People of O-town: Lisa Novak volunteers for Eola swans


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Before Lisa Novak became a volunteer with the swans of Lake Eola, she worked tirelessly in the corporate world of Central Florida. A resident of Thornton Park, her daily commute to work involved swans, the beautiful scenery of Lake Eola and the friendly faces of Downtown Orlando, a city she has called home for the past 11 years.

After 23 years of being a prominent legal assistant, Novak decided it was time to move on and do something aligned with her life’s purpose. That purpose? Protecting and caring for the animals of her community.

“Some people can put more into it than others. I’m in a transition in my career, right now, so I’m out here almost every day. It’s really about all you can contribute, given the time that you have,” Novak said. “This is my community, so I really feel like I’m contributing. Seeing the baby cygnets being born and watching them grow up is really fulfilling.”

Rarely will you find Novak without her volunteer recruitment papers in hand, signing up Orlando residents, families and visitors to help out — she is a former coordinator of the Hope and Help Center. When she’s not walking around the lake, feeding the swans or signing up volunteers, Novak spends her days preparing for her newest business venture: dog-sitting.

“Here in Thornton Park, people absolutely love their animals. Every farmer’s market is filled with dogs and all sorts of pets,” Novak said. “Animals get me so excited to be around, and it truly is a passion of mine to protect them.”

Novak has been a member of the swan-volunteer team for the last four years, and she said the most rewarding aspect of the job is her contribution to the health and wellbeing of the swans at Lake Eola. She wants the residents to enjoy the gracefulness of these animals but also truly understand them and their way of life.

“I think the key is education. Something as simple as educating people on their diets, not feeding them bread and sticking to appropriate options like lettuce,” Novak said. “I think it all ties in no matter what animal we’re talking about.”

Even before calling Downtown Orlando home, Novak had a lifelong passion to help animals. When she lived in Seminole County, she became a self-proclaimed “black-bear defender,” advocating for less invasive development in and around the woods of the Longwood area.

Now living in the rapidly growing metropolitan area that is Downtown Orlando, Novak understands the growing frustrations of a changing landscape: increased traffic, long-term construction projects and higher population. Her message to the residents affected by these issues? Volunteering.

“I feel my role as a volunteer or as a resident, in general, is to come up with solutions for our community,” Novak said. “Instead of complaining, why don’t you come help make a difference? Speak up. Come be a part of the solution and not the problem. “

If you or someone you know would like to volunteer in assisting the swans of Lake Eola and make a difference, please visit www.orlando.gov/Community-Programs-Events/Volunteer-for-Orlando.

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