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The HIVE Inclusive - Tonya Whitlock - THE GAME CHANGER NETWORK

The HIVE Inclusive – Tonya Whitlock

Tonya Whitlock

Founder – The HIVE Inclusive Community


The Hive exists to foster inclusive housing communities where every member can grow, find purpose and thrive.


Tonya is a dedicated RN with over 23 years of clinical experience in the areas of Medicare Adjudicated Law Judge hearings, Medicare Appeals, Utilization Review for Medicare, Case Management, Disease Management, Women’s Health, Clinical Research and Community Health. She was a speaker at Gather Conference August 2023, the Legacy Conference October 2022 and the She Did Conference July 2019.

Tonya’s firsthand experience in raising a son that needed this kind of inclusive community has made her into the game changer that she is.

Game Changer Network host, Chicke Fitzgerald

Founder Spotlight on Tonya Whitlock by Chicke Fitzgerald of the Game Changer Network

A part of our Philanthropy Series

Enjoy the interview

Creating Inclusive Communities: A Conversation with Tonya Whitlock, Founder of The Hive Inclusive Community

In this podcast episode recorded on November 1, 2023, Chicke Fitzgerald interviews Tonya Whitlock, the founder of The Hive Inclusive Community, a nonprofit organization based in Tampa, Florida.

The conversation revolves around Tonya’s journey into philanthropy, her inspiration for founding The Hive, and the organization’s mission and impact. The episode also explores the integration of the Traveling to Give product into their fundraising efforts.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Tonya Whitlock’s Background: Tonya shares her upbringing in a church-going family and her early exposure to philanthropy through her mother’s acts of giving. Her mother’s selfless nature and commitment to helping others left a lasting impact on Tanya’s life.
  2. The Birth of The Hive: Tonya’s inspiration to start The Hive Inclusive Community came from her son Tres, who has cerebral palsy. She noticed the challenges he faced in finding inclusive housing and community support after high school. This gap in services led her to create a space where individuals with disabilities, as well as other marginalized groups, could thrive together.
  3. The Hive’s Mission: The Hive aims to create an inclusive housing development for adults with disabilities, along with young people transitioning out of foster care, veterans, the elderly, and domestic violence survivors. It emphasizes a multi-generational, community-focused approach to support individuals with diverse needs.
  4. Inclusivity and Faith: While Tonya’s family is rooted in Christian faith, The Hive is not labeled as a faith-based organization to ensure that everyone, regardless of their beliefs, feels welcome and included. They prioritize demonstrating their values through actions rather than labels.
  5. TravelingtoGive™: Tonya expresses enthusiasm for the TravelingtoGive product, which allows individuals to support The Hive while booking travel, making philanthropy accessible to everyone. She appreciates the idea of an “everyday philanthropist” and believes that such programs can provide much-needed resources for nonprofits.
  6. Beyond Giving Tuesday: Chicke emphasizes the importance of continuous support throughout the year, moving beyond traditional giving holidays like Giving Tuesday. She encourages individuals and organizations to consider The Hive as a cause worth supporting year-round.

Overall, the podcast highlights Tonya Whitlock’s inspiring journey, her commitment to inclusivity, and the potential of TravelingtoGive as a means to engage everyday philanthropists in supporting nonprofits like The Hive Inclusive Community.

About Chicke Fitzgerald and the Game Changer

Chicke Fitzgerald is the CEO and founder of Solutionz Group, LLC and The Game Changer Network.

The Game Changer Network provides authors with a platform to tell their story about how they are changing the game in their world.  The show just celebrated its 15th anniversary.  Chicke has interviewed over 400 authors, celebrities and experts.

She is also the author of the Game Changer, a business fable about transformational business design.

Click on the image to order a copy of the Game Changer.


2023_1110 Tonya Whitlock.m4a
Fri. Nov 1, 2023

0:04 – Chicke Fitzgerald – We are doing another of our CEO series of looking at founders that make a difference. And as you know, some of the people that we talked to are with for profit entities, and others are with our nonprofit partners. And today we have with us a very dear friend of mine, Tanya Whitlock, and Tanya is the founder of an organization called the Hive Inclusive Community. And we’re going to hear a little bit about her, a little bit about her background in philanthropy and what drew her to form the Hive. And then we’ll hear a little bit about the project itself. So, Tanya, welcome.

1:23 – Tonya Whitlock – Thank you so much for inviting me on.

1:25 – Chicke Fitzgerald – I always like to start with, you know, kind of back at the beginning. And, you know, I think, you know, I’m a pastor’s kid. I was raised going to church on a regular basis and giving, you know, it was just something that you did. You know, I mean, when my dad would ask them to pass the collection plate, my mom would pull out her checkbook. And to me, that was just as natural as breathing. I didn’t really think about philanthropy until much later in life.

1:55 – Chicke Fitzgerald – So how about you?

1:58 – Tonya Whitlock – So I was raised by a single mom, she had three kids, so my two siblings and I, raised in church. And again, very much tithing every Sunday, you give a tenth, even if you only, if you got $10 from babysitting, you give a tenth of that $10 for your tithes. But I think that the biggest portion of philanthropy came from just the way my mom lived. I remember this time when we were in, I grew up in a very small town in Kansas, and we saw a family sitting on the side of the road in their station wagon.

2:39 – Tonya Whitlock – And we had just gone to McDonald’s. It was a huge treat to go to McDonald’s at that time. And she had all of us take our food and give it to the family. And at the time, you know, It was a little frustrating because we were excited about getting McDonald’s, but it was my mom. It’s just something, you know, she would literally give whatever she had, she would give it. And she also taught me that you don’t have to have a lot to give. So if somebody needed a place to sleep in our family, oftentimes it was, you know, my mom’s couch that they would sleep on or somebody needed a place to stay for a while.

3:16 – Tonya Whitlock – It was my mom’s house. And so, so I just feel like the, the best way she taught me was just how she lived. And she also always talked about our responsibility to our community. And so if you see someone going through something a hard time, then it was our responsibility as a part of their community to help them. And so I was just kind of raised to, you know, be aware of the marginalized. And probably at that time, I mean, we were considered poor, but I just didn’t feel like it because we were always giving and helping somebody else too, you know, So right, it makes me very just cognizant as a parent to live the life that I’m asking my kids to follow and not just tell them because my mom was the best example was just watching her.

4:07 – Chicke Fitzgerald – I love that. That that is such a great story, Tanya. So did you ever in a million years think that you would grow up and run a nonprofit?

4:19 – Tonya Whitlock – My dream was to be a nurse, and I went to nursing school, graduated in 1999, telling my age, and I loved it. And I still work as a nurse full-time. And so a nonprofit was not in my radar. I have a 29-year-old son named Trace, and he has cerebral palsy. He uses a power wheelchair for mobility, and he uses an iPad to communicate. And it was just through journeying this life with him as an individual with disability, like watching the struggles that he’s had, and especially watching the struggles that he’s had with after graduating from high school, really feeling like he still is a part of community, you know, socially, and even in housing, like having a space that he feels like he could live in has been difficult.

5:12 – Tonya Whitlock – And that’s why we even started the nonprofit is just that, My son needed a space to live in that he felt like was reflective of his community. And there wasn’t anything created here in Tampa like that. So we just felt we had to create it and fill that gap.

5:31 – Chicke Fitzgerald – Well, so you’ve already given us a little bit of a glimpse into the Hive. Tell me how it came to be and where it is now, because you and I met about a year ago. Well, we met earlier than that through an organization that we’re both a part of, but we actually sat down and talked about your vision and where you were, and I knew we could help you grow that. But obviously a lot’s happened in the last year. Tell us a little bit about where you are today.

6:06 – Tonya Whitlock – So what the Hive is, is that we are creating a housing development for individuals, adults with disabilities. But it is going to be an inclusive development, meaning it’s not just going to be for people with disabilities. 50% of it’s going to be for adults with disabilities. The other 50% will be for young people transitioning out of foster care, the elderly, our veterans, domestic violence survivors. So, individuals that are going to be able to utilize the support that we’re already putting in place for individuals with disabilities.

6:40 – Tonya Whitlock – And it would create this, you know, multi-generational inclusive space. And so, it came about because as I mentioned a little bit, TRACE is number two of six kids. And so, Five that I birthed and one that God gave.

6:58 – Tonya Whitlock – He has seen his siblings, you know, leave our home and gain community and gain independence and live their own lives. And he desperately wanted that for himself. He also kind of had some ideas of what that community should look like, He didn’t want to live in a group home. He didn’t want to live in a space, no matter how nice it looks, that was created only for people with disabilities. Like he truly wanted to feel like he was in a community. And so in 2019, we got really serious about looking for a space for him.

7:35 – Tonya Whitlock – And, you know, we couldn’t find anything in the Tampa area. We actually didn’t find anything in Florida. And so we heard about a space in Maryland called Main Street. And we really liked their idea where they’re taking 30% of people with disabilities units and then having the rest 70% of people that just walk off the street. So it was truly inclusive. My husband and I went to visit that space. We really got a lot from that. We got a lot of takeaways from that. But the only thing that we felt was that, again, that there was a lot of people, a lot of other people that could have benefited from the support that were in place for those people with disabilities.

8:20 – Tonya Whitlock – And so, which is why our model would be available more for other communities that, you know, other populations that would benefit from a support system as well. So, yeah, so we searched. We couldn’t find it. And we decided as a family to start it. The actual name for the hive, which I kind of love, my oldest daughter and Trace and I were all sitting together. Just brainstorming and we really wanted to create a name that would embody belonging and really like embodies the idea that every person had a purpose in the community.

9:01 – Tonya Whitlock – And so my daughter was like, oh, a beehive. And then, you know, literally that’s where the hive kind of trickled out from So.

9:10 – Chicke Fitzgerald – Well, I love it. And, you know, I was talking to one of our other Excuse me, I was talking to 1 of our other clients the other day and He was describing what they do, and it’s a nonprofit that deals with childhood arthritis. But very similar to what you’re talking about, what he saw was not only was there a need for kids with arthritis, but that there were all these other neurological kinds of diseases that were so rare that there wasn’t an organization that could focus on each one of them.

9:45 – Chicke Fitzgerald – So they have expanded, and he talks about a mosaic. Right. And really a beehive looks very much like a mosaic. And so when you look at your logo. So I think what’s emerging for me is that we’re actually in my company, we’re also building this amazing mosaic of all of the different organizations that we’re dealing with. And I can think of a couple right off the bat who we should introduce you to if our team hasn’t already done that. Because I think if we get all of you together, that there are going to be amazing things that come out of that.

10:21 – Chicke Fitzgerald – So have you been eligible for funding that is government based or because you guys are faith based in your own family orientation, have you stayed away from that?

10:34 – Tonya Whitlock – So, we are eligible for grants and things like that. Our family is, you know, we are Christians, but we definitely have, the nonprofit is not, we don’t label it as faith-based, just because we don’t want, We don’t want any entity or family or group of people to feel like they can’t approach us, that they can’t approach the nonprofit, that they can’t take part in what we do. Honestly, I feel like as Christians, again, a lot like my mom, it’s our walk that shows the Jesus in us. It’s our walk that shows who we are.

11:14 – Tonya Whitlock – It’s not a label. And I don’t have any doubt whatsoever that the people who are part of the Hive clearly know our family. Values, they know who we are, they know what we believe. I feel like they learn that pretty quickly. So yeah, we want to make sure that when we say the word inclusive, that people believe us and that we truly are a faith that anybody can be a part of and take part of

11:44 – Chicke Fitzgerald – I love that. And, you know, it’s it’s very much how we are as as a business. We are faith based. But what is most important about that is showing people the heart forgiving, because getting back to the whole concept of philanthropy, as you know, our company has a product called Traveling to Give, which allows all of our clients, not just the nonprofits, to give back to the causes that they care about. Right. And what we are trying to do is help people understand, and I know I thought this as a child, that a philanthropist was a Rockefeller or somebody who had lots of money.

12:26 – Chicke Fitzgerald – And I don’t know if I ever would have described ourselves as poor, but when I look back, our family budget for a year was what my family’s budget is for a month, right? And so huge disparity, of course, huge time difference too. But at the same time, my dad was a pastor, my mom was a school teacher, and they just didn’t make much money. But like you, whether it was $10 that you earned in babysitting, we were just taught that you do give 10%. And so we have taken our company, And done the exact same thing so whether our client is a for profit CRM company or calendaring company, if they plug in our travel tools, we donate 10% to their charity of choice, as well as, you know, sharing back a royalty to them.

13:15 – Chicke Fitzgerald – But our model with organizations like yours is we want to help you in raising funds from the people who already want to support you. And, you know, I think we had talked a year ago about programs like Amazon Smile, which Amazon has since terminated that program. And we have always given five times what they gave. And, you know, I happen to think that travel is a lot more fun than buying printer cartridges and toilet paper, you know, which is essentially what businesses did to help their charity partners.

13:49 – Chicke Fitzgerald – So tell us a little bit about your decision to integrate into the fabric of your fundraising, the Traveling to Give product.

14:01 – Tonya Whitlock – Everybody travels. I just thought that that was such a perfect idea. And again, you’re right, like not everybody feels like they have the capacity to be able to really give the way they want to. And so I love this because, you know, there’s really nothing out of that person’s pocket when they’re giving, like, you know, they’re just, you know, planning their travel, booking their hotels, and then a percentage of that comes back to us. It’s an easy way for people who didn’t really think before that they had an ability to really get back to, to the hive, to give and, and so yeah I love it.

14:36 – Chicke Fitzgerald – Well, and that’s why we came up with, with, well, two things like right on the tool itself. If you look in the lower left corner, it says you travel, we give. Right. You’re right, it’s not coming out of their pocket at all. And it’s actually coming out of our gross revenues that we have from that travel. And we think that’s the right thing to do. And we actually want to model that for other organizations that are supporting you, that the more they give, in fact, our corporate tagline is give more, make more, because that’s God’s principle, right?

15:12 – Chicke Fitzgerald – That you can’t breathe in without also breathing out. And the tide can’t come in if it doesn’t also go out. And those are the principles of giving, right? And even when bad people give, good things happen, right? And so we want to teach individuals that they can be philanthropists, too. And we don’t want them just to be philanthropists and just to give to you. Right. We want them to be passionate about it. And when they travel, we want them to take a picture of it. And we’re putting together a series of frames, you know, like when people post on Facebook and we’ll grab, you know, a frame to put around it.

15:52 – Chicke Fitzgerald – We’re going to give you those right as a tool for sharing with your people that you want to hear that they went to visit their grandma and they supported the hive with that trip, right? Because it doesn’t have to be just vacation travel. People do travel 4.6 times a year as a family, and that can be going to a soccer tournament or going to a play in New York with friends or, you know, going just to visit your sister who’s having chemotherapy, right? And those are all of the things that we believe that if nonprofits could tap into that from the people who already are passionate about you, that it will just change this nation, right?

16:31 – Chicke Fitzgerald – And not just this nation, it will change the world.

16:36 – Tonya Whitlock – No, I love that. And I also love, I think it was, I’ve seen this on one of Kelly’s posts that it’s an everyday philanthropist. I love that. I love the idea of that, that we can all in our everyday settings do something. You know, starting this nonprofit out as somebody, I’m relatively new to Florida. I’m not from here. You know, I don’t have, I didn’t have a lot of resources behind me starting out. I just had this vision that I felt like God was giving me. And it was very overwhelming trying to figure out where, where’s the resources going to come from Where’s the, where’s the funding going to come from And so it’s another reason why I love this is because it doesn’t matter who you are.

17:18 – Tonya Whitlock – You know, any program can benefit from it, any nonprofit can benefit from it. And again, everyday people can help. And you know, most nonprofits that I look at, they’re spaces that really need, you know, the community really needs to stand behind and really help propel because they’re spaces that could take over some of the government needs that we have, where our community is completely filled out space. And so by creating these kind of programs, you know, as a community, we can create solutions instead of waiting on somebody else to do it.

17:52 – Chicke Fitzgerald – Exactly. And, you know, the other thing that is my dream is that it does become an everyday thing, Tanya, because, you know, we’re coming up on Giving Tuesday is coming up very soon. And while that’s a very important day for nonprofits to raise visibility, I remember a few years ago meeting with the folks from Feeding Tampa Bay and I was sharing with him that, you know, we would go as a family at Thanksgiving or at Christmas. He said, don’t do it. He said, everybody goes on those days.

18:22 – Chicke Fitzgerald – What about the rest of the year? And so, you know, this is what I say to all of our partners now is you need to be teeing up a program of beyond Giving Tuesday, right? Every day of the year, as you think about the things that you need to do, you know, please keep the hive in mind. And by the way, we’re going to make it super easy for you to do that. And, you know, Tanya, I just I’m so glad to have you as a part of our family. Uh, you are a game changer and just, uh, I pray God’s favor on, uh, everything that you touch.

18:59 – Chicke Fitzgerald – And I’m just, again, so grateful for you to be a part of our family at solutions. And, uh, thank you so much for launching traveling to give, we really appreciate it.

19:09 – Tonya Whitlock – Thank you for having me.

19:11 – Chicke Fitzgerald – Oh, my pleasure. Thank you so much, Tanya. You’ve been listening to The Game Changer. Ideas. Inspiration. Innovation. With Chicke Fitzgerald. You You’ve been listening to The Game Changer. Ideas. Inspiration. Innovation. With Chicke Fitzgerald.

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