Jay Keyes Receives Presidential Award
By Anne McKay Garris
It all started, back in 1995, when Jan and Jay Keyes volunteered to work with a new organization called, Tampa Bay Harvest. This group was organized to "end hunger in the community." The plan was to function exclusively with volunteers, under the guidance of one paid director.
The concept was simple. Every day and night, in Tampa Bay, good, edible food is thrown away. Pizza restaurants overcooked! Grocery stores overstocked! Distributors overbought! Banquet planners overestimated! And the food was going to waste. Enter Tampa Bay Harvest, sending volunteers in their own vehicles, to pick up unused food at its source and distribute it to food pantries, shelters for the homeless and other places where food is needed and finances scarce.
Jan and Jay were among the dozens, then hundreds, of volunteers who made the weekly trek between food donor and recipient, an important link in feeding the hungry.
Not surprisingly, Jay went from a few hours a week, helping distribute food to working many hours as member of the board of Tampa Bay Harvest where he currently serves as vice president.
When President George W. Bush set up a "Council on Service and Civic Participation" to find, recognize and encourage volunteers throughout the country, the call went out to all Americans to dedicate at least two years, or 4,000 hours to serve others at home or abroad. To those citizens who have given at least 500 hours of volunteer service, the Council awards the President's Volunteer Service Award.
Last month, Jay Keyes, long term resident of Clearwater Beach, was awarded the Volunteer Service Award for his time spent with Tampa Bay Harvest. He was nominated to the honor by the board of directors of TBH.
Pictured above is one of Jay's early volunteer episodes. With his usual flair, he put together a reenactment of a stage coach route from North Hampton, Massachusetts, to the main post office in New York City. This event, staged in 1959, was done in three days, using a restored stage coach and team of four to deliver the mail. It was a volunteer effort to bring attention to the City of North Hampton in hopes of improving tourism. Keyes is the gentleman on the right in the fancy white wig.
This, however, does not begin to encompass Keyes long- term hours as a volunteer. "It's like, when he hears the word, volunteer, his hand goes up of its own volition," says his wife, Jan.
In Clearwater alone, a short list of organizations with which he has volunteered include Clearwater Beach Association, Jolley Trolley Board of Directors, Clearwater Beach Blue Ribbon Task Force, Sunsets At Pier Sixty Board, Clearwater Chamber Of Commerce Tourism and Development Board, The City of Clearwater's Code Enforcement Board and Planning and Development Board.
Keyes specialty is conducting successful fundraisers and tourism events. He had a part in establishing the popular Jazz Holiday at Coachman Park and "On a Clearwater Day You Can Play Forever Weekend" on Clearwater Beach.
Never one to rest on his laurels, Keyes is now working on a craft festival on Clearwater's Beach Walk, to be co-sponsored as a fundraiser by Tampa Bay Harvest and the Clearwater Beach Association.
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