, chairman of the board, and honorary director, David was named an Honorary Life Director. He also was a recipient of the Lily award, Easterseals Northeast Central Florida’s highest local honor.
It may go without saying that David also was a generous financial supporter of Easterseals, not only during its community-wide campaign drives, but also privately and behind the scenes when specific needs have arisen. David is the kind of leader who asks, “What does Easterseals need most right now?” and his heart led his service.
Easterseals President & CEO Bev Johnson continues to see David’s legacy of caring leadership at Easterseals.
“When I first joined the organization and let people know I worked for Easterseals they all asked how David was,” said Bev. “He was so passionate about Easterseals that the mention of the organization almost seemed to automatically connect him to it.
“While I didn’t enjoy the privilege of knowing him personally, he certainly left a legacy of kindness and caring for our clients and the families who love them,” she added.
Former Easterseals President & CEO Lynn Sinnott remembers David with reverence and affection.
“David Hood demonstrated his commitment to individuals with disabilities in many ways. He served on the Easterseals board in many capacities, including the chairman of the board, board chair for the newly established Easterseals Charter School, and co-chair of the Capital Campaign Committee that raised $2.7 million for the renovation and expansion of the Easterseals facility on Dunn Avenue,” said Lynn. “David shared his business and leadership expertise with board and staff, serving as my mentor when I first started at Easterseals.
“In addition, David was a major donor, helping Easterseals start several major programs that changed the lives of individuals with special needs,” added Lynn. “I know he will truly be missed in the Daytona community.”
Our thoughts and prayers are with David’s family during this difficult time. Easterseals Northeast Central Florida always will be indebted to this great man, humbled by his servant leadership and forever transformed by his passion. He will be greatly missed.
Easterseals Northeast Central Florida’s passionate supporter, lifetime director and beloved matriarch Gloria Cook passed away on March 17. While we at Easterseals are brokenhearted at the news, we also remember Gloria with great reverence, and honor all she’s meant to our organization – the one that was closest to her heart for more than 60 years.
Gloria’s relationship with Easterseals Northeast Central Florida began in 1953 when she, as a young Junior Service Leaguer, donned a crisp white uniform and worked hands-on with an Easterseals therapist to treat the special needs of children with disabilities. That first volunteer assignment began a lifelong unpaid career in serving the needs of people of all ages with disabilities.
Gloria’s involvement in day-to-day activities of the Junior League Orthopedic Center (which became Easterseals) eventually evolved into fundraising and volunteer management, and she soon worked her way up to the board and presidency of the local and state Easterseals affiliates. By 1980, Gloria was elected as the National Easterseal Society President and was the first Floridian and only the second woman to occupy that position.
As national president, worked with as many as 800,000 volunteers across the country, and met with various private and governmental agencies and hospitals, national media offices and state rehabilitation facilities and all Easterseals affiliates to further the mission of serving persons with disabilities.
Gloria was named Honorary Lifetime Director for Easterseals Volusia/Flagler in tribute to her continuous board member and committee roles and in 2004 was honored with Easterseals’ Volusia and Flagler’s highest honor, The Lily Award. Additionally, she served multiple leadership roles with the statewide Florida Easterseals chapter over a span of 21 years – including president, vice president, secretary and past president – and assisted the House of Delegates of Easterseals national headquarters. Her commitment to serving others also flowed into several additional national and local roles, including the White House Conference on Food, Nutrition and Health and the National Institute of Health.
One of Gloria’s most notable achievements as an Easterseals director was co-chairing with the late David Hood a $3 million capital campaign to construct Easterseals’ Daytona Beach facility. Notably, Gloria was the Easterseals chair when the original facility was built as well. Her leadership brought both projects to reality, though more than 40 years separated them.
Gloria’s life’s work for Easterseals shaped countless public policy and helped decision-makers understand issues important to Easterseals. And, while she often focused on state and national initiatives, she remained equally engaged in the local agency’s day-to-day projects. From collection donations for Harley Give-Aways during Bike Week, to supporting the inaugural and now decades-established Rotary/Easterseals Golf Tournament (a tournament started by her late husband Tom in tribute to Gloria’s dedication), Gloria was a hands-on supporter.
Easterseals VP-Gift Planning Susan Moor recalls their friendship and Gloria’s sincere interest in Easterseals families.
"Gloria was a wonderful friend and mentor to me since day one and throughout my Easterseals career,” said Susan. “I think what I valued the most in her contagious and unbridled pride for all things Easterseals, was her incredible ability to remember and value details about her interactions with our clients and their families. Our clients meant the world to her and she would often arrive at meetings and functions early enough to peek into the classroom and therapy areas to see kids at work and play."
“Gloria has been a guiding light for us at Easterseals for many, many years,” said Easterseals President & CEO Bev Johnson. “Her kind spirit and love and dedication to the clients we serve is absolutely irreplaceable. She will be missed greatly.”
Former Easterseals President & CEO Lynn Sinnott also shared her sentiments.
“Gloria Cook loved Easterseals and served individuals with special needs throughout her adult life. She served in so many capacities during more than 60 years she was a part of Easterseals it would be almost impossible to name them.
“I remember her as gracious, strategic, fun, loving and caring,” added Lynn. “She took time to discuss a small or strategic issue with me, pen the most beautiful notes, help to make a connection and even questioning a budget number. Every action was handled thoughtfully. I will miss her, as will whole Easterseals organization and all who experienced her passion.”
Instilling in her children a love for Easterseals and a desire for service, Gloria’s daughter Sheryl continues to be a leader with Easterseals Northeast Central Florida.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the Cook family during this difficult time. Gloria’s vision, heart and loyalty live on in Easterseals Northeast Central Florida. She always will be an important part of our family – a beloved matriarch to whom we owe much gratitude.
Barbara (Barbie) Overton is a Pre-Kindergarten teacher at Easterseals Charter School in Daytona Beach. In her role, Barbie works to lay the foundation for creating a love of learning that will stay with her students throughout their lifetimes.
From day to day, her classroom activities focus on helping students build empathy and compassion, problem solve and enter kindergarten ready to learn. She focuses on designing activities in a creative learning environment that keep the youngsters’ interest, all the while teaching them how to be their best.
“Some of the outcomes I want to see in my students are being able to cooperate, share and care for others; being able to think for and express themselves confidently; and being able to appreciate diverse views,” explained Barbie, adding that being resilient in the face of adversity and having a lively curiosity about things are daily goals for her students, too.
Barbie enjoys many aspects of teaching, but one stands out.
“I love seeing the growth that my students make,” she said. “Not just the big growth made from the beginning to the end of the school year, but all of the smaller ones in-between. Kids have a lot of ‘aha’ moments and I love being a part of that.”
It’s no surprise that this enthusiastic teacher, like so many others, also values teaching children how to have fun and care for others, too.
“I enjoy seeing my students' faces light up and hearing their laughter when they are having fun doing the learning activities,” said Barbie. “And, I treasure it in my heart when I witness compassion and caring in my students for others, such as comforting someone who is sad or hurt, helping someone remember what to do, or working peacefully and happily together on a project.”
A common misconception about how preschoolers learn is that they are learning even when it looks like “just playing,” she said, adding that the more teachers a child has in their life the better they are and the further they will go. She encourages parents and caregivers to become a teacher for their children.
Added Barbie: “Make everyday moments teachable moments, especially ‘oopsies.’ We often learn best from our mistakes.”
If you have a love of teaching or an interest in helping children and adults with disabilities reach their fullest potential, you may have a place at Easterseals. All current job opportunities may not be available online, so contact HR Generalist Fran DeCinto at email@example.com for more information. In the meantime, complete our application for employment opportunities, available here. Additionally, Easterseals has partnered with GettingHired.com, an online resource that connects people with disabilities to employers in search of qualified jobseekers with disabilities. Visit GettingHired.com to open your door to opportunity!
Easterseals of Northeast Central Florida serves the region with facilities in Daytona Beach, DeLand, Bunnell, and Leesburg. To learn more about Easterseals of Northeast Central Florida, please visit www.eastersealsnecfl.org.
(Pictured, left to right, are Tracey McLaughlin, Chele Wallens, Cat Hammons, Lourdes Rodriguez, Jaslyn Clemmons, Brenna Giblock, Lori Ebanks, Lynn Carew, and Awilda Koolhaas.)
At the Sept. 13 annual meeting of Easterseals of Northeast Central Florida, held in Daytona Beach, several staff members were recognized for going above and beyond in their efforts at the nonprofit. “The Extra Mile Awards” were distributed by Board Treasurer Melissa Burt DeVriese to a room full of Easterseals board members, volunteers and staffers.
“At Easterseals, we recognize that our staff is extraordinarily involved in our overall success towards our mission. They do the meaningful, hands-on work at Easterseals, and are the driving force behind our purpose,” said Burt DeVriese. “They are our link to clients, giving us insight into the real impact we have in stories and in numbers.”
“They are the ‘heart and soul’ of Easterseals,” she added.
Burt DeVriese individually recognized the 2018 recipients of The Extra Mile Awards; her remarks are below. Easterseals thanks and honors these recipients for a job well done!
The Extra Mile Award Recipients
Tracey McLaughlin – Daytona, Executive Assistant
Tracey is always willing to take on additional assignments, tasks and responsibilities. She is an incredible researcher, diving into every question or problem and seeking answers before ever asked to do so. Tracey happily accepted the responsibility for HIPPA Compliance across the organization this past year and is staying one step ahead of the game, ensuring we are safe and secure around every corner.
Chele Wallens – Daytona, Accounting Manager
Chele has been with Easterseals for 11 years. She is very knowledgeable about the organization and is a resource for everyone. A great deal of change has occurred in the last year and Chele as embraced it; she continues to help make our organization more efficient.
Cat Hammons – Daytona, HR and Accounting Coordinator
When the HR and Accounting Coordinator role was suddenly vacated, Cat jumped into it with no experience. She was not afraid to dive in and figure things out in the human resources office. Cat is always pleasant and has a great, willing attitude. She is great with following up on tasks and has been very reliable.
Lourdes Rodriguez – Daytona, Charter Teacher
Lourdes is the first to step up and serve as a mentor to new teachers and staff in the Charter School. She embodies the definition of “team player.” She goes above and beyond to ensure the children have materials they need to learn successfully (she’s the master of garage sales, too!) and works with the families to ease any concerns about their children transitioning to kindergarten, or as they call it, “big school.”
Jaslyn Clemmons – Daytona, CDC Teacher
Jaslyn is a committed and caring member of the Child Development Center staff. She doesn’t leave the building until she knows everything, and everyone, are “okay.” She constantly seeks ways to improve her craft as a teacher, and when you walk into her classroom you never want to leave. Jaslyn moved from the one-year old classroom to the two-year-old classroom this year and our parents couldn’t be happier. They didn’t want to lose their “Ms. Jas!” and we couldn’t agree more.
Lori Ebanks– Deland, Site Administrator
Lori has been the backbone of the Easterseals DeLand campus. During the center’s transition and opening of the Charter School, Lori wore many hats to keep things running smoothly. She always asks, “What do you need?,” and provides an answer, delivering more than expected. Lori is a key member of our ECE team.
Brenna Giblock – Deland, Early Steps Supervisor
Brenna is hard working and very attentive to details. She has stepped up in Early Steps and has taken on more responsibilities to include not only supervising her DeLand staff, but she also becoming more involved in other aspects of the program to include file reviews and auditing. Further, she represents Easterseals occasionally on the west side for check presentations and outreach. She has been a tremendous asset to the program.
Lynn Carew – Daytona, Medical Records
Not many people see Lynn as she is often in our medical records room organizing and caring for our clients’ charts, but Lynn always has a smile on her face. Lynn took on a huge project this past year and did so willingly – she is extremely organized and keeps us moving in terms of all our health information.
Awilda Koolhaas – Leesburg, Early Steps
No matter what Awilda has going on, she has a smile on her face. It is quite apparent that Awilda loves her job and helping the families she works with through Early Steps. Awilda can be found at many of our community events spreading information, education and her beautiful smile.