United Way Suncoast Volunteering Yields A Love Story

United Way Suncoast volunteer manager Sue Franzen (far left) played a role in helping Josh Goetsch, far right, met his wife Tracy (next to Josh) at a United Way Suncoast volunteer event in 2013.

Children dream of how they will meet their true love. Fairy tale romances always show passion persevering through a climatic struggle.

Josh Goetsch’s struggle arose during his adult years, but in the end, they proved to be only a prologue to his love story. And his romance started with volunteering at United Way Suncoast and the kindness of then volunteer coordinator Sue Franzen.

Finding A Better Path

When Josh met Sue, he found himself at an odd place in life.

“I was one year removed from an unexpected divorce, and I was trying to regain my footing in the world,” Josh said. “I was essentially on my own, trying to figure out my sense of direction and purpose. I really needed something in life to steal my attention, distract me, and provide me with something positive to focus my energy. 

“As silly as that sounds, sometimes we just need to find a better path for ourselves, to find something positive in the world to focus on. I didn’t know it at the time but it was really what I needed as an individual. That’s what volunteering did for me.”

Volunteering offered Josh an opportunity to be someone he wasn’t before. It helped him reach out and be a positive influence in the community. He loved every minute of it, immersing himself in opportunities. He looked at the volunteer portal every day to find new opportunities. 

A Day On (For Love), Not A Day Off

At one particular Thanksgiving Day event in 2013, Josh met a young woman but as he says, he was only afforded about two sentences worth of conversation with Tracy that day. They met again months later on an unseasonably warm January day to volunteer for the Tampa MLK Parade. Josh got sunburned, but Tracy also warmed his heart.

“I was a fried tomato that day from forgetting sunscreen and spending my whole day at the parade volunteering,” Josh said. “I probably don’t need to say this but, it was well worth it as it presented me with an opportunity to meet some very wonderful people that day, my (future) wife being one of them.”

The couple’s enthusiasm for aiding the Tampa Bay area served as a backdrop for their blooming romance. For Sue, Josh and Tracy’s wedding fulfilled a goal. She always wanted someone to meet while volunteering. She even got a chance to meet Josh and Tracy’s three children.

Heavy Hearts

Sadly, Sue passed away this month. She spent 16 years working with United Way Suncoast volunteers as the manager of Hands On Suncoast before retiring in 2014. She showed each volunteer the same care she showed Josh and Tracy.

“Sue was such an amazing person,” Josh said. “She had a very charismatic personality about her that drew you in with her warmth and kindness, and she had a fantastic sense of humor that always brought a smile to my face. She really embraced her role, she loved what she was doing and the people she was doing it with.

 “I think this resonates the power and impact that Sue and the United Way has on people.”

Still together, Josh and Tracy have commemorated their story with matching tattoos of what brought them together: United Way.

On this day, United Way Suncoast gives thanks to all who volunteer, like Josh and Tracy. And we thank all the team members, past and present, who help this organization make a difference in the community. United We Rise, United We Win.

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