It was inevitable. After 27 years of day-after-day exposure to the outdoor elements, the wrought-iron fence surrounding the Shriners Hospital for Children – Tampa was indeed showing its age.
Much of its original black sheen had turned a dingy burnt orange. And what was left lacked luster.
But that’s no longer the case.
On April 23, in celebration of National Volunteer and Earth Day, a team of 60 do-gooders from Kohl’s six department stores in the Tampa Bay area converged on the campus to tackle the task of repainting all 844 feet of the facility’s decades-old fencing.
Lisa Anderson, Kohl’s district manager for West Central Florida, said the company’s philosophy is to be a top retailer as well as a good citizen in the communities it serves.
“As a company, we will give away $2 million this week,” Anderson said.
In addition to its one-day, hands-on improvement project at the hospital in Tampa where specialized care is provided to youngsters with orthopedic and spinal cord issues, Kohl’s granted a $9,000 contribution.
In the four years of Kohl’s Cares for Kids initiative, it has donated more than $50,000 to benefit the facility.
“Since early 2008, their volunteer efforts have not only made a difference at the hospital and events but their time and talents are turned into treasure with their financial contributions,” said Bethanne Demas, public relations coordinator at Shriners Hospitals for Children – Tampa.
Brad Harshman, manager of Kohl’s Clearwater store, decked out for a day of painting in a ball cap, shorts and plastic gloves, stood amid his contingent of nearly a dozen volunteers from across the bay.
“We’re here to help out by beautifying the grounds,” he said. “Last year we laid sod and planted flowers.”
Helen Bentley was among the Clearwater entourage. A 13-year-old neighbor, Gabby Falcone, has been treated at Shriners in Tampa since she was a small child. She’s witnessed how its medical team has dramatically improved the girl’s life.
“Last year they gave us a tour of this place and it really made it real,” Bentley said. “It was wonderful and we saw first-hand the great things they do here.”
Fellow volunteer Erin Eschenauer also was a patient at the hospital as a child.
“We didn’t have to pay anything because we couldn’t afford it,” she said. “They gave so much to my family, so I’m giving back.”
Demas noted that although they do accept most insurance policies, those without the ability to pay for their children’s treatment are not turned away.
Several yards down from that location were several employees from the Brandon Kohl’s store.
“I’m enjoying this. It’s fun. I get to share some time with my friends,” said Ruth Lifschitz. “Best of all, it’s for a good cause.”
Her painting buddy, Elissa Lindsey, a former hospital employee in Indianapolis, agreed.
“My husband and I just moved here four months ago and I’ve wanted to see what’s around,” she said. “What I’ve learned is that this is a wonderful facility.”