TAMPA BAY - The Tampa Bay Lightning honored Gloria West-Lawson as the 21st Lightning Community Hero of the 2016-17 season during the first period of tonight's game versus the Buffalo Sabres. West-Lawson, who received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program, will donate the money to Fostering Hope Florida, Inc.
Eleven years ago, Gloria West-Lawson founded Fostering Hope Florida Inc., a nonprofit organization that enables foster children to stay with their siblings in one of the three foster homes with loving foster parents. Three homes have been built in New Port Richey, Spring Hill and Clearwater, along with the Foster Kidz Closet to support the homes with clothing donations. Gloria and her husband Jerry took $40,000 out of their retirement fund to purchase the first home, along with another $10,000 when purchasing the third home. The West-Lawson's have personally fostered 12 teenagers and adopted two. Currently in the process of adopting a third child, Gloria and Jerry hope to adopt a fourth by the end of the year.
After giving up a paying job and stepping back from the family plumbing business where she worked for 25 years, West-Lawson took on the Fostering Hope challenge full-time. While Gloria oversees all programs, chairs board meetings, picks up donated furniture and clothing, sorts donation, and babysits at Hope Houses, Jerry continues to work at the plumbing business full-time. The business donates all plumbing supplies and work as needed for the homes. Gloria and her board members receive no compensation and often take their own funds to support this charity. West-Lawson impacts the children, schools, foster system and families across Tampa Bay.
West-Lawson becomes the 250th Lightning Community Hero since Jeff and Penny Vinik introduced the Lightning Community Hero program in 2011-12 with a $10 million, five-season commitment to the Tampa Bay community. Through this evening's game, in total, the Lightning Foundation has granted $12.65 million to more than 300 different non-profits in the Greater Tampa Bay area. Last summer, the Vinik's announced that the community hero program will give away another $10-million over the next five seasons.