PALM HARBOR – “If more people spent time serving, instead of expecting, the world would be a better place.”
That’s what Erica Lynford said, noting it’s her outlook on life. It’s also a mentality that helped land her recognition as Palm Harbor’s citizen of the year.
Lynford, 51, hoisted the Don Valk Citizen of the Year trophy on Sept. 7 at an annual event hosted by the Greater Palm Harbor Area Chamber of Commerce at Innisbrook.
“The trophy is half the size of me,” Lynford said with a laugh. “But I was very surprised and I’m truly humbled.
“My family actually tricked me into going (to the event). When I saw half of them sitting there, I thought ‘What is this?’”
Lynford is director of the Community Services Agency, located at the Centre of Palm Harbor. She’s been with the organization 15 years and it’s where she said she plans to keep her trophy.
Kelli Snow, the 2016 winner of the award and the person who nominated Lynford, said Lynford is a perfect choice.
“She is a giver, I’d have to say,” Snow said. “She’s always there with an outstretched arm.
“She takes people’s personal issues to heart – she doesn’t just focus on organizations and events.”
Indeed, Lynford’s history of volunteering is far-reaching.
It includes working with the local historical museum, the local homeless shelter, and her kids’ former school, Sutherland Elementary, where she’s on its advisory council.
She’s also co-founder and vice-president of the LYN (Love Your Neighbor) Fund, which provides temporary financial support to women battling cancer.
“That’s beyond impressive,” Snow said. “You have no idea what a difference that makes.”
Next, Lynford’s on the board of the Council of North County Neighborhoods – a group whose many projects included the “Light the Lane” endeavor that provided lighting so students didn’t have to walk to school in the dark.
“As a mother, that one meant a lot to me,” she said.
Lynford, who raised her three children as a single mother, is pleased to see them follow in her footsteps with the spirit of giving now that they’re adults. In fact, she said they often do so at her side.
“The torch of service has been passed along,” she said. “I’m very proud of that.”