Parady Financial Group CEO Greg Parady may be best known as the Layaway Santa who paid off over $20,000 worth of layaway Christmas gifts in 2013 at a Wal-Mart in The Villages, FL. His unexpected generosity garnered national attention from CNN, MSNBC, The Today Show, Time Magazine, Good Morning America and the Huffington Post – but he may be most passionate about helping children in the local community.
Greg started working with the Villages Elementary and several other local schools when he discovered that the school lunch program had a large deficit, and that teachers were paying out of their own pocket for their students to eat. Parady sent members of his team to the school with $500 cash for the school’s lunch fund and he paid for the entire program for the school year. Next, he started a “hygiene-drive” and then added a “food-drive” in his office and at business events so his clients could get involved, and the response was overwhelming.
Parady built on their passion for giving and the desire to share the power of giving with others. Parady created the Parady Cares Foundation – a non-profit organization dedicated to helping children and the community.
For the holidays, Parady launched a “pay it forward” campaign by giving his clients $100 Visa gift cards with their Christmas card and instructions to make a positive impact for someone else. Some staked out grocery stores and big box retailers for families who looked like they could use a financial boost. Others gave to churches, firefighters, animal shelters, the homeless, elementary schools and neighbors. Many directed their gift cards to assist with medical bills or to victims of abuse.
Seeing the success of the Parady Pays it Forward program, Greg decided to get children involved. The entire 4th grade class at the Villages Elementary was chosen to participate. Each of the 138 students received a $25 VISA gift card and were instructed on ways they could work with their parents to commit random acts of kindness. They were also asked to document their acts and how it felt to give back.
According to Villages Elementary Acceleration Resource Teacher Bonnie Binneveld, the program left a lasting impact not only on the children, but on her. “I was touched and a little saddened by how many children were already familiar with some of life’s greatest challenges like homelessness, cancer, struggles of single moms, and grandparents who can’t afford medicines,” she said. “I am not a classroom instructor, but I do feel like the Pay It Forward project created a sense of community. Students were truly excited to stop me in the hall and tell me how they made life a little better for someone else. I do hope that this is a lesson that will impact them for life. We all learned how good it felt to be able to help others. Making the connection between our school and the Parady Group has been one of my proudest achievements as an educator.”
Earlier this year, Greg inspired his staff and clients to get involved with the schools beyond financial support. Parady garnered volunteers and provided t-shirts and “love” bracelets at the school’s Field Day, in addition to a $3,500 donation. Several members of Parady’s staff and client volunteers ran a refreshment station, handing out goodies, water and a choice of three kinds of Icee popsicles.
One client, Phil Peregrine, who volunteered at the Parady Station with his wife Sue, said, “Probably the most interesting part…was the respect that these students had, how they thanked me for giving them the bracelets. Sometimes their teachers were there prompting them, but often they just did it on their own.”
ONE ON ONE WITH GREG ABOUT THE POWER OF GIVING
Question 1: Why do you give?
Answer: There’s nothing better than the power of giving. I want children to experience what it feels like to brighten someone else’s day—for no reason at all. The feeling is contagious and memorable.
To say I am grateful for the relationships and opportunities I’ve had in this community is an understatement. The last few years I have been humbled and honored to support children and community around my home in Florida. It’s been a great privilege to share our success and I have our clients to thank for it.
Question 2: You frequently say that your clients
are like family, how is this?
Answer: We take a lot of time getting to know our clients, their families, their goals, and their fears. I love getting to know people both in and out of the office. The more you know, the better you can structure a plan to meet their retirement needs. We communicate a lot with our clients in the process to design a plan to relax and enjoy life to the fullest while they can. We like to design lifestyle strategies. We work hard to create financial confidence so people can relax and also host almost nightly events for clients to enjoy. And because of these relationships, we have created a second family – so, it was only natural that we extend those values to the children and community where we live.
Last year, with the support of clients, Parady delivered:
• 200 laptop computers to provide teachers with adequate tools to educate our children
• 6,000 snacks and drinks to supply the Summer and After School Snack Program
• $5500 for new social studies and science workbooks
• Sponsored the Spring Field Day with Parady clients, including a kick-ball game
• 160 bags of personal hygiene and clothing products
• 1,800 school supply items for “Back to School” collected and delivered