Florida Weekly Column

Throwback Thursdays Take on a Whole New Meaning

Throwback Thursdays Take on a Whole New Meaning

The gentleman at the monthly meeting of the Southwest Florida Historical Society had a twinkle in his eye as he shared the mischief he had created on the grounds of the historic Atlantic Coast Railroad Depot when he was a young boy growing up in Fort Myers.

I am not going to divulge his secrets, but he did get run off the property a time or two when he commandeered a freight cart for things other than moving arriving or departing luggage at the Depot.  It dawned on me after I left the group’s Thursday night meeting that if I had videotaped him it would have been a perfect post for #throwbackthurday on social media.

If this hashtag is new to you, don’t worry it’s a simple concept.  On Thursdays people of all ages take to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to look back at something from their past and share it with others.  It’s a great chance to reflect on memories of days gone by and sometimes share really funny pictures of people from their high school years (the longer ago they were in high school the better the photos!).

Ever since the Southwest Florida Community Foundation announced our partnership with the City of Fort Myers to lease and renovate the historic train station on downtown Jackson Street as part of a 10-million-dollar community investment project, my days have been wonderfully filled with stories about the community treasure.   Lately I feel like every day is a #throwbackthursday.  Although the plan is to create a state-of-the-art collaboration space we call the Collaboratory, most folks want to talk about the Depot’s past lives before moving on to the future.

The Atlantic Coastline Railway Depot opened in the 1920s and there are plenty of residents around who remember the days when the rail connected Southwest Florida to the region and beyond.  I have heard stories of kids dropping letters in the mail car, fathers leaving the station to head off to war, shipments of citrus from the packing houses that lined the rail, and class trips that provided students their very first train rides.  One of our board members was in the class that took the last train trip out of the depot.

And of course, there are stories like the one I heard at the Historical Society meeting, in which the depot was the backdrop to childhood memories.

This week we are hosting the ultimate #throwbackthursday moment when we invited the community for the construction kick-off and ever since the invitation hit the mailboxes, the stories of days gone by have been flowing.  But people are equally excited to learn more about what lies ahead in this reimagined space.

We coined the kickoff “History in the Re-Making” to highlight the depot’s glorious past and its promising future.  Just like the original intention of the railroad, we are committed to using the space to bring people together.  We will use data, conversations, experts in residence and strategic funding all powered by the latest technology to create regional change for the common good.  Join us in creating some exciting future #throwbackthursdays of the future. And, if you have stories to share, email me at [email protected] because the foundation will be finding ways to collect them all.

 

The Southwest Florida Community Foundation, founded in 1976, cultivates regional change for the common good through collective leadership, social innovation and philanthropy to address the evolving community needs in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Foundation partners with individuals, families and corporations who have created over 400 philanthropic funds.  Thanks to them, last year the Foundation invested $5 million in grants and programs to the community.  With assets of $93 million, the Community Foundation has provided more than $67 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves since inception. The Foundation is the backbone organization for the regional FutureMakers Coalition and Lee County’s Sustainability Plan.  Based in Fort Myers, the Foundation has satellite offices located in Sanibel Island, LaBelle (Hendry County), and downtown Fort Myers.  For more information, visit www.FloridaCommunity.com or call 239-274-5900.

 

Thanks for the Memories

Thanks for the Memories

Early in my family’s history we moved numerous times.  For a few years we moved so often due to job transfers my kids’ friends thought we might be in the witness protection program.  As a result of landing in new locations,  we had opportunities to be tourists in our hometowns.

You might think that our tourist season would be underway when we first moved to a new city, but actually it would happen just as we were about to depart for another location.  When we first landed in a new place we spun right into new jobs, new schools, new meetings and new activities, but upon departure we realized all we had missed and would frantically begin visiting museums, monuments and points of local interest.

I actually think we did 3 Smithsonian visits and the Cherry Blossom Festival in DC in 3 days prior to a move.  So it has been pure joy to live in Southwest Florida for over a decade, moving only once across a bridge.   And as I have written about in this column on numerous occasions, we have made a point to enjoy all that the region has to offer.  I ventured out to Gatorama in Glades County a few weeks ago, and this was not triggered by an impending departure. I am simply taking advantage of the amazing attractions, places and events all around me in a leisurely and enjoyable pace.

Over the past few weeks I have experienced a different type of urgency that reminds me of my days as a  last minute tourist.  This time it happened with people instead of places.

As our wonderful winter residents began their preparation to head back to their summer hometowns my phone, inbox and calendar were packed with activity.  I don’t know about you, but from my vantage point it seems that our friends just arrived and now it is time to say good bye again for a few months, which is tough.  I am going to miss them.

At the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, many of our donors, community advocates and volunteers are seasonal residents.  They arrive on the SWFL scene ready to roll up their sleeves and create change in this corner of the world.  Over the past several months I have watched our part time friends raise millions of dollars, contribute countless hours and create positive change in our region.   It is amazing to watch a family care deeply about more than one community and to adopt their second hometown in significant ways.

As the calendar heads toward spring, I am trying to find ways to connect with my winter friends one last time before they head out of town.   There always seems to be one more detail on a project, or a last minute report on the nonprofit program they funded and in some cases the beginning conversations on their charitable giving strategy for next season.

Getting together face to face for one last meeting with these special people has allowed me to say thank you for joining forces with our equally generous full time residents and show my gratitude for all they have done together as a community.   Thank you for helping to build a new Children’s Hospital, funding nonprofits who serve our neighbors, supporting students through mentoring and scholarships, protecting our environment, and being patrons of the arts.

These are great memories I will carry with me as inspiration all summer long.  Winter friends, I will see you in October, and please know a dynamic group of “full timers” will be working hard while you are away.  And don’t forget, you can always just call, Skype, Facetime or email me at [email protected].

 

The Southwest Florida Community Foundation, founded in 1976, cultivates regional change for the common good through collective leadership, social innovation and philanthropy to address the evolving community needs in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Foundation partners with individuals, families and corporations who have created over 400 philanthropic funds.  Thanks to them, last year the Foundation invested $5 million in grants and programs to the community.  With assets of $93 million, the Community Foundation has provided more than $67 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves since inception. The Foundation is the backbone organization for the regional FutureMakers Coalition and Lee County’s Sustainability Plan.  Based in Fort Myers, the Foundation has satellite offices located in Sanibel Island, LaBelle (Hendry County), and downtown Fort Myers.  For more information, visit www.FloridaCommunity.com or call 239-274-5900.

 

 

 

 

Growing Up Together

Growing Up Together

Florida Weekly and I hit Southwest Florida right about the same time.  I was a little bit ahead of them on the calendar but when they showed up on the scene I gobbled up every page of the weekly paper.   It was a fantastic way to learn more about the community and issues impacting Southwest Florida, not to mention checking out all the photos in the social scene sections.  I felt as if I knew people before actually meeting them in person.

Several years later I was leading a small grass roots non-profit and Florida Weekly was always willing to print stories about our work, ads for our events and photos from our fundraisers.  They not only did it for the organization I worked for but hundreds of others in our community.

They were there for us.

Never did I imagine that a few years later I would have the opportunity to share thoughts and stories on the pages that were my lifeline in my first few years in Fort Myers.  When I joined the Southwest Florida Community Foundation team and learned that Florida Weekly donated a weekly column space to the giving spirit in Southwest Florida, I was amazed.  Evidently the column had been in the very earliest issues of the fledgling Fort Myers paper.

This gift of space allows the Foundation and many of its non-profit partners to share innovative programs, stories of local philanthropists, the first published articles by interns embedded in local non-profits, musings by our senior staff members and trustees, and yes, sometimes private moments that my family still wishes I would keep to myself- all in the name of promoting generosity in our region.

500 words a week, for 10 years on charitable giving, philanthropy and community need is an incredible curation of generosity and inspiration.  The remarkable thing is the publishers of Florida Weekly do the same thing for health and wellness, business, animal lovers, and more.

They are here for us.

As if one 10-year birthday wasn’t exciting enough, I also had the opportunity to celebrate this past week with our Women’s Legacy Fund, a fund of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation.  The contributors to this fund have supported women and girls in our region through nearly $140,000 in grants in areas such as domestic violence, STEM mentoring programs, neighborhood resources, employment skills and literacy.  With an endowment of nearly $660,000, these women are planning for the women and girls of the future as well.  Most recently Impact Dunbar joined the WLF family to focus specifically on women and girls in the Dunbar community.

They are there for women and girls in Southwest Florida.

Being around for 10 years is a remarkable accomplishment, but using those years to make a difference in our community is a real reason to celebrate.

Happy Birthday Florida Weekly and Women’s Legacy Fund, it’s been great watching you grow.

 

The Southwest Florida Community Foundation, founded in 1976, cultivates regional change for the common good through collective leadership, social innovation and philanthropy to address the evolving community needs in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Foundation partners with individuals, families and corporations who have created over 400 philanthropic funds.  Thanks to them, last year the Foundation invested $5 million in grants and programs to the community.  With assets of $93 million, the Community Foundation has provided more than $67 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves since inception. The Foundation is the backbone organization for the regional FutureMakers Coalition and Lee County’s Sustainability Plan.  Based in Fort Myers, the Foundation has satellite offices located in Sanibel Island, LaBelle (Hendry County), and downtown Fort Myers.  For more information, visit www.FloridaCommunity.com or call 239-274-5900.

 

 

 

 

CAUSE & EFFECT: Are We There Yet?

CAUSE & EFFECT: Are We There Yet?

Today, for the first time, my youngest child will pull his car out of the garage and drive himself to school – without me in the car.

 

You would think I would be used to this nerve wracking rite of passage by the third offspring.  I did all the right things to try and prepare him but I am not ready.

 

He indulged me over the last few weeks with reminiscing about our decade and a half in the car together.   As a child he was a car seat escape artist, back of the seat kicker and had some special maneuver that would cause my seat belt to tighten fiercely at my neck.  There was also a constant refrain of “are we there yet?” from my back seat passenger.

 

No matter what I had done to prep him for where we were going, what to expect and how long it would take to get there, about 5 minutes into the trip he would launch into the cry of anticipation of arrival. As you can imagine he didn’t ask just once.

 

No matter our age, I think when we are certain of our destination we are anxious to get there.

 

As adults we spend time navigating our endpoints. With the help of GPS technology and navigation systems we can pinpoint our exact moment of arrival.   But some journeys in life and work are easier to reach than others, which can make estimating “getting there” a bit tougher.

 

At the Southwest Florida Community Foundation our journey and mission is cultivating sustainable regional change for the common good.  We want to help donors and community advocates identify what creates a positive quality of life in Southwest Florida and then design a map that we can follow to get there together.

 

When it comes to serving our community I don’t think we can ever stop asking if we are there yet.  We should never stop considering if we have done all we can for transportation, water quality, education, health, poverty elimination and economic development.

 

A few weeks ago someone ask me “are we there yet?’ in creating a sustainable region.  My answer would have never satisfied my young son in the back seat, but quality of life is never a destination that is permanently reached.   We will always be driving toward it, and protecting and stewarding what it takes to create a vibrant region.  We can never stop getting there.

 

But it is important that we create the roadmap, benchmarks and measurements to ensure we are making progress.  At the foundation we like to say, “If we can’t measure it, we can’t move it.”

 

We apply this to everything we do because we want to continue to do and support the things that create progress and let things go that don’t move us in the right direction.  It’s like GPS for change.

 

Every year we support amazing non-profit organizations who are actively trying to “get our region there” through their work in economic, social and environmental causes.

 

Last year 18 local nonprofits (see the full list on our website) were awarded over a half a million dollars to fund new and existing programs to increase the quality of life in our communities.  But they didn’t just take a check and stop there.  The leaders met with us as a Tribe for a year to work together to track both their individual and collective progress.  Always asking “are we there yet?”

 

Some of their results include:

  • Of the funded reporting nonprofits, nearly 90 percent of the tribe programs demonstrated progress toward the changes desired in the region because of their program (the programs are getting us there and their data confirms it)
  • The increase in the amount of collaboration between Foundation-funded nonprofits is 650 percent resulting in 13 collaborative projects between the nonprofit grantees. Examples of these collaborations include Gulf Coast Symphony and the Heights Center’s MusicWorks! program for the after-school children along with Family Initiative and the Alliance for the Arts’ Art for Autism program. (they are finding ways to work together)
  • Foundation-funded nonprofits saw an increase from 22.5 to 28.9 percent in knowledge and ability in evaluation skills such as data collection, analysis and reporting. (they can measure their progress and report that back to you)

Check out a great video at the link below to learn more about the results of the work of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation Tribes  at  http://floridacommunity.com/tribes/

 

 

The Southwest Florida Community Foundation, founded in 1976, cultivates regional change for the common good through collective leadership, social innovation and philanthropy to address the evolving community needs in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Foundation partners with individuals, families and corporations who have created over 400 philanthropic funds.  Thanks to them, last year the Foundation invested $5 million in grants and programs to the community.  With assets of $93 million, the Community Foundation has provided more than $67 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves since inception. The Foundation is the backbone organization for the regional FutureMakers Coalition and Lee County’s Sustainability Plan.  Based in Fort Myers, the Foundation has satellite offices located in Sanibel Island, LaBelle (Hendry County), and downtown Fort Myers.  For more information, visit www.FloridaCommunity.com or call 239-274-5900.

Memories

Memories

My friend had tears in her eyes as she shared her visit with a woman she hadn’t seen in years at an assisted living complex in town.

The facility was comfortable and well-appointed and the woman had excellent around-the-clock care but it was an emotional experience because she was not as my friend remembered her.

When she arrived for her visit she found the woman sitting alone in her small quiet room.  She greeted her warmly and they fell right into catching up.   My friend had invited a couple of other people to join her who had known the woman years ago as well and they all spent some quality time together.

As she shared the story of the visit with me I realized that the woman was the mother of the family who owned the house where many of my friend’s best teenage memories took place.

I bet most of us have one of those houses in our memory banks as well.  The house where everyone seemed to gravitate after school, building homecoming floats or hanging out before and after football games.  The house that always had cars in the driveway and if you didn’t have anything to do, you knew that there was a good chance you could find something happening or at least someone to talk to at this common gathering place.

You never went there to hang out with the parents but you did know them and they seemed to just be part of the house and the experience.  They were Mr. and Mrs. So-and-so.  In some cases, they could be a listening ear and offer advice that you would never probably accept from your own mom or dad, or maybe the people that kept everyone in line.  These houses and the families that occupied them are imprinted on our adolescent memories.

I don’t know about you, but it never occurred to me that even though I was aging they were too.   My Mr. and Mrs. So-and-so are always exactly as I left them, and in my mind the house is the same and everyone still gathers there.

So I imagine the frail woman sitting alone in the wheelchair who struggled a bit with her speech was not the person from the hustle and bustle of her high school memories.

As she shared the story with me she recounted her Mrs. So-and-so  as tinier than she remembered but with the same beautiful face and flawless skin.  I am sure Mrs. So-and-so remembered her guests as their former high school selves as well.  That’s how memories work.

When the visitors reflected on the time with her they decided they should continue to go back and make new memories and it made them aware of others that might need a visit as well.

Her story reminded me of the time I spent delivering Meals On Wheels to the frail elderly in Lee County.  I remember meeting so many wonderful people, who were living alone and unable to drive.  Many had lost contact with friends because they were unable to leave their homes to socialize and stay connected.  I am betting that many of them were Mr. and Mrs. So-and so’s as well.

There are some great nonprofit organizations in our community that are dedicated to reaching out to those who are aging and may not have the ability to stay connected.  They are always looking for caring individuals to volunteer help overcome the isolation that many feel.  You may not live in the community you grew up in, but there are some Mr. and Mrs. Somebody’s that would love to start some new memories with you.

If you would like to learn more about the organizations that help keep people connected as they age, or if you are involved in this work I would love to hear from you at [email protected].

 

The Southwest Florida Community Foundation, founded in 1976, cultivates regional change for the common good through collective leadership, social innovation and philanthropy to address the evolving community needs in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Foundation partners with individuals, families and corporations who have created over 400 philanthropic funds.  Thanks to them, last year the Foundation invested $5 million in grants and programs to the community.  With assets of $93 million, the Community Foundation has provided more than $67 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves since inception. The Foundation is the backbone organization for the regional FutureMakers Coalition and Lee County’s Sustainability Plan.  Based in Fort Myers, the Foundation has satellite offices located in Sanibel Island, LaBelle (Hendry County), and downtown Fort Myers.  For more information, visit www.FloridaCommunity.com or call 239-274-5900.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stay Curious My Friends

Stay Curious My Friends

Are you a student of wonder?

One of the 5 values that guides our team’s work at the Southwest Florida Community Foundation is encouraging curiosity and exploration to promote learning and development from the inside out.

One of the risks of value statements is they are created, written down but not actively lived out in the culture of the organization.

At the Foundation, we understand that as we pursue cultivating regional change for the common good, our mission, we must be relentless students of wonder.  We must strive to be curious.

A big part of our work is our connection to others.  Donors, non-profits, community advocates, and our neighbors.  We can’t wait for partners to seek us out, instead we must be actively curious about the work, challenges and opportunities in our region.

Curiosity leads to exploration, conversations and in some cases solutions.

Our team must commit to listen well, ask questions and respond when it is helpful.  I hope you have seen us out and about involved in the community through our work with grantees, donors, civic leaders or engaged in conversations, events, meetings or gatherings.

Once a quarter we host “Caffeinated Conversations” in which nonprofits come to our Community Hub and share their work with our team.  Just a couple of weeks ago, a group of 6 leaders of nonprofits were at the table and 3 were new organizations that we learned about for the first time.

Later that same week I found myself in several conversations with donors and colleagues and shared what I had heard, which in turn sparked their interest.  That’s one of the great things about curiosity, it’s contagious when cultivated.

I would love to hear what you are curious about in our region.  I might not have the answers but our team is willing to find out.  Your input will guide some exploration expeditions across the region next year and we will invite you to come along! You can contact me at [email protected]

Let’s stay curious together.

 

The Southwest Florida Community Foundation, founded in 1976, cultivates regional change for the common good through collective leadership, social innovation and philanthropy to address the evolving community needs in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Foundation partners with individuals, families and corporations who have created over 400 philanthropic funds.  Thanks to them, last year the Foundation invested $5 million in grants and programs to the community.  With assets of $93 million, the Community Foundation has provided more than $67 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves since inception. The Foundation is the backbone organization for the regional FutureMakers Coalition and Lee County’s Sustainability Plan.  Based in Fort Myers, the Foundation has satellite offices located in Sanibel Island, LaBelle (Hendry County), and downtown Fort Myers.  For more information, visit www.FloridaCommunity.com or call 239-274-5900.

 

Who Will Cross the Bridges?

Who Will Cross the Bridges?

Recently there has been quite a bit of talk about bridge building in our nation and in our communities. Not the literal infrastructure kind of construction but rather symbolic scaffolding to connect people and ideas.

Whenever and wherever there are choppy waters of change, someone suggests building a proverbial bridge.

Just last week during a presentation on inspiring more registered women to vote in the 2020 election, the speaker fielded a number of questions on women’s issues that can cause divisiveness. She urged and encouraged the audience to find common ground and coalitions that encourage bridge building and collective thinking to reach a common goal of getting women to the polls to express their own unique views.

Her comments on bridge building grew applause and affirmative head shaking all around the room and it reminded me of how many times I had heard the term in conversation over the past several months.

At the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, we find ourselves in settings that require connecting diverse views on a regular basis. When you are working alongside passionate advocates and donors you are bound to hear a wide range of views on topics like education, health care, civic engagement, economic development, animals, poverty and arts.

We have found the best opportunities and innovations come out of conversations with a wide range of world views, but that does take some bridge building.

There are organizations, trailblazers, philanthropists, and leaders in our community who are willing to step up to build bridges across regional boundaries, cause areas and social, economic and cultural barriers.

Sometimes the bridge building is a lonely task while other times it gains a great deal of energy and support. Either way the bridge is built; coalitions are established; organizations are formed; and unifying conversations are started.

I see a lot of bridges all over our region. But what I am eager to see next is people willing to walk over them.

We can build goodwill and a framework to navigate some of our most difficult topics but if we as individuals we are not willing to take a step across the infrastructure that has been built nothing can really change.

Take a few minutes to look around and find a bridge that deserves your time and attention and start the journey. And if you want some guidance, reach out to me at [email protected]

Pause and Reflect to Imagine New Paths

Pause and Reflect to Imagine New Paths

I think one of the greatest technological advancements in my lifetime is the pause feature on machines of all sorts and electronic devices.

Whether it is the ability to throw one or two more items into a wash load or dishwasher at the last minute or my all-time favorite of stopping a television show or sporting event mid action and then coming back to it (sometimes in a totally different room) when I am ready- the thrill has never worn off.

Growing up the closest thing that came to the pause feature was a game of freeze tag in the back yard, but now nearly everything can be stopped and restarted.  We are used to a fast-paced life that requires an occasional break in the action, mainly to multi-task and then come back to our original focus.  Pausing devices allows us to do more, faster.

When it comes to this non-human pausing everything stops frozen in time.  And as cool as I find this feature I have recently discovered human pausing is where the real magic lies.  This type of pause slows us down and allows us to reflect.

Recently I came across a quote from Dov Seidman, CEO of LRN, which advises global businesses on ethics and leadership.  In Thomas L. Friedman’s new book Thank You for Being Late, Seidman shares, “When you press a pause button on a machine it stops, but when you press the pause button on human beings they start.  You start to reflect, you start to rethink your assumptions, you start to reimagine what is possible, and most importantly you start to reconnect with your most deeply held beliefs.  Once you have done that, you can begin to imagine a better path.”

But he doesn’t leave it there, he stresses “what matters most is what you do in the pause.”

This concept is the basis of Friedman’s book and he shares a compelling story of taking a pause to connect with a parking attendant, when all he really wanted to do was get on with his day.  That pause launched a relationship that was beneficial to both and without the pause he would have missed meeting an Ethiopian blogger who was trying to change the world.  This encounter led him to bigger questions that shaped his book.

When we work with individual and corporate donors on their charitable and philanthropic strategies we urge them to pause and reflect.  Many of them have been giving to the same organizations and causes for many years but have not stopped to consider how they can best impact their favorite nonprofits.

Recently we heard from a donor who was attending a community event and paused to speak with a couple they had never met who had recently started a nonprofit organization.

The donor reached out to us to contribute to the organization from the donor’s fund at the foundation the next week.  He said he would have never learned of the nonprofit’s work if he hadn’t made the point to meet the couple and start up an unexpected conversation.

Some of the best ideas come when end-users, donors and nonprofit leaders come together to pause and reflect on what the next best step is for their partnership.

Taking the time to step away, or slow down can seem counter intuitive in today’s fast paced world, but making the most of a pause can send us on a better path.

If you are looking for a pause moment to consider your values and interests in charitable giving, I would love to hear from you and help you make the most of a pause.  Reach out at [email protected]

 

The Southwest Florida Community Foundation, founded in 1976, cultivates regional change for the common good through collective leadership, social innovation and philanthropy to address the evolving community needs in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Foundation partners with individuals, families and corporations who have created over 400 philanthropic funds.  Thanks to them, last year the Foundation invested $5 million in grants and programs to the community.  With assets of $93 million, the Community Foundation has provided more than $67 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves since inception. The Foundation is the backbone organization for the regional FutureMakers Coalition and Lee County’s Sustainability Plan.  Based in Fort Myers, the Foundation has satellite offices located in Sanibel Island, LaBelle (Hendry County), and downtown Fort Myers.  For more information, visit www.FloridaCommunity.com or call 239-274-5900.

 

 

CAUSE & EFFECT: Pushing the Tube Up the Mountain Together

CAUSE & EFFECT: Pushing the Tube Up the Mountain Together

If people watching were an official sport, I am fairly certain I could be a contender for the Olympic team or championship game.

Wherever I go I look for opportunities to observe people and their behaviors.  I often say I am listening, but many times I am watching to see what I can learn about others.

Most recently my people watching training took me out of state to a land full of mountains and snow.

One of my favorite people watching moments in these wintery conditions is taking in a couple hours of snow-tubing.  This entails tubers of all ages pushing an inflated rubber tube up a snowy hill to the top and then riding it full speed to the bottom.

Pushing the tube up the mountain is nothing short of a monumental task. Your feet slip, it’s cold, and a tube big enough to ride is just awkward to maneuver.

Kids are the best to watch because the tube is about twice their size, but they are relentless in getting that chariot up the slope because they know the joy of the exhilarating ride to the bottom.

In an afternoon of tubing, the riders will repeat this ritual over and over. But I have noticed some people are more willing to push the tube up the hill than others.

It seems to be some sort of return on investment proposition based on the satisfaction of the ride down.  In my casual observations tenacity is increased when others are there to help or share in the journey.  Groups tubing together will help fellow travelers when the tube gets too cumbersome, and in some cases they will work together to get one tube up the hill and then ride down together.

In every case, the journey is never easy.

A few weeks ago when I was feeling a bit discouraged about a tough journey of my own and was worried about keeping our Southwest Florida Community Foundation team engaged and energized a colleague shared a story she sometimes conveys to her team.

This woman is a trailblazer who I admire and she has successfully launched several community projects that many thought impossible, so I knew she had some sage advice.

Interestingly it also involved a snow laden scenario.  Not of pushing a tube up a hill, but instead a snowball.  She says she often thinks of her projects and community movements as snowballs that are being pushed up a mountain.  At the beginning many people will gather around to help push but when things get tough some fall away.  She keeps her team and volunteers motivated by painting the picture of what will happen once they reach the top of the mountain.

Whatever size snowball they have could roll to the summit; the minute they push it over the other side of the mountain it will gain momentum.  It will pick up speed, size and people who want to be involved.   But none of that happens without finding a way to get to the top with the people who are willing to go with you.

Over the last few months I have read, watched and been inspired by the profiles of the News Press People of the Year nominees and recipients.  These are fellow residents who have accomplished amazing things over the past year.  As my friend shared her story I realized that everyone featured had pushed their own proverbial snowballs up some pretty steep mountains.

Overcoming health issues, human trafficking, business challenges, being under the microscope of the public eye, or finding their way as a next generation leader.  Each story has both its snowball up the mountain and down the mountain moment (You can still find the stories by clicking here).

At the Southwest Florida Community Foundation we also have the great honor and privilege of supporting nonprofit organizations of all sizes and missions in our region.  I see these teams working hard to tackle issues facing the environment, poverty, education, animals, the arts, health and safety, and community development.  They work hard but they need the support of our region.   Just like the tubers who ride in groups, the journey up hill is always better when taken together.

So what snowball or tube are you trying to push up the hill?  Or who could you help up the mountain?  Whichever it is, remember the ride down is worth it and as a semi-pro people (and their causes) watcher, I can’t wait to see what happens next.

The Southwest Florida Community Foundation, founded in 1976, cultivates regional change for the common good through collective leadership, social innovation and philanthropy to address the evolving community needs in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Foundation partners with individuals, families and corporations who have created over 400 philanthropic funds.  Thanks to them, last year the Foundation invested $5 million in grants and programs to the community.  With assets of $93 million, the Community Foundation has provided more than $67 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves since inception. The Foundation is the backbone organization for the regional FutureMakers Coalition and Lee County’s Sustainability Plan.  Based in Fort Myers, the Foundation has satellite offices located in Sanibel Island, LaBelle (Hendry County), and downtown Fort Myers.  For more information, visit www.FloridaCommunity.com or call 239-274-5900.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Community Love Notes

Community Love Notes

Last week I was driving down College Parkway in Fort Myers and noticed a car stalled out in a turn lane.  A moment later people were racing across the road from a nearby convenience store, pulling over their cars and jumping out to help the young driver push the car to a gas station parking lot.  There were so many people helping I think they could have picked the car up and carried it away.

Others were friendly honking and cheering them on, and I smiled and proclaimed out loud to no one, “I love this place.”  It is encouraging and inspiring to see people come together to help their fellow man.

I was feeling particularly positive since this chance siting happened to fall on Valentine’s Day and I had spent the morning meeting with our team at the Southwest Florida Community Foundation.

Valentine’s Day is the perfect holiday to consider and celebrate philanthropy.  At its core philanthropy means ‘love of humanity.’  Our team was reflecting on the work we see so many of our donors and nonprofits advancing in our region.  Acts of generosity and compassion that are fueled by love.

Our team also recognizes that there are challenges and opportunities facing our region that philanthropy has the potential to impact. But in the spirit of community and Valentine’s Day I asked them to consider and share what they loved about Southwest Florida, their work in the region and the generosity they see in others.

Throughout the day they took a few minutes and captured their thoughts on a white board as a love note to the community and I wanted to share some of them with you.

  • I love the environment
  • I love helping people
  • I love our new LGBT fund and the founding donors
  • I love the hearts and passion of our nonprofit leaders and their teams
  • I love the beaches
  • I love the FutureMakers Coalition
  • I love our donors and fundholders
  • I love that we receive gifts from all over the world (first gift from Germany!)
  • I love the plan for our new Technology Hub in downtown Fort Myers
  • I love the sunshine
  • I love our Women’s Legacy Fund Prima Donors and contributors
  • I love SWFL’s diversity
  • I love impacting lives
  • I love our (volunteer) board of trustees
  • I love our amazing team

That’s some of our list and we have decided to keep it up for a while.  It would be wonderful to add your words to our board and our love note. What do you love about Southwest Florida?   Reach out to me at [email protected], or post it on our Facebook page @SWFLCF or our Twitter page @SWFLCFnd.

 

The Southwest Florida Community Foundation, founded in 1976, cultivates regional change for the common good through collective leadership, social innovation and philanthropy to address the evolving community needs in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Foundation partners with individuals, families and corporations who have created over 400 philanthropic funds.  Thanks to them, last year the Foundation invested $5 million in grants and programs to the community.  With assets of $93 million, the Community Foundation has provided more than $67 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves since inception. The Foundation is the backbone organization for the regional FutureMakers Coalition and Lee County’s Sustainability Plan.  Based in Fort Myers, the Foundation has satellite offices located in Sanibel Island, LaBelle (Hendry County), and downtown Fort Myers.  For more information, visit www.FloridaCommunity.com or call 239-274-5900.