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By Zoe Trout
Pictured: CREATE at Catapult, Gillian Fazio
“For exemplary leadership and selfless acts of time and dedication…” So reads the first line of the Lisa Oliver Eagle Heart Award. Named after Lakeland’s June 2017 CityMaker, Lisa Oliver, these words capture perfectly the extraordinary qualities of this busy mom – a woman flying below the radar, working tirelessly to improve the community she calls home.
Better known by her email handle, “superbusymom,” Lisa and her family moved to Lakeland from southern California in 1998 after her husband, Keith, was offered a position with Watkins Motor Lines. “I love the people here,” she gushes. “I continue to be inspired by the people in this community who make Lakeland a great place to raise a family.” With two children of her own, it was this community spirit that inspired Lisa to get involved in the local school system.
A volunteer spreads her wings…
As a stay-at-home mom to Ashley and Adam, Lisa realized she had some extra time and energy to invest – which tells you much of what you need to know about this energetic woman. A 19 year veteran teacher, Lisa had a passion for children, so volunteering in her children’s schools presented the perfect opportunity. It wasn’t long before she was named volunteer of the year at both Scott Lake Elementary and Lakeland Highlands Middle School, then moved on to leave her mark as a volunteer at George Jenkins High School. It was this dedication to the parents and children of Lakeland that led to what Lisa calls her greatest achievement, the creation of the Lisa Oliver Eagle Heart Award.
Given annually to a deserving parent volunteer, it reads “For exemplary leadership and selfless acts of time and dedication; For focus and clarity of vision, outstanding dedication and remarkable contributions to the health and vitality of George Jenkins High School; For exemplifying every aspect of an Eagle’s Heart through service above and beyond the call of duty.” These are the same values that guide Lisa every day when serving her community, now with the goal of doing for Lakeland what she once did for George Jenkins High School.
As her children grew up, Lisa began to explore Lakeland’s nonprofits world. Her friend, Debra Hansen, recommended the Leadership Lakeland Alumni Association. Lisa joined LLAA as their part-time Administrative Assistant in 2000, and has since grown to become the Executive Director. But her nonprofit leadership does not stop there. Lisa has served as the Executive Director for the Lakeland Bar Association since 2005, as Administrative Assistant for the National Association of Women Business Owners since 2007, and now serves as Secretary of the Lakeland Kiwanis Club. Additionally, she has worked for Junior Achievement and has invested time volunteering with Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, and as a board member for Explorations V Children’s Museum.
Of these endeavors, Lisa says that they all have one thing in common: “amazing people who are passionate about Lakeland.”
Her passion for children and her desire to inspire their leadership skills keeps her first nonprofit adventure, the Leadership Lakeland Alumni Association, at the center of her heart.
“I am blessed to work for an organization of community leaders,” Lisa said, “and I am proud to say that this organization truly inspires the leader in you.”
As a member of the Leadership Lakeland Class 27, Lisa has seen the results of this commitment firsthand. LLAA is comprised of graduates of the Lakeland Chamber’s Leadership Lakeland Program, advancing over 900 leaders since the program’s origins in 1983. One of those leaders, Laura Taylor, Vice President of Operations at the Lakeland Economic Development Council, graduated Leadership Lakeland with Lisa.
“Lisa is a servant-minded leader that when she sees a need for our community she rallies the troops behind her to make things happen for people and our city. Personally, she helped me when my son was born with a life-threatening birth defect during the Christmas of 2011 and my family and I had to transfer care to UF/Shands, where we lived in Gainesville for 5 weeks. She secretly gathered my Leadership Lakeland Class 27 and purchased gifts for my 3-year old daughter to make sure she had a normal Christmas, while we stayed around the clock at the hospital,” Laura said. “I am confident that no one would argue that Lisa’s thoughtfulness and passion is contagious.”
“I love helping others. I love making others successful.”
LLAA continues to support its graduates’ leadership impact in the community through opportunities for community outreach. Through what they call the WOW (Worthy Outreach Work) Program, LLAA selects worthy projects to complete each year, ranging from renovating the Girls Inc. Library to what Lisa fondly remembers as her favorite project: homeless advocacy for Polk County schools. LLAA purchased school supplies, jackets and more, and stuffed 250 backpacks for homeless students in the area. LLAA’s mission is to use its funds to truly make a difference in the community.
This is where Lisa comes in. Serving many roles for the organization over the years, Lisa has become the go-to “behind the scenes gal,” helping each board member and group of officers to access the resources to make a difference. She helps to organize all LLAA events, including the Leadership Summit for High School students and the Leadercast Lakeland Conference for members of the community.
Lisa’s Many Hats
This selfless, behind the scenes attitude earned Lisa quite a reputation in Lakeland, as word of her exceptional work spread to other organizations. Doors opened for her when LLAA alumni, who admired Lisa’s work, asked for assistance with other organizations they were engaged with, including the Lakeland Bar Association, the National Association of Women Business Owners, and Kiwanis.
The Lakeland Bar Association is comprised of attorneys and judges in the 10th Judicial Circuit. LBA provides its members with the opportunity to network at monthly meetings and further their education through continuing legal education units. LBA members foster change and make a difference through community outreach, which takes the form of anything from supporting the law academies at the local high schools to helping at Habitat for Humanity. As the Executive Director, Lisa works behind the scenes to maintain their website and membership databases, and organize their events.
“Lisa produces dozens of meetings per year from small committees of 4 or 5 all the way 250 attendees and more, and she does it with great energy and true servant leadership,” Sam Crosby of Sam Crosby of Miller, Crosby & Miller, P.A said. “When I need my batteries and optimism recharged I call Lisa.”
Both within and between each organization, Lisa wears many hats, though she says her favorite part of each job is event planning. From golf tournaments to annual meanings, she loves to see her efforts come to life.
“My goal in life is to make others look good,” she says. “From event planner to website manager to fundraiser, every day brings new opportunities and challenges. There are yearly changes in officers and board members, so I feel that my main role is to help each group stay organized and focused. I have become their historian and memory bank. My job is to use my knowledge and skills to help each group of board members and officers make the organization stronger.”
No two days are the same for Lakeland’s own superbusymom. While some are spent in front of the computer or on the phone, others are spent out on the road, running errands or preparing for her latest event or meeting. Above all, Lisa loves working behind the scenes, an unsung hero in the Lakeland community. In fact, Lisa often feels that she gets too much recognition for her efforts, preferring to fly under the radar.
When asked what drives her energy for the work she does, Lisa simply responded, “I love helping others. I love making others successful.”
Find your energy and follow it, she says. Those around Lisa know that her energy is what sets her apart.
“Lisa is a superstar!” Xuchitl Coso, community advocate and member of the board at Lakeland Vision, said. “She has a heart for giving and love to motivate all of us to do our very best for others. I always tell her I want to plug in to her energy because it is infectious!”
As Lakeland’s June 2017 CityMaker, Lisa Oliver truly seeks to have her daily actions and attitudes reflect her passion, her never ending drive to follow it, and to boost up Lakeland’s “amazing people.”
“To make a difference, find a passion,” Lisa says. “Once you follow that passion, you will build a network and get to know people and doors will open and everything will fall into place. Whether your motivation be seniors, pets, children, or anything else, get involved and that will lead you to other opportunities. Don’t do it for the recognition. Do it because you care.”