For National Volunteer Week, April 7-13, we shared the stories of OUC employees who donated a significant amount of their time through community volunteering last year. We talked to Janet Pinder, Banking and Payment Administrator, about her work with the Lupus Foundation of Florida.

When Janet Pinder, a banking and payment administrator with 19 years at OUC, was diagnosed with lupus at the age of 24, it was a major blow.

Janet was a track and field standout in high school who received a full athletic scholarship to attend Florida State University. Understandably, she struggled with the idea of having a disease that would affect her physically for the rest of her life.

“Lupus never really goes away,” she says. “It can lay low for a while, but it’s never gone for good. You get flare ups, and you never know when those are going to happen.”

A systemic autoimmune disease, lupus occurs when the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues and organs. Inflammation caused by lupus can affect many different body systems, including the joints, kidneys, blood cells, brain, heart and lungs. It’s difficult to diagnose because its signs and symptoms are often similar to those of other ailments.

Spearheading an Orlando Presence

“A few years ago, I started looking for a lupus-related event in the area,” explains Janet. “I discovered the closest Walk to End Lupus Now® was in Melbourne, so I contacted the Lupus Foundation of Florida and voiced my concerns that there was nothing going on in Orlando.”

It took a year to get the first walk up and running, but thanks to Janet’s efforts, the event is currently in its fourth year, and it continues to grow. The purpose of these walks is to provide people affected by lupus and their families with the opportunity to come together to raise money for research and increase awareness.

Janet is excited about this year’s walk, which will take place on April 27 at Lake Eola. “It’s a sea of purple around the lake,” she says. “It’s a beautiful thing to see.”

A certified ambassador for the Lupus Foundation of Florida, Janet had to take classes on lupus, so she understands many people don’t even realize they have the disease. “As an ambassador, I go around speaking to groups about what lupus is and how it affects not only the person living with it, but also their friends and family members,” she says.

When Janet told her OUC family about the walk, they immediately asked what they could do to help. The first year, OUC provided water for the event and has since donated money to the cause. Today, more and more employees are getting involved.

“It’s all part of the corporate culture,” she says. “On Wellness Day, which occurs once a month, OUC gives me a table so I can educate other employees about lupus. If it means a lot to me, it means a lot to them, and that’s a testament to how much this company cares about its employees and the community.”