On Aug. 27, Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida presented Lake Nona resident Dan Donovan, senior director of consumer sales at Universal Orlando Resort, with the David Pearlman Spirit of Volunteerism Award for 2020. Donovan has been a champion of hunger relief efforts at Universal Orlando for many years. Donovan was surprised to win this award out of the more than 30,000 Second Harvest volunteers in 2019. He motivates the team with his creative approach to organizing annual food drives, including a CANstruction contest during the holidays.
Donovan has lived in Lake Nona since 2002. “That’s B.P. – Before Publix,” he said. He attended the University of South Florida and then moved to Orlando with his wife. They now live in VillageWalk. Donovan enjoys the walking and biking paths and feels that there’s a lot of opportunity and growth in Lake Nona.
Going on 23 years at Universal Orlando, he works with both on-site and partner hotels to promote and sell Universal tickets to visitors and tourists while also overseeing some business-to-business sales clients.
“I like to say that my job is connecting the talents of our team members to the clients and customers they serve,” Donovan said.
One of Universal’s core values is community, which inspires Donovan and his team members to give back. Universal’s Club 52 encourages team members to achieve 52 volunteer hours every year. Those who complete 52 volunteer hours are celebrated at a luncheon, and Universal provides funded grants to the charities of their choice. Additionally, Universal encourages team members to volunteer individually and in groups. Donovan has been involved with bringing groups to Second Harvest to volunteer and learn about the experience. This begins a snowball effect where people from these groups bring members of their team out to volunteer and so on.
Second Harvest’s Bites, Camera, Action! program is a mobile nutrition program that has distributed over 159,000 pounds of food to children and families in Orlando. Universal works with Second Harvest to provide them a truck that then brings the food to the people in need. As part of the Universal team, Donovan and his group members get involved with boxing up food. Combining Universal’s commitment to fun, teamwork, and community, Donovan organizes CANstructions where teams are challenged to create structures out of the non-perishable food. This helps the teams to live out Universal’s values and have fun while doing so.
When Universal had to close in March due to COVID-19, plenty of perishable food was sent to Second Harvest and other food banks and pantries in Central Florida. Universal also donated $100,000 to Second Harvest as part of a grant to help assemble the boxes of food since Donovan and his team members could not physically volunteer.
“I think the purpose of life is to serve, and success is measured by the difference we make in the lives of other people,” Donovan said.
Since the start of COVID-19, Donovan has gotten involved in virtual volunteer activities like writing letters. He is taking this time to educate his team on recent opportunities to safely return back to Second Harvest and other volunteer locations. Donovan is also a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach and has poured himself into understanding the strengths and talents of others in order to give back to them in that way.