Paige Erwin is known as a sheer force of light and positivity, who exercises her passion for giving back as a volunteer leader for United Way HandsOn Suncoast. Paige has a special connection to United Way Suncoast, having spent a year as an Americorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) member working with the ReadingPals program, followed by time spent as a full-time employee. It was only natural then that when she was looking for other ways to help her community, HandsOn was her first choice. It not only gives her the flexibility to work on a variety of projects, but, as a volunteer leader, she gets to introduce new volunteers to the many opportunities to make a difference across the Suncoast region.
Paige’s generosity and commitment to giving stems from her mother, who had been selected to introduce then-candidate Senator John F. Kennedy to her community while she was in high school. “‘Ask not what your country can do for you’ and ‘one person can make a difference and everyone should try’ were messages I received growing up.”
Paige has had many memorable experiences volunteering with United Way Suncoast, including the 5K on the Runway and GradNation, a one-day event for student leaders in Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties. A recent and impactful experience was helping the Tampa International Airport, volunteering at their pop-up food pantry for Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and other federal employees who had not been paid due to the government shutdown.
“The first night I volunteered, I actually teared up a little as I saw the trickle of a few TSA agents turn into a line, not unlike the kind they see on the job every day.” She witnessed positivity, gratitude and engagement in each encounter. There was a grandmother who was thankful for diapers for her granddaughter who lives with her. Another employee was thrilled to pick up dog food. “I spoke with a couple of veterans who were intrigued to learn about Mission United, and many were very happy to learn more about The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program.”
One man was ecstatic to find two packages of Indian food. The big find of the night was a large jar of pickled cabbage. “And a man was delighted because his wife loves it! He said it’d been a stressful month and this would bring a smile to her face.” Another man brought his wife and two young daughters on a particularly cold night, and they were bundled up in blankets. “All of the volunteers gave the little girls special attention, and the entire family left with smiles.”
“I was so happy to be a small part of this outstanding, impactful community effort. It was a pure representation of the collaborative spirit United Way Suncoast embodies. I think overall it was the human touch of kindness, respect and solutions offered that the recipients appreciated most. Seeing the various agencies work together to make a tough situation better and spread awareness was the perfect example of how to Live United.”
United Way Suncoast is grateful for our wonderful volunteers who are the backbone of our work. It is volunteers like Paige Erwin who are out on the forefront of our community efforts and making change happen.
If you’re interested in becoming a volunteer, click here.