For the past decade, Erin Smith has been a community organizer and philanthropist in Weston, Florida. While still a child, Erin moved with her family to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where she eventually attended South Plantation High School, from which she graduated with excellent academic results. She and her spouse of nearly two decades, Thomas “Tommy” Smith, have four children. Riley’s love and respect for her father’s service inspired her to start the non-profit organization Project We Care with her daughter, Riley.
Project We Care is a family-based non-profit organization that provides food, clothing, and other household necessities to veterans so that they can have a tranquil and comfortable place to call home. In partnership with the Veterans Administration Subsidized Housing program, Project We Care reaches out to local veterans and gives them with “care packages” to assist them transform their bare apartments or houses into warm and welcoming homes.
At Habitat for Humanity, Lifenet for Families, and the Susan B. Anthony Recovery Center, in the Weston, Florida area, Erin Smith is a dedicated volunteer. She herself has made numerous donations but also led many campaigns in the local community to encourage giving to Cancer.org to combat breast cancer, as well as numerous local academic causes, such as the JT Reading Room, which encourages literacy skills for children and improves graduation rates. Erin and her husband Thomas are also actively involved in the school district with helping to organize and run extracurricular activities and coaching sports teams as well. The Broward County School District has received numerous donations from them. Among her many accomplishments, the mother of four is most proud of helping to instill a sense of altruism in her children and the residents of Weston, Florida.
What’s the name of your company? What exactly does your company do and how do you help people?
Project We Care is the name of our non-profit organization that helps to care for veterans of the armed forces by furnishing them with food, clothing, and other household essentials necessary to creating a peaceful and comfortable home. At Project We Care we work with the Veterans Administration Subsidized Housing program to connect with local veterans and then based on their needs, we give them “care packages,” which have all types of things that they need and some other things just to bring a little light and joy into their lives.
What are you looking for in potential volunteers?
We hire our volunteers based on their desire to help others. We look for individuals who work well with others, have a strong sense of community, and an interest in bringing joy into the lives of other people–especially veterans who may feel isolated from family and friends after recent hardships.
What piece of advice do you wish someone had given you at the start of your career?
Don’t work for anyone else’s dream. Ensure that your career helps you achieve your dreams. For one thing, you are never going to be satisfied if your hard work is going toward fulfilling someone else’s dreams. But also, you’re never going to do very well at anything that your heart is not really in.
If you could choose to do anything, what would it be?
I have never desired to do anything other than help people in need and improve my community through service. I often joke that if everyone just did their fair share of service in their lives, we wouldn’t have any problems. I do not know if this is possible, but it seems the only way to make a better world for our children and future generations.
Tell us, how do you deal with rejection?
Most of all I stay focused on what is most important and try to let the little things slide off my back. I also remember that it’s not personal when people don’t get involved or choose not to donate. It’s not about me, so if I were to let any obstacles get me off course, it’s affecting many more people than just myself. So I stay upbeat and keep rolling along.
What do you see as your greatest success in life, so far?
I have been very blessed in my life to experience success in my career, with wonderful children, and through community service. I do not know if I have a greatest success, but I hope to continue to work hard in all that I do and leave a lasting legacy in this world.
What are your thoughts on delegation?
Delegating is hard, but it is necessary. You cannot expect your employees to do everything that you don’t feel like doing yourself. It’s great when they can pick up the slack and help me out when I need to focus on something else or take a break.
What does the future hold for your organization? What are you most excited about?
I would like to see Project We Care grow and help even more veterans in need. I am most excited about the day my organization is able to be self-sustaining so that we can do all of the wonderful things we plan, but it is always such a thrill when someone trusts us enough with their donation and wants to support our cause. We have been growing consistently over the last few years and it would be nice to keep that trend going in a positive direction, always making sure we are doing what makes sense for our organization to help people in need.
What is the one major key to your organization’s success?
Hard Work and Passion. We do all we can to help veterans in need and we will continue to always put our best work forward, no matter what the obstacles may be along the way.
What is a habit of yours as an entrepreneur that you would recommend?
Consistency. Many entrepreneurs want to do everything themselves in the early stages of a business, which is a good thing because you learn a lot about every aspect of your company. However, when you have a few employees and are ready to grow your company it is important to ensure that the day-to-day tasks have been delegated out so that no one person can sink the ship if they decide to leave.
Can you tell us one way that you have grown your organization?
We have grown through community outreach and social media. Our organization started small and we had to be sure that we were providing our services effectively. We also made it a point not to grow too quickly because of the lack of funds needed for such growth, but as time went on we were able to expand our network and help more people in need.
What has been one mistake you’ve learned from along the way?
I do not see any mistakes as such, I am always learning so I think there isn’t really a huge mistake, just continual improvement and fine tuning every day.
What is your favorite quote?
“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds that you plant.”