Susan Elbare is retired, but her schedule is anything but.
Elbare, a Maryland native who grew up in DeLand, Florida, has found multiple ways to keep herself busy since she ended her formal career as a social worker.
She serves on the board of Oasis, a program that helps locate items like clothing and food for families in need. She's coordinator of the Northeast Seminole Heights Neighborhood Watch. And she mows lawns as a volunteer with ECHO - Evelyn City Helping Ourselves - a neighborhood beautification initiative.
"We love the trees and the older homes, and people know each other," said Elbare of Seminole Heights. "We do lots of things together."
We talked to Elbare about what makes Seminole Heights stand out, why the area sometimes gets a "bad rap" and why she chooses to devote her time to volunteerism.
How she got involved in social work: "My mother had been a social worker. Looking back, she and my father were great influences in my life. In Tampa, there was job opening in the state of Florida. It was AFDC (Aid to Families with Dependent Children). It was mostly handing out money. After a year, I didn’t feel like I was making changes in anyone's life. So, I became a school social worker. I got a Masters in social work from U of Hawaii. I was a school social worker in adult education. I always did inner city schools."
On staying active in Tampa Bay: "I'm on the board for Oasis, which is a program that as a school social worker, we access to get clothing and items for families. They have different sites in Hillsborough County. We have three or four sites. We find out what the needs are and go access them, like clothing and school supplies. It started in New Tampa. Two women out there started this program 11 or 12 years ago. They wanted a liaison who had been a school social worker to be on their board.
I still believe in giving back. I've been coordinator of my neighborhood watch, Northeast Seminole Heights Neighborhood Watch. Twice a year, we have picnics in our parks."
On what makes Seminole Heights special: "The people, I think, most of all. It’s a community. You do things together, share information. We tend to love similar things. We love our trees, and we want to take care of our neighborhood. We want to upgrade it, too. Seminole Heights has a bad rap. Nebraska Avenue is known for crime. There's still a pre-conceived notion of what Seminole Heights was, and not what it is."
Why community activism is important: "Part of neighborhood watch is ones safety. Let's face it. Anyobody can be broken into. I think it's safety and just sharing information."
Editor's note: This story originally ran in October of 2012. We're putting it in the spotlight again to highlight the accomplishments one person can make.