Sundance Vacations’ Tina Dowd Drives Change in Carbon County, Pennsylvania
Sundance Vacations Co-Founder, Tina Dowd, is known for more than her innovative travel program with destinations all across the country. The dedicated business woman was named an Outstanding Philanthropist* in 2015 for the good she does for others in both her corporate and charitable pursuits.
Dowd takes a special interest in helping those in her local community and has made life-changing strides for people in Carbon County, Pa. over the past few years.
She impacts members of the county almost every day through her support of Family Promise and the newly formed Carbon County Community Foundation. Through her leadership roles on these committees, Dowd began helping the homeless in Carbon County by providing food, shelter and delegating funds for community efforts such as environmental cleanups, cancer fund research and other philanthropic causes around the Pennsylvania Coal Region.
Dowd learned about her county’s growing homeless population as a representative for her church, Trinity Lutheran Church, while on the Community Action Committee of Palmerton Area Churches (CAC-PAC).
The Sundance Vacations Co-Owner was shocked to hear other’s stories and encounters with the homeless in Lehighton, Pa.
“I had no idea people were sleeping in their cars in the Wal-Mart parking lot,” Dowd said. “It was January and I couldn’t sleep at night imagining how cold they were.”
Her restlessness inspired Dowd to join a core group of interested volunteers and create an affiliate chapter of the national organization Family Promise to help those in Carbon County. It was these volunteers’ dream to provide the homeless in their area with shelter and food so no one would have to sleep in the cold again.
As the Host Recruitment Chairperson, Dowd spent two years reaching out to pastors, church councils and more to gather the necessary 13 host locations to bring their vision to life.
“It was a painfully slow process,” Dowd said after recalling all the work she and her team of volunteers did to secure over a dozen safe places for the homeless to stay in Carbon County.
Finally, in August of 2009, Dowd and her team began managing the newly established Family Promise of Carbon County and providing destitute families with a place to call home.
To this day, homeless families are transported to a host site each evening where volunteers prepare and share a meal with them. In addition to offering volunteer-monitored activities at the sites to stimulate growth and development, families retire for the night into warm church classrooms to sleep. Guests stay at each location for seven days until a different church hosts them the following week.
Dowd tells Sundance Vacations that the high number of host locations and selfless volunteers are what make this program possible. Because the Family Promise of Carbon County is able to utilize already existing spaces, rather than build a separate shelter to house the homeless, the volunteers are not overwhelmed, and their guests gain visibility among a wide variety of people in the community.
Dowd has made such an impact on people’s lives in the community that she was named Board President of the Family Promise of Carbon County in January 2016.
The efforts of this Outstanding Philanthropist stretch beyond her help with the homeless to assisting every member of Carbon County. Community foundations are an important method for insuring the success of future generations, which is why both Tina and her husband and co-founder of Sundance Vacations, John Dowd, worked with six other local business leaders and philanthropists to form the Carbon County Community Foundation (CCCF) in 2016.
This new foundation was inspired by their mentor, Attorney Alan Kluger, who also founded the Luzerne Foundation in 1994. Since its inception, the Luzerne Foundation has used its awarded $95 million dollars in grants to help the people of its community, just as the CCCF hopes to do.
In addition to providing funds for worthy causes in the community, the Carbon County Community Foundation also allows donors to create endowment funds based on a specific charity, organization, area, etc. This gives individuals the ability to build an endowment to fund their unique cause such as cancer research, buy uniforms for little league teams and more without having to form a private charity or file complicated requests.
The Dowds hope the CCCF follows in the footsteps of the Luzerne Foundation to increase community involvement and address county needs.
With all the charitable causes the Dowds support through Sundance Vacations, the company formed its own website called Sundance Vacations Charities.
The Sundance Vacations Charities website provides helpful articles and links to donate to a number of charities around Sundance Vacations offices in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., Pittsburgh, Pa., Harrisburg, Pa., and the various other Sundance Vacations locations throughout the company.
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*In addition to being named “Outstanding Philanthropists” by the Northeastern Pennsylvania Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), the husband and wife Co-Founders of Sundance Vacations have received many awards and recognitions such as the 2015 Northeastern Pennsylvania Manufacturers and Employers Association Excellence Award for their charitable efforts and community involvement.