Video: Springfield, Missouri native brings change to hometown area
In southwest Missouri, an estimated one in five kids are hungry and have no food to eat. For adults, the number is one in seven. The need for assistance is an ongoing problem and that is where Serita Eldridge comes in.
“I think for myself personally, it’s important to give back and do a lot for people in need,” said Eldridge.
Born in Springfield, Missouri and raised in Joplin, Missouri, Eldridge empowers a team of H&R Block tax associates, district general managers and even her regional director to do more. The latest effort: the group teamed up with Ozarks Food Harvest out of Springfield, Missouri.
“We are filling boxes for seniors,” said Eldridge.
On November 1, 17 district general managers from all over the Midwest rolled up their sleeves and started filling boxes with items like cereal, juice, rice and much more to be distributed to seniors throughout the area.
“Without volunteers, we could not do the work we do,” said Christine Temple of Ozarks Food Harvest. “We are providing one and a half million meals a month to people in the area.”
The partnership with H&R Block and Ozarks Food Harvest started in 2016 and is one that continues today.
“Last year we did a food drive for them,” said Eldridge. “We will continue to do that and continue to help raise funds for our not-for-profit partner.”
In just under three hours, the 17 H&R Block employees filled 19 pallets with boxes full of food that will go to an estimated 760 seniors throughout the area.
Eldridge, who is now a district general manager for H&R Block, is responsible for an area that ranges from Branson to Joplin and includes the Springfield, Missouri area. She is a true believer that any amount of time giving back builds a strong community.
“I didn’t grow up in a wealthy family,” said Eldridge. “We had a lot of help and resources. So, I do believe it’s important to give back whenever you are able to.”
Eldridge is one of five children. Her mother served as the primary caretaker and breadwinner for most of her life.
“I grew up in an awesome, loving, Christian family, but mom was trying to raise five kids on her own,” said Eldridge.
That is when Eldridge’s grandfather stepped in and made sure the five children had an outlet.
“I started going to the Boys and Girls Club on a regular basis in fifth grade and the relationships that were built with staff and other kids were vital to my own development. There were days when I might not have had a meal if it wasn’t for the club or my grandparents.”
HITTING A HOMERUN FOR YOUTH
In addition to helping others meet their needs, Eldridge has found a way to inspire her team of tax associates to use their tax and financial knowledge to educate the youth of the area.
“We are actually working in the Boys and Girls Clubs in Southwest Missouri and giving them finance classes,” said Eldridge. “It is so important for teens to know how to manage finances because once they get out in the real world and you have messed up, it’s hard to fix it later.”
The team has even found a way to make the education process fun. All the Boys and Girls Clubs are using the knowledge to compete against each other and in the summer of 2017 two winners were named: A Boys and Girls Club in Webb City, Missouri and the second in Branson, Missouri.
The groups did not just get bragging rights, but loaded up and headed to Kansas City to watch a Royals game while sitting in the H&R Block suite.
“For many of them they had never been out of southwest Missouri. It was an awesome and amazing experience for them,” said Eldridge.
Four franchisees stood out from nearly 1,500 franchisees and won recognition from H&R Block.
As senior vice president of U.S. retail for H&R Block, Karen Orosco leads 75,000 associates in nearly 7,000 offices across the country.
Dave Pond likes to tell stories. He writes and edits content for H&R Block’s online and downloadable tax software at its world headquarters.