alumni spotlight: Michael Dippy ’89

The plight of homeless individuals and families troubled Valencia graduate Michael Dippy.He recognized that their circumstances prohibited them from obtaining basic personal identification cards required to get a job or enroll in college.

But unlike most, he was willing to forgo his career to make a remarkable difference in their lives and futures.

Dignity was created to help the disadvantaged in Central Florida overcome the difficulties of obtaining the personal identification that is crucial to enabling them to become self-sufficient. Visit www.iDignity.org for more information or to volunteer.

Dignity was created to help the disadvantaged in Central Florida overcome the difficulties of obtaining the personal identification that is crucial to enabling them to become self-sufficient. Visit http://www.iDignity.org for more information or to volunteer.

He founded and now serves as executive director of IDignity, a non-profit charity that provides hands-on assistance to Central Florida’s poor and disadvantaged in Central Florida, allowing them to overcome the identification that is crucial to enabling their self-sufficiency. IDignity provides the documents required to apply for employment and college, access most homeless shelters, vote, seek help from many social service agencies, open a bank account, cash a check and rent housing.

After graduating from Valencia, Dippy graduated from the University of Florida with an architecture degree. He worked for eight years in this field but found himself drawn to a greater purpose.

Named by the Orlando Sentinel as the 2010 Central Floridian of the Year, Michael issued a challenge to our neighbors: “I hope that others will be encouraged to do even more to make our community a better place for all. I suggest that you find something that bothers you, maybe a societal injustice or an ongoing problem or an unmet need, and then do all you can to try and solve it. Each of us can make a positive impact on our community, in our own way. The reward will be greater than the effort.”

Michael found the treatment of the homeless unacceptable and soon took action. In 2003, he assisted in the development of the local chapter of Family Promise, which provides food, shelter and support services for homeless families. In 2006, he joined Project Homeless Connect, which symbiotically combines vital agencies working to serve the homeless during one-day events.

But he had a more extraordinary vision of partnership and service, launching IDignity in 2008.The need for such a program was recognized by members of five downtown churches which had been unable to access such a service. Exhaustive research led to this inventive new organization, which now works with the DMV’s Florida drivers license department, Orange County Health Department’s birth certificate office, Veterans Affairs and the Social Security Administration. IDignity also provides legal counsel and trouble-shoots the difficult task of obtaining out-of-state birth certificates.

Since May 2008, IDignity has hosted monthly triage at downtown’s Orlando Rescue Mission and has since expanded to Sanford. Each day-long collaboration serves about 225 clients. Since its inception, IDignity has provided life-changing identification to more than 7,000 Central Florida clients.

Michael’s work has not gone unnoticed. He also was designated a “Local Hero” by Bank of America and awarded the 2012 Community Service Award from the RAFMAN Club (Retired Air Force, Marine, Army and Navy). He serves as outreach chair for the First United Methodist Church of Orlando.

In December 2011, Valencia Foundation staff volunteered for IDignity. “Spending just a day at IDignity was a moving experience that revealed how a simple identification document could make an enormous difference in the life of an individual,” says foundation president Geraldine Gallagher. “I think it was life-changing for all of us to experience the exuberance of the IDignity clients who received their hard-earned ID cards, something you and I take for granted.”

Michael and his team of staff and volunteers were committed to help every person who walks through the door, she explains. “We witnessed tears of joy, a spring to their step, a newfound self-respect, and such a look of hope from those who received their documents that day.It is the same experience I have with our student scholarship recipients. They held their heads a little higher, ready to take on the road ahead, simply because someone believes in their worth and is willing to invest in their futures.”

Follow Up: On November 14th 2012, Michael Dippy and IDignity were honored as one of four recipients of the Manhattan Institute's Richard Cornuelle Award for Social Entrepreneurship. This esteemed national designation is awarded each year to individuals whom are leading efforts to solve significant social issues.

Follow Up: On November 14th 2012, Michael Dippy and IDignity were honored as one of four recipients of the Manhattan Institute’s Richard Cornuelle Award for Social Entrepreneurship. This esteemed national designation is awarded each year to individuals whom are leading efforts to solve significant social issues.

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