When Joseph McMullen was a senior in high school, he applied to Florida A&M University’s College of Pharmacy. He was accepted, and shortly after getting that affirmation letter, he received notice that the financial aid he was seeking was pending. Coming from a single-income family, he knew he couldn’t afford college without the financial assistance.
His mother suggested he show the “pending” letter to his band director, Kenneth Tolbert.
“Mr. Tolbert’s exact words to me were, ‘Son, you go to FAMU, and if your financial aid does not come through for you, call me, and I would take care of the situation,’” McMullen said.
The financial help did come through, and McMullen earned his college degree. But he said he is a pharmacist today, in part, because his teacher gave him the security he needed to go to college 30 years ago.
“Just think of how many students out there that do not have a Mr. Tolbert as a safety net,” he said.
Now, through his HapCo Music Foundation, McMullen works to give West Orange-area youth that same support. To bolster the foundation’s efforts, McMullen is hoping to find a permanent building for the organization. Since HapCo’s inception, its work has been conducted at McMullen’s home. He wants at least 20,000 square feet of space to house offices, classrooms, a conference room, theater-style performance facility and a music production area.
“We are limiting our impact due to not having our own space,” Joseph McMullen said. “There is so much we can do based on the partners we have and all the inquiries we receive to produce art programs, conduct classes and have performances.”
Currently, HapCo partners with other organizations for its performances, such as Ocoee High School, the towns of Oakland and Windermere and Oakland Nature Preserve.
Anyone with information about rental space is asked to send an email to [email protected].
CREATING A FOUNDATION
HapCo Music Foundation was created in 1999, McMullen said, because he “wants no student to ever wonder where his or her financial support is coming from. HapCo Music Foundation aims to be that safety net for all deserving students.”
More than $100,000 in scholarships and support for youth, grade schools, universities and colleges for music and art initiatives has been provided through the non-profit foundation, which was incorporated in 2002. HapCo is now trying to reach the goal of another $100,000 to send even more young adults to college.
“The next student HapCo Music Foundation helps may be our next president, develop the cure for AIDS or be our next billionaire entrepreneur,” McMullen said.
The organization focuses on the underserved youth of West Orange County, he said.
“We work directly to support educational arts programs, particularly in low-income communities, in exposing youth to the arts and obtaining resources for participating in arts activities.”
In West Orange County, McMullen said the arts have been cut, as much as 30%, or completely eliminated from public schools. Community events have been impacted as well, because of the lack of funding from private and government sources. This disrupts social cohesion, he said, beecause the arts act as a community unifier.
“In this effort, we present the Triple ‘A’ Festival as an outlet to create and deliver arts programming to the public and the youth of the community,” he said. “Through this event, we also promote community involvement. Local people participate as performers, exhibitors, vendors and volunteers. This results in increased availability of arts and music activities in the community.”
HOW TO HELP
To make a donation or to find out more about HapCo Music Foundation, call (800) 409-6133; email [email protected]; or write to P.O. Box 784581, Winter Garden, Florida 34778-4581.
Contact Amy Quesinberry Rhode at [email protected].