The Family Matters initiative of the Volunteer Services of Manatee County engages in excess of 2,300 local families in volunteer projects throughout the year. Tammy, Becca and Robby Highley have been dependable, flexible and fun.
The Highleys are a perfect example of a non-traditional family. Tammy is a single mother who has raised Becca and Robby since they were one and two years of age respectively. First, she nurtured the brother and sister as a foster mother. However, on April 29, 1997 Tammy formally adopted the pair.
Today, Becca is 13 and Robby is 14. They are typical teenagers and play soccer as well as both being musicians. They are also honor students; however, their mom teaches them that volunteering is just as important as being good students; it helps them to become well-rounded individuals.
Tammy teaches profoundly mentally handicapped middle school students. Both her children have disorders and struggle with ADHD. Tammy is also ADD, but she is an example of being an overcomer. Somehow the family manages to maintain their active schedules, overcome their learning disorders and other obstacles and still make family volunteering a high priority in their lives.
Becca and Robby are active ManaTEENs who participate in several group volunteer projects, special events and ongoing youth led initiatives with their peers throughout the year. They are active in their church as acolytes, ushers and members of their youth group. As a family, they enjoy volunteering for programs assisting the homeless and participating in mission trips.
As a family the Highleys have been a driving force behind the cemetery mapping and restoration project at a county owned and neglected cemetery. Even when it is hot, humid and miserable at the site, the Highleys do not complain. They brave the fire ants and uncomfortable conditions to engage in an important project to bring dignity and respect to a graveyard that has been ravaged with time and vandals.
In addition to the cemetery effort and ManaTEEN activities, the Highley family helped the Volunteer Center host their Service-Learning retreat during Join Hands Day Weekend in 2002. Youth, educators, AmeriCorps members and families all over Florida were trained on the philosophy of service learning.
The Highley’s mission is to live as a productive unit in their home, community and world. They enjoy celebrating time together and bond through volunteering. They believe volunteering is a trickle down effect that must begin at home.