Helping Hand: Coming to the rescue of a youth football team in its hour of need

Monday, June 28, 2010

HELPING HAND

Elizabeth Wilmot

Founder and president of Turtle Wings, a Capitol Heights-based electronics recycling and data destruction company.

Charitable giving highlights: Wilmot and her husband make charitable donations to the American Red Cross, National Public Radio, the Carpenter's Shelter and various prostate cancer research groups.

Personal: Lives in Alexandria with husband and daughter.

It was May 11th of this year. I saw an article in the paper about a youth football program office that had been vandalized. It happened right down the street from our company. At the company, we had been talking about ways to help our community. I thought it would be great for us to help this football team. Not to mention, I'm a big football fan.

We searched for the coach, Charles Penny. We called him up and asked him if we could help him out. I don't think he believed us until we showed up with five computers and monitors.

He told us that he needed some furniture for the office. We got him that as well. The vandals had popped and destroyed the footballs. We are underwriting those, too. And as soon as the team's practices start up, we'll be there.

I think football is especially good for kids who grow up in a neighborhood that's not so easy. To have a coach telling a kid that he did a good job is something that could change that kid's life.

The most touching, poignant part of this story for me was when Coach Penny looked at me and said, "Welcome to the family."

This is the first company-wide charitable giving that we've done. I started Turtle Wings about five years ago from my kitchen table. We're clearly not a big company, but we're out of the woods in terms of being a start-up.

I come from a family of volunteers. My grandmother brought in foster kids to her house every summer. My father ran our local church fair. My mother was on practically every woman's committee in my hometown. My family believed that part of being a citizen is that you volunteer.

As a company, we have made charitable donations to causes like breast cancer and also to the local fire department.

I think we'll continue to seek out opportunities about things that are hands-on and local to our company. We're not a rich company by any means. We can't change major problems, but we can help with smaller things.

-- Interview with Vanessa Mizell


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