Each issue of Advantage features an “Impact Player” from United Way of Northeast Florida, as a means to highlight the contributions that local volunteers make to our community.
Patriot Transportation Holding Controller & Chief Accounting Officer John Klopfenstein has developed an affinity for United Way since he began working with members of the Baker family, owners and operators of several Northeast Florida companies, both past and present. Patriot Transportation Holding’s only operating subsidiary, Florida Rock & Tank Lines Inc., has served as a premier bulk tank carrier since 1962.
HOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED WITH THE UNITED WAY?
John Baker told me many years ago that one of the best ways to help our community is to improve education. He felt that education was key to helping others help themselves and make long-term investments in their quality of life. Improving outcomes in education is the means by which we can make our community better for everyone, and United Way is one of the most impactful organizations when it comes to increasing access to early education and keeping students on track to graduation.
HOW HAVE YOU SINCE HELPED?
I’ve been engaged with United Way, and specifically education, through giving and volunteer leadership. My personal philanthropy is a reflection of my belief that a dollar spent today can make a permanent improvement to our community because the beneficiaries are likely to be contributors to our community in general. Through my experience as a resource management volunteer, I know that United Way is using each dollar as effectively and responsibly as possible.
WHAT PROGRAM(S) ARE YOU MOST INVOLVED IN?
In the past five years, I’ve been involved as a mentor in the Stein Fellowship program. This is a group of developing professionals that are part of the United Way’s Atlantic Circle. In addition to being mentored by a Tocqueville Society leader, they in turn agree to mentor middle school students who show signs of dropping out of high school, through United Way’s Achievers For Life Initiative.
I’ve been a mentor to the Stein Fellows, speaking with them about their careers, their Achievers For Life experience and their personal aspirations. I am constantly inspired by their experience as volunteer mentors. They really make a difference in the lives of students. They never forget and look forward to meeting with these mentors who come to their schools and encourage them to think about their futures.
I’m also involved in the education resource committee. United Way funds more than 70 agencies throughout Northeast Florida, and education-focused agencies comprise a substantial number of them. At least once every three years, volunteer resource management committee members look at agency applications for funding. We make sure that United Way dollars allocated to these agencies are well spent.
WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED FROM THE PEOPLE WITH WHOM YOU CONNECTED?
I’ve learned what a difference we can make to our community specifically through United Way, as well as the various organizations United Way supports. It really touches you when you meet people who have been impacted by a United Way program and hear their story and how it’s changed them.
HOW DO YOU MEASURE OR DEFINE IMPACT IN THE COMMUNITY?
Usually we look at how many people you’re impacting with a particular initiative. We’ve been able to measure many of United Way’s initiatives with greater precision. For example, they provide scholarships for preschool students to attend high-quality early learning centers that are independently rated and held to rigorous standards. Volunteers have tracked these kids and measured before and after how prepared they are to enter school. They’re able to record that they’re significantly more prepared, which sets them up for long-term success in their academics.
HOW DOES UNITED WAY’S WORK MAKE OUR COMMUNITY MORE ATTRACTIVE TO BUSINESSES INTERESTED IN STARTING HERE?
Employers are likely to enjoy the benefits of the services United Way provides. They don’t have to worry about some of the basic needs of their team members being met when they have problems. People are able to be more productive at work if they’re able to get personal needs met in a supportive community. For example, you just pick up the phone and dial 2-1-1 and they refer you to the right agency for a health or human service need
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO OTHER SMALL-BUSINESS LEADERS INTERESTED IN ENGAGING WITH THE UNITED WAY?
The United Way is efficient, focused and results-driven. Whether you’re giving to the Community Impact fund that supports United Way’s own proven initiatives, or supporting a local agency that impacts education, income or health, you’re making an investment in the people who are likely to be your clients, your employees and the beneficiaries of your business’ product or service.