95-Year-Old World War II Veteran, Florida-Resident is a Philanthropist & VA Clinic Greeter

Stephen OvertonTony Caruso, New Port Richey VA clinic greeter and 95-year-old World War II veteran, selflessly offers his time and money to his community, singularly demonstrating the importance of volunteerism, charity, and philanthropy.

Caruso is the first face one would see if she/he paid the New Port Richey VA clinic a visit. He recently told FOX 13 News that he spends days a week at the clinic, giving a cumulative 17,000 hours.  

“I love it. I love to be with the people, try to help them,”he said speaking of the clinic goers he’s interacted with over the two decades he’s volunteered at the clinic. Generous with his smiles and money, he gives $200 each month to the clinic.

Nearly a century old, Caruso was just a 21-year-old when he arrived on Omaha Beach during D-Day, which was the Allied invasion of Normandy, helping to liberate Western Europe from Nazi Germany’s control. He describe the events of 1944 as “hell” and said that dead people were floating in the water. Caruso became a soldier after he and his family emigrated to the U.S. from Italy in 1937.  As a 16-year-old, he worked several jobs to support his poor family.

The New Port Richey VA Outpatient Clinic is located in New Port Richey, Florida. It can be found near Little Road, north of State Road 54 and south of State Road 52 at 9912 Little Road. The facility offers a numbers of services to veterans in the Pasco, Hernando and Northern Pinellas area. Everything from primary care to personal care, to speciality needs, to ancillary services, to patient education is available at the clinic, which is open from 8:00 – 5:00, Monday – Friday.


6 Quick and Easy Ways To Help Your Community

10959166933_c0fc035521_bIn today’s society, people are constantly busy. It is quite possible that you want to help your community out, but you just don’t have the time. But community service doesn’t have to be time-consuming. Sure, it would be great to volunteer for a few hours at the local soup kitchen or animal shelter, but if you don’t have the time, there are many fast and easy options. Here are a few ways that you can help your community by just taking a few minutes out of your schedule:

1)Pick up litter

Littering is all too common nowadays. Why not be a part of the solution? Take a walk through your neighborhood and bring a garbage bag along the way, picking up any litter you see. This is a great way to make your community a cleaner place while also getting some exercise.

2) Bring your leftover food to an elderly neighbor

Elderly neighbors, especially widowed ones, could use a little help. Why not bring your neighbor a meal one night? If you have a family of four, prepare enough food for five people and give some food to your neighbor. This will help you get to know your neighbors and build a positive community. According to the police, getting to know your neighbor is a great way to combat neighborhood crime. And who knows, maybe next time you can even invite your neighbor over for dinner.

3) Vote in local elections

Many people only vote once every four years in the presidential elections. But elections happen every year and there’s no reason to skip over the local ones. Do some research on the candidates in the local and state elections and vote every year. Having a say in your local officials will make you feel more connected to your community.

4) Write a letter to local elected officials

Local officials will work harder to make your community a better place if they know that you appreciate them. Why not pen them a letter thanking them for making beneficial decisions for your community. Your encouraging words will make an official’s day and push them to work harder for your community.

5) Attend local events and festivals

Many local events are fundraisers that have free admission. You may be wondering how you are helping out if it is free, but typically these fundraisers help non-profit organizations which make their money through sponsorships. This typically means that sponsors look at attendance numbers to decide how much to give. If you attend with your family, you will be increasing the number of people there, therefore increasing the amount that is donated give next year.

6) Shop at locally owned businesses

If you shop locally, you will encourage other people to do so as well. This promotes growth and increases the likelihood of new businesses opening in the area. And bonus: if you shop at locally owned businesses, you will probably save time and money.

Helping out your community doesn’t have to mean taking a large part out of your day to give back. There are so many little things that you and your family can do to help make your community a better place to live.

Tampa Bay Lightning Owner Continues to Give Back

Stephen OvertonJeff Vinik, owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning NHL hockey team, has made it public that he and his wife will continue to give over the course of five seasons for the community heroes program. If you’re unfamiliar with the program, it began during the 2011-12 hockey season between the Vinik Family Foundation and the Lightning Foundation. The program is designed to highlight one hero from the Tampa Bay area during every home game and provides a $50,000 donation to the person’s favorite nonprofit. Since it started, there has been over $11 million donated to hundreds of organizations. With a five-year extension and $10 million dollars pledged by Jeff and Penny Vinik, more people will continue to be recognized, and more importantly, nonprofits will receive funds and can continue to make an impact. Over the next five seasons, the program will honor a new addition to the hero list, young individuals from local high schools or colleges who are proponents of social change and helping others. By recognizing extraordinary individuals, while bringing a community together, is a recipe for success and surely a reason for why the Vinik Family Foundation and Lightning Foundation are continuing their efforts. A $50,000 dollar donation is a considerable amount of money too, and for some nonprofits, it can be an unexpected boost that truly makes a difference and can help them for months or years to come.

Housing Florida’s Homeless

Stephen Overton housingOn any given night in January of 2014, there were approximately 578,424 individuals experiencing homelessness. This means these people were either sleeping in the streets, spending the night at an emergency shelter, or in a transitional housing program. It’s clear that homelessness is an issue, and Ability Housing, a nonprofit based out of Jacksonville, is leading the charge to improve life for the homeless.

Founded in 1992, Ability Housing was originally a group home for individuals living with development disabilities. Today it is a nonprofit with a focus on the development and operation of quality affordable rental housing for people, and families experiencing (or at risk for) homelessness, and adults with disabilities. Ability Housing’s mission is to stabilize and revitalize neighborhoods affected by damaging rental properties; improve the quality of life of the residents, neighborhood and larger community; preserve the existing affordable housing; improve neighborhood real estate values; provide housing to local vulnerable households; and provide a permanent solution to the local homelessness crisis. All of Ability Housing’s residents earn 80% or less than the area median income, and are therefore low-income. In fact, most of them earn less than 50%, and some, those who are extremely low-income, earn 30% less than the area median income.

At the end of 2015, Ability Housing was awarded a $150,000 grant to continue their cause. This gift from the Florida Blue Foundation will allow them to conduct research about the return on investment of providing the homeless with stable homes. Ability Housing’s Executive Director, Shannon Nazworth said the state is spending more on the homeless in the form of emergency stays and prison stays than they would if they homeless had stable homes. These expenditures are also counterproductive, because they don’t contribute to the stabilization of the individual. There is no Florida-specific data to prove this, so Ability Housing has launched “The Solution that Saves.” This three-year pilot study will gather data demonstrating that the return on investment is greater when a homeless individual is provided a stable home. Multiple state agencies are involved in the program, including Florida’s Department of Health, the Department of Children and Families, and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Ability Housing’s own tenants are volunteering in the study, some of which are living in the nonprofit’s newest apartment complex. I commend Ability Housing for taking the initiative to create solutions for a larger problem. Creating more opportunities for the homeless will only lead to more advancements for the larger Florida community.


Out With the New, In With the Old: Changing the Perception of Senior Shelter Dogs One Photo At a Time

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf you’ve ever visited your local SPCA, you may have noticed that the vast majority of unadopted dogs at shelters are the older animals. More often than not, people who are looking to adopt a new addition to the family are hoping to bring home puppies and younger dogs, swayed by their cute factor and operating under the misguided belief that old dogs must be ‘damaged’ in some way to have ended up in a shelter, and are, therefore, less worthy of adoption.

The sad truth is, many of the elderly animals that end up in shelters are there because of circumstances that have nothing to do with their behavior – their owners’ declining health or death, perhaps, or their displacement due to their owner moving to a place that is not pet-friendly. Sometimes, people surrender their pets simply because they can no longer afford to care for them. And still, senior pups have a bad reputation and are constantly overlooked by potential rescuers, all because of their age.

Laura Coffey, a former journalist for The Tampa Bay Times, and photographer Lori Fusaro are looking to challenge this widespread perception of older dogs with the release of their book, My Old Dog: Rescued Pets with Remarkable Second Acts. After initially working together when Coffey read about Fusaro’s work taking photographs of elderly shelter dogs to erase the stigma surrounding them, with this new book, the two have joined forces to tell the stories of 19 dogs rescued from shelters in their twilight years and the joy that they have brought to their new owners’ lives. With Coffey’s words and Fusaro’s poignant photos, Old Dog sweetly demonstrates the power of compassion, reminding us that, age, indeed, ain’t nothing but a number, and that everyone deserves a second chance.

If the thought of adopting a senior dog in need strikes a chord in you, check out My Old Dog on Amazon and research organizations like The Grey Muzzle Organization before you take your next trip to one of Tampa’s local animal shelters (The Humane Society of Tampa and SPCA of Tampa, to name two). After all, the saying “dog is man’s best friend” doesn’t just apply to puppies (who will chew on everything you own, anyway)!