I awoke this morning to my phone dinging away – not from colleagues at my full-time job, but rather from three of my neighbors in Latitude Margaritaville Daytona Beach (LMDB), each with a different question.
“It’s cold this morning, where can I drop off warm clothes for those who might need them?” the first one read.
“What time are we decorating the Angel Tree?” asked the second.
And the third one worked better than my coffee, causing me to smile at the query, “Do you know anybody that has a Santa suit?”
I’m not sure what I expected when I moved into this ‘55 and better’ community, but I have been pleasantly surprised at the generosity of the residents, who have come to see me as the link to all things local. A resident of the area for nearly three decades, I often provide directions and local information to new residents. And, as a career social service worker, I have become the go-to for all things charitable. I am continually amazed at the generosity and vigor with which my neighbors seek to engage in the community. In the last month alone, my neighbors have donated more than $60,000 in cash to local charities … but make no mistake, they are having a lot of fun doing it!
One event, called Daytona Over the Edge, had me and 15 of my LMDB neighbors rappelling down the 8-story, 102 foot tall International Motorsports Center in Daytona Beach, Florida! Both exhilarating and fun, neither is the reason that we did it! To participate, each had to collect a minimum of $1,000 in donations for local charities dedicated to providing healthcare and services to children in our community who need it most. My neighbor, Dale Martin, alone collected over $7,000, with the combined total donation from LMDB more than $28,000! As a testament to the determined-to-have-fun nature of my neighborhood, another 60 or so residents were present, with a boom box blaring Buffett tunes, shouting encouragement to the nervous but determined seniors inching down the mirrored building. It was a beautiful day in Daytona Beach, made even more so by the beautiful spirit of the event. In our typical finale-to-anything-we-do tradition, we all ended up at the brewery next door to compare notes and share experiences!
November, the month of giving, is now behind us, but we have no time to rest on our laurels – December is here. Our Toys for Tots receptacles in our town center are overflowing, while cutout flip flops with the Santa wish list of more than 100 local children adorn our own version of an Angel Tree.
This year, and for years yet to come, hundreds of local kids will feel the love from hundreds of new residents. I read somewhere that the act of giving back to the community boosts your happiness and your health … but here in my neighborhood, both seem to be a chronic state of being.