Says Joe Maddon: “The volunteers are the unsung heroes. Without them, none of our efforts occur.” Every month, the Respect 90 Foundation will salute a distinguished volunteer from the communities of Tampa, FL, Chicago, IL, Mesa, AZ, Southern California, or Joe’s Hometown of Hazleton, PA. Respect 90 will present a $1,000 grant to that volunteer’s charity. Should you have someone who is deserving, please let us know.
Paul Porter | The Reach Out Speak Out Foundation
By now Florida, you surely know the voice. Inside Tampa’s Amalie Arena and the Amway Center in Orlando. It is the voice of God.
It isn’t a Tampa Bay Lightning goal without the thunderous announcement from above proclaiming it so with the signature shoutout that begins “THE LIGHTNING GOAL!!!…” And it wouldn’t be the same for Orlando Magic fans without that familiar voice taunting an opponent’s misstep.
Paul Porter’s public address calls are as much a part of the region’s sports lore as a Steven Stamkos 100+ mph slap shot, a walk-off home run by Evan Longoria or a Derrick Brooks interception return for a touchdown.
The silver-haired, silver-voiced elocutionist and 35-year Tampa resident just completed his 32nd season with the Magic and 28th with the Lightning. Neither team has ever had another public address announcer.
“His calls are forever linked to every great moment that’s ever taken place on home ice which has helped create some unforgettable memories for both our fans and our players,” says John Franzone, the Lightning’s vice president of game presentation.
And yet there is another voice emanating from the gentle giant of a man.
Twelve years ago the Cleveland, Ohio native and his wife, Jan, both victims of domestic violence, started the Reach Out Speak Out Foundation in Tampa. Its mission is to help women in need of assistance due to domestic violence; to provide shelter, food, clothing, and the necessities of life; to provide information through books and counseling; to enlist the help of other professionals with domestic violence experience; to speak at faith-based organizations and other community meetings regarding the warning signs of domestic violence.
“My wife and I both were victims of domestic violence,” Paul begins.” Me as a child with parents were who constantly fighting and hitting each other. Jan was subjected to mental and physical abuse from her first husband. She got out of that marriage and she and I have been together now for 39 years in October. We are both very familiar with it, we both have a background in it and we’re both victims of it.”
The two had been volunteering and serving on different boards for years in the Tampa Bay community when they received some disappointing news.
“There used to be an organization called the Family Justice Center. They helped out families that were in danger of domestic violence and people who had no place to go because of the domestic violence situation,” recalls Paul. “Unfortunately, their funding ran out when the Hillsborough County commission elected not to re-fund them. It really left a void.”
Not ones to sit idly by, the couple decided to act. “We agreed we needed to do something to fill the gap,” Paul reasons. Just like that, the Reach Out Speak Out Foundation was born.
“We have a five-year program that we offer to the victims, and it starts with getting them the immediate help they need to eat and pay their monthly bills,” explains Paul. “We give them everything they need to help them get back on their feet. Then they gradually go through the program that includes constant counseling.”
A pastor on their board of directors counsels most of the men in the program and another preventional counselor aids all of the women. All of the work is done voluntarily. “We have a board of five and auxiliary and advisory boards and many of them volunteer. Most have experienced domestic violence,” adds Paul.
And, according to Paul, it is working. “There was a mom who made it through the program and is now working at a new job at a domestic violence counseling center in Minnesota,” Paul points out. “It came full circle for her. A single mom raising three kids and was able to get back on her feet.”
It all seems worthy of a Paul Porter shout-out.
Rick Vaughn | Executive Director, Respect 90 Foundation
To find out more about the Reach Out Speak Out Foundation, or to learn how you can help through the foundation’s Purple Passion fundraising auction on October 17 at the New Identities Hair Salon (15307 Amberly Drive, Tampa), go to ReachOutSpeakout.org