News Releases

Community Foundation’s Women’s Legacy Fund to hold spring luncheon for contributors

Community Foundation’s Women’s Legacy Fund to hold spring luncheon for contributors

The Women’s Legacy Fund will host its spring luncheon on Friday, April 7 at 11 a.m. at Gulf Harbour Yacht & Country Club located at 14500 Vista River Drive in Fort Myers. Celebrating its 10th anniversary, the luncheon is complimentary and exclusively for WLF contributors and Prima Donors.

A fund of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, the Women’s Legacy Fund is a group of women who foster the immersion of women in philanthropy and develop the region’s next philanthropic leaders.

The luncheon will include facilitated discussions around the three grant focus areas selected by the WLF grants committee including STEM programs/vocational training for women and girls, micro-lending programs for women and business/market support for women.

In its first 10 years, the WLF has been able to provide $142,000 in grants to benefit people and communities in Southwest Florida. Currently, the Fund has $638,000 in endowment that will continue to help fund local issues now and in the future.

In 2016, the WLF presented a grant check of $20,000 to Florida Gulf Coast University’s Whitaker Center for STEM education. The Girls in Engineering, Math and Science (GEMS) program used the funding to mentor and inspire female FGCU students and middle school girls in Southwest Florida to pursue STEM careers by providing hands-on, inquiry-driven STEM activities via expertise at Whitaker Center for STEM education at FGCU.

In 2015, the WLF granted $22,675.92 to the Happehatchee Center. The grant was used for Happehatchee Center’s Working to Improve with Self Employment (WISE) Women program which focuses on the San Carlos Park neighborhood of South Fort Myers and the Covered Wagon Trailer Park in Estero.

Contributors to the WLF give a minimum of $250 each year ($100 for women younger than 25). The first half of contributions is pooled for the purpose of immediate annual grants, while the second half is pooled into the WLF’s endowment fund which provides additional grants to be made both now and in years to come. Prima Donors are local women who have contributed $10,000 or more to the WLF endowment and are committed to making an impact in their community through charitable giving.

Luncheon reservations are required by March 28 by calling Sydney Roberts at 239-274-5900 or emailing [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. Last year, it partnered with individuals, families and corporations that have created more than 400 philanthropic funds over the last 40 years. Thanks to them, the Foundation’s invested $5 million in grants and programs to the community. With assets of more than $93 million, it has provided more than $67 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves since inception. The Community Foundation is the backbone organization for the regional FutureMakers Coalition and Lee County’s Sustainability Plan. Based in Fort Myers, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation has satellite offices located on Sanibel Island, in LaBelle (Hendry County) and downtown Fort Myers.

For more information about the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, call 239-274-5900 or visit www.floridacommunity.com.

Southwest Florida Community Foundation to showcase new art exhibit

Southwest Florida Community Foundation to showcase new art exhibit

New exhibit features paintings inspired by artist Judi Ekholm’s national park visits

The Southwest Florida Community Foundation will launch a new art display at its Community Hub in April.

Beginning April 6, “Fresh Aire” will feature an adventure in color through the paintings inspired by artist Judi Ekholm’s road journey through 11 national parks and 21 states.

Ekholm focuses on different vantage points, and her technique is similar the Old Masters with many layers of fine paint and glazing. Her images of landscapes and gardens are both romantic and bold. She creates all sizes and scales of paintings, and each one makes its own original and unique statement. Her impressionistic paintings can be found in more than 700 international collections.

The artist is originally from near Louisville, Ky. She received a Master of Art in Teaching at the Indiana University and has studied with Bill Bailey and James McGarrell. She is a master gardener, and her oil paintings exhibit her knowledge and love of the land.

Ekholm is donating 30% of sales to the Fund for the Arts of Southwest Florida, a fund of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation.

The exhibit is open to the public and will run through May during regular Community Foundation business hours: Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Some paintings are located in meeting rooms, so those interested in seeing the exhibit are asked to call before arriving to make sure all areas are accessible. The Community Hub at the Foundation is located at 8771 College Parkway, Building 2, Suite 201 in Fort Myers.

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. Last year, it partnered with individuals, families and corporations that have created more than 400 philanthropic funds during the past 40 years. Thanks to them, the Foundation’s invested $5 million in grants and programs to the community. With assets of more than $93 million, it has provided more than $67 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves since inception. The Community Foundation is the backbone organization for the regional FutureMakers Coalition and Lee County’s Sustainability Plan. Based in Fort Myers, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation has satellite offices located on Sanibel Island, in LaBelle (Hendry County) and downtown Fort Myers.

For more information about the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, call 239-274-5900 or visit www.floridacommunity.com.

Pine Island Sound by Judi Ekholm
Pine Island Sound by Judi Ekholm
Aglow by Judi Ekholm
Aglow by Judi Ekholm
Midnight Madness by Judi Ekholm
Midnight Madness by Judi Ekholm

Southwest Florida Community Foundation grantees’ reports 2016 results

The 18 local nonprofits granted $551,500 in 2016 from the Southwest Florida Community Foundation’s available Field of Interest funds as well as individual and corporate donations, have reported their annual outcomes.

The established and new programs funded by last year’s grants were designed to increase the quality of life in sustainable and equitable ways for Southwest Floridians.

The nonprofits included Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders Association – Florida Gulf Coast Chapter, Champions for Learning, Charlotte County Homeless Coalition Inc., the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife, Inc. (CROW), Family Initiative Incorporated, Glades County Board of County Commissioners, Goodwill Industries of Southwest Florida, Inc., Gulf Coast Symphony, Gulfshore Opera, Hendry County Library System, I Will Mentorship Foundation, Lee County Alliance for the Arts, Naples Botanical Garden, New Mission Systems International, RCMA, The Heights Center, The Immokalee Foundation and Gulf Coast Humane Society.

Of the funded reporting nonprofits, nearly 90 percent of the tribe programs demonstrated progress toward the changes nonprofits desired in the region because of their program.

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.

In Lee County, Gulf Coast Symphony’s free Music Works! program at the Heights Center provides an innovative education and social initiative that creates opportunities for personal development in children (grades K-2) through the study of music.

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.

“Awarding the funding was just the beginning of our partnership with the regional mix of nonprofits,” said Sarah Owen, president and CEO of the Community Foundation. “Staying connected with them all year through their ‘tribes’ provided a learning community where they shared information and built their capacity to strengthen them and their leadership.”

Learn more about the results of the work of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation Tribes through the video featuring the Tribes at work 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. Last year, it partnered with individuals, families and corporations that have created more than 400 philanthropic funds over the last 40 years. Thanks to them, the Foundation’s invested $5 million in grants and programs to the community. With assets of more than $93 million, it has provided more than $67 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves since inception. The Community Foundation is the backbone organization for the regional FutureMakers Coalition and Lee County’s Sustainability Plan. Based in Fort Myers, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation has satellite offices located on Sanibel Island, in LaBelle (Hendry County) and downtown Fort Myers.

For more information about the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, call 239-274-5900 or visit www.floridacommunity.com.

Less than two weeks to apply for Community Foundation scholarships

Less than two weeks to apply for Community Foundation scholarships

FAFSA form required for need-based scholarships

The deadline for the Southwest Florida Community Foundation’s scholarship application process is fast approaching with less than two weeks left to apply.

Closing on March 3, the scholarship application process is available through the Foundation’s online portal at www.floridacommunity.com/scholarships. Students may apply for multiple scholarships and upload transcripts, SAT/ACT scores, letters of recommendation and the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) report, as well as access an online tutorial about how to create and submit the online application.

Approximately $500,000 in scholarship money for the 2017-2018 school year is available through more than 50 scholarships for local high school students, undergraduate and graduate students from Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry and Lee counties.

Need-based scholarships require the FAFSA form, which is available at www.fafsa.gov. Educators, mentors, parents and students can find resources to complete the FAFSA form through the local FAFSA first website recently launched by the FutureMakers Coalition at http://fafsafirst.org/. The goal of the FutureMakers Coalition is to transform the workforce by increasing the number of Southwest Florida residents with degrees, certificates and other high-quality credentials by the year 2025.

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. It partners with individuals, families and corporations who have created more than 400 philanthropic funds. Thanks to them, the Community Foundation has invested $5 million in grants and programs to the community. With assets of $93 million, it has provided more than $67 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves since inception. It is the backbone organization for the regional FutureMakers Coalition and Lee County’s Sustainability Plan. Based in Fort Myers, the Community 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.

Southwest Florida Community Foundation grants more than $550,000 to local nonprofits

Southwest Florida Community Foundation grants more than $550,000 to local nonprofits

The Southwest Florida Community Foundation has awarded $557,036.00 to both established and new programs that are designed to increase the quality of life in sustainable and equitable ways for Southwest Floridians.

Eighteen local nonprofits were granted money from the community foundation’s available Field of Interest funds, as well as individual and corporate donations resulting from foundation’s Compassionate Shark Tank audience.

The nonprofits include: Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders Association – Florida Gulf Coast Chapter, Audubon of the Western Everglades, CROW – Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife, Inc., Family Initiative Incorporated, Glades Education Foundation, Inc., Goodwill Industries of Southwest Florida, Inc., Gulf Coast Symphony, Gulfshore Opera, Hendry County School District, Human Trafficking Awareness Partnerships, I Will Mentorship Foundation, JFCS of Southwest Florida, Lee County Alliance for the Arts, New Mission Systems International, Sanibel Sea School, the School District of Lee County and The Heights Center.

Some examples of the regional funding include Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders Association – Florida Gulf Coast Chapter’s REACHing Southwest Florida (Resources for Enhancing Alzheimer’s Caregiver Health). This program provides training for caregivers of people with Alzheimers to reduce burden and depression, improve ability to provide self-care, provide social support, and help caregivers learn how to manage difficult behaviors in care recipients.

The Hendry School District’s Clewiston Industrial Mechanics Program will focus on providing training and a link to employment in the area of industrial and farm mechanics. A huge demand for this high skill high wage trade exists within the community. Providing this training will help bridge an unemployment gap as well as provide a qualified workforce locally trained.

The Heights Center’s Teach.Learn.Connect (T.L.C.) program will allow parents to receive training for three hours each week on such topics as: forming positive relationships, building self-esteem, positive discipline, conflict resolution, communication, the power of encouragement, fostering responsibility and resiliency, routines and structure, interactive literacy, math and more. Training will be presented by certified professionals and will incorporate time for parents and children to work together as new skills are practiced.

The first award from the new Fund for the Environment of Southwest Florida was granted to Audubon of Western Everglades’ Protection of Vital Wetlands and Habitats in Southwest Florida which works to preserve as much Southwest Florida wetland acreage via “smart growth” where it does the least environmental damage while still providing benefit to the local economy.  Building in environmentally sensitive areas jeopardizes not only the broad natural vistas many of us enjoy but also wetlands, which are critical for clean drinking water supplies as well as for the health of creeks, rivers, estuaries, beaches and wildlife habitat.

“Awarding this funding is just the start of our partnership with this regional mix of nonprofits,” said Sarah Owen, president and CEO of the Foundation.  “We will stay connected with them all year in a learning community where we share information and build our partnerships with the nonprofit and its leadership.”

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. Last year, it partnered with individuals, families and corporations that have created more than 400 philanthropic funds over the last 40 years. Thanks to them, the Foundation’s invested $5 million in grants and programs to the community. With assets of more than $93 million, it has provided more than $67 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves since inception. The Community Foundation is the backbone organization for the regional FutureMakers Coalition and Lee County’s Sustainability Plan. Based in Fort Myers, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation has satellite offices located on Sanibel Island, in LaBelle (Hendry County) and downtown Fort Myers. 

 

For more information about the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, call 239-274-5900 or visit www.floridacommunity.com.

Southwest Florida Community Foundation hosts Prima Donors and Impact Dunbar

Southwest Florida Community Foundation hosts Prima Donors and Impact Dunbar

The Southwest Florida Community Foundation recently hosted more than a dozen of its Women’s Legacy Fund’s Prima Donors for dinner and conversation on Impact Dunbar, a new fund established by women of Dunbar.

Prima Donors are local women who have contributed $10,000 or more to the Women’s Legacy Fund endowment and are committed to making an impact in their community through charitable giving.

Conversation leaders were Impact Dunbar Founders Karen Watson, a prima donor, and TaSheekia Perry. Similar to the Women’s Legacy Fund, this new fund will include a group of women who foster the immersion of women in philanthropy and develop Dunbar’s next philanthropic leaders. The fund was established in 2016 to empower young women and girls in the Dunbar Community.

The WLF Prima Donors are now made up of 44 women from across the region. The WLF also offers a contributor-giving level at $250 a year. The WLF was established in 2007 by the Community Foundation to enable women in Southwest Florida to direct their giving in focused, strategic ways. The Fund’s mission is to engage women in affecting change in our community through collective philanthropy.

In nine years of existence, the WLF has been able to provide more than $122,000 in grants to benefit people and communities in Southwest Florida. Currently, the Fund has $547,000 in endowment that will continue to help fund local issues now and in the future.

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. Last year, it partnered with individuals, families and corporations that created more than 400 philanthropic funds. Thanks to them, the Foundation’s invested $5 million in grants and programs to the community. With assets of more than $93 million, it has provided more than $67 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves since inception. The Community Foundation is the backbone organization for the regional FutureMakers Coalition and Lee County’s Sustainability Plan.

Based in Fort Myers, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation has satellite offices located on Sanibel Island, in LaBelle (Hendry County) and downtown Fort Myers. For more information, call 239-274-5900 or visit www.floridacommunity.com.

Vicki Pitbladdo and Karen Watson TaSheekia Perry, Rusty Brown TaSheekia Perry, Karen Watson, Vicki Pitbladdo TaSheekia Perry and Carolyn Conant Karen Watson, Carolyn Rogers, TaSheekia Perry and Tessa LeSage group photo at table Gail Markham, Diana Willis, Elaine Hawkins Dawn-Marie Driscoll, Julie Ben-Susan, Elaine Ehmann Connie Lizak, Lynne Birdt, Carolyn Conant Christina Harris Schwinn, Connie Lizak, Lynne Birdt, Dawn-Marie Driscoll Carolyn Conant, Adriana White, Elaine Ehmann

Funds established in memory of Jordan Ashley Gutheim

Funds established in memory of Jordan Ashley Gutheim

The Gutheim family has established the Jordan Ashley Gutheim Foundation Fund and the Jordan Ashley Gutheim Scholarship Fund, funds of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation.

The donor advised fund and scholarship fund were established in memory of Jordan Gutheim, a 20-year-old graduate of Evangelical Christian School and a junior at Florida State University, who was killed in a car accident on May 12, 2016.

According to her family, Jordan was passionate about animal safety, seniors and helping those in need in impoverished countries like Dominican Republic. They plan for the fund to support efforts including no-kill animal shelters, seniors facing dementia, humanitarian mission trips, driver safety and family services. The family also established a 4-year renewable scholarship fund for local students, preferably a graduate of Evangelical Christian School, to attend FSU.  (apply at www.floridacommunity.com/scholarships)

Born in Fort Myers, Jordan was known for her fun and loving spirit, her happiness, sensitivity and interest in going out of her way to help others.

“Jordan took pride in her family and friendships, and valued loyalty and kindness,” said her father Greg. “She loved to travel, exercise, experience new things and make others laugh. We miss her every day, but through this fund, our wonderfully kind and caring daughter will live on and continue to help others.”

The fund is available for anyone who would like to contribute by visiting http://bit.ly/JordanAshleyGutheim or sending a check to the Southwest Florida Community Foundation.

“We are the Community Foundation, and community is what we are all about,” said Sarah Owen, president and CEO of the Foundation. “We want to be here for the members of our community so that we can provide support for philanthropy and building legacy. The Gutheims are an important part of our Foundation family now, and we look forward to walking alongside them in making meaningful and effective grants in Jordan’s memory.”

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. Last year, the Foundation partnered with individuals, families and corporations who have created nearly 400 philanthropic funds. Thanks to them, the Foundation has invested $5 million in grants and programs to the community. With assets of more than $93 million, it has provided more than $67 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves since inception. The Community Foundation is the backbone organization for the regional FutureMakers Coalition and Lee County’s Sustainability Plan.

For more information about the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, call 239-274-5900 or visit www.floridacommunity.com.

 

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Contact: Melinda Isley, APR, m.creativepr, 239-274-7736, cell: 239-565-1630, [email protected]

Florida Repertory Theatre establishes agency endowment fund with the  Southwest Florida Community Foundation 

Florida Repertory Theatre establishes agency endowment fund with the Southwest Florida Community Foundation 

          The Florida Repertory Theatre’s board of directors recently established a nonprofit agency endowment fund with the Southwest Florida Community Foundation.

            Established by nonprofit organizations, Nonprofit Agency Endowment Funds are long-term funds that allow an agency to plan for the future needs of the organization. Because the funds are endowed, agencies like Florida Rep can take advantage of the Community Foundation’s financial management, administrative resources and expertise on planned giving. The fund provides a simple and effective way for charities to build endowment and therefore sustainability. Agencies can opt to receive annual payout based on the balance of the fund as a source of income for operations and programs or roll over the amount to increase future endowment.

 “We look forward to working in partnership with the Southwest Florida Community Foundation and cultivating our donors to not only give for the future but also endow gifts such as cash, appreciated assets and planned gifts,” said Robert Cacioppo, Florida Repertory Theatre’s founder and producing artistic director. “Thanks to our wonderfully supportive community and incredible ensemble of artists, Florida Rep has proudly become the largest nonprofit arts organization in the history of Lee County with $4 million in budget, 51 full-time staff members and 87,000 people served annually. With no debt, it is exciting for people to know that when they donate to the Rep, those donations go directly to new programs. Now, as we prepare for our 20th season, we look even further into the future. We want Florida Rep to be serving our area 20, 30 years from now. In my mind, there are two important ways to assure that: to reach more young people (we now serve 25,000 youth annually.) and build an endowment, a fund that will secure our future for future generations to enjoy the magic of live theatre. Because 20 years from now, that 15 year old in our programs will be our future audience, donor, board member and subscriber.”

Florida Repertory Theatre is committed to providing a first-class regional theatre for Southwest Florida and creating, nurturing and developing an ensemble of theatre professionals who will develop long-term relationships working on a wide variety of plays. Its goal is also to improve the quality of life in our community through all the arts and to making the arts, especially theatre, accessible to all. Florida Rep is celebrating 19 years of award-winning regional theatre as a fully professional theatre company that The Wall Street Journal called “One of America’s Top Repertory Companies.” Performing in the Historic Arcade Theatre, Florida Rep produces a wide variety of comedies, dramas and musicals, and brings many people to the Fort Myers River District annually throughout its October to May season.

“Building a fund for the future enhances a nonprofit’s mainstay and health of the organization, said Sarah Owen, CEO and president of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation. “In our 40 years, we have found donors like to give to an endowment, and we are dedicated to the stewardship of such gifts to help nonprofits like Florida Rep remain effective.” 

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. Last year, it partnered with individuals, families and corporations that created more than 400 philanthropic funds. Thanks to them, the Foundation’s invested $5 million in grants and programs to the community. With assets of more than $93 million, it has provided more than $67 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves since inception. The Community Foundation is the backbone organization for the regional FutureMakers Coalition and Lee County’s Sustainability Plan.

Based in Fort Myers, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation has satellite offices located on Sanibel Island, in LaBelle (Hendry County) and downtown Fort Myers. For more information, call 239-274-5900 or visit www.floridacommunity.com.  

Community Foundation scholarship application process begins in January

Community Foundation scholarship application process begins in January

The Southwest Florida Community Foundation’s scholarship application process for the 2017-2018 school year will begin this month, and need-based scholarships require the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form available at www.fafsa.gov.

Approximately $500,000 in scholarship money is available through more than 50 scholarships for local high school students, undergraduate and graduate students from Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry and Lee counties.

Beginning Jan. 16, students may apply for scholarships through the Foundation’s online portal at www.floridacommunity.com/scholarships. The scholarship application process will close March 3. Students may review the scholarships available online as well as a tutorial about how to create and submit the online application. Students may apply for multiple scholarships and upload transcripts, SAT/ACT scores, letters of recommendation and the FAFSA student aid report.

Educators, mentors, parents and students can find resources to complete the FAFSA form through the local FAFSA first website recently launched by the FutureMakers Coalition at http://fafsafirst.org/. The goal of the FutureMakers Coalition is to transform the workforce by increasing the number of Southwest Florida residents with degrees, certificates and other high-quality credentials by the year 2025.

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. Last year, it partnered with individuals, families and corporations that created more than 400 philanthropic funds. Thanks to them, the Foundation’s invested $5 million in grants and programs to the community. With assets of more than $93 million, it has provided more than $67 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves since inception. The Community Foundation is the backbone organization for the regional FutureMakers Coalition and Lee County’s Sustainability Plan.

Based in Fort Myers, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation has satellite offices located on Sanibel Island, in LaBelle (Hendry County) and downtown Fort Myers. For more information, call 239-274-5900 or visit www.floridacommunity.com.

Southwest Florida Community Foundation announces $10 million New Markets Tax Credit project

Southwest Florida Community Foundation announces $10 million New Markets Tax Credit project

FORT MYERS, Fla. (Jan. 5, 2017) – The Southwest Florida Community Foundation recently closed on a $10 million New Markets Tax Credit deal to be used to restore the historic Atlantic Coast Line railroad station and build a technology hub and headquarters in the Midtown historic neighborhood of Fort Myers.

The New Markets Tax Credit, or NMTC, program encourages economic development in distressed neighborhoods.

As part of the public-private partnership with the City of Fort Myers, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation will sign a long-term lease with the city to move its regional headquarters to the train depot on Jackson Street. The building will be restored, and the Foundation plans to construct a 10,000-square-foot LEED Gold addition to create a campus that includes the Foundation offices and state-of-the-art shared space for the community and tenants.

Florida Community Loan Fund provided the $10 million in the NMTC allocation, and U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation is an investor on the project. Whitney Hancock Bank provided additional financing.

According to Sarah Owen, president and CEO of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, the innovative thinking around community investments that created this opportunity will result in a gathering place for philanthropy and nonprofits in the heart of midtown Fort Myers, featuring vibrant spaces for work, gatherings and special events. In addition, plans include state-of-the-art broadband access.

“We are extremely excited about this project, public/private partnership with the City and the possibilities this brings for the midtown neighborhood,” said Owen. “We like to call this a ‘collaboration accelerator’ that is powered by technology, funding and good ideas to create change in our region. It’s old historic rail meeting new innovative rail.”

The center, along with the Internet network, will be a resource for regional nonprofit organizations, local businesses and schools.

“This is a fantastic project because it gives U.S. Bank the opportunity to support the restoration of an important historical building, spark new economic development in a growing region and partner with a visionary non-profit,” said Jennifer Westerbeck, vice president of U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation, a division of U.S. Bank.

The City’s Midtown redevelopment plan covers the areas south of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard, north of Edison Avenue, east of U.S. 41 and west of Fowler Street. Part of this plan also includes 15 blocks of upgraded utilities and $2.5 million of streetscaping.

The Foundation is supporting the financing by paying closing costs and interest payments for the next seven years. The New Markets Tax Credit provided $3 million of equity-like financing to the $10 million project, which after seven years will be available to be converted to true equity.

The Atlantic Coast Line railway station at 2031 Jackson Street was presented to the city on Feb. 4, 1924, the same year Fort Myers was poised to join the Florida real estate boom of the 1920s. In the face of shrinking revenues, the Seaboard Coast Line (which had merged with ACL) sold its track and discontinued all passenger service into Fort Myers and closed the station in 1971. After sitting empty for a decade, the Southwest Florida Museum of History opened on the site in 1982. In 2015, the museum merged with the Imaginarium Science Center and recently moved to the Imaginarium’s site at Cranford Avenue.

“This project is a win-win for our region because it is a pivotal example of unique strategies and investment coming together for repurposing and revitalization of our historic treasures and neighborhoods,” added Owen. “Upon completion, this once vital Fort Myers’ asset will once again be a central hub for community activity and progress.”

Work on the site is anticipated to begin February 2017, exactly 93 years after the original presentation to the city.

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. Last year, it partnered with individuals, families and corporations that created more than 400 philanthropic funds. Thanks to them, the Foundation’s invested $5 million in grants and programs to the community. With assets of more than $93 million, it has provided more than $67 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves since inception. The Community Foundation is the backbone organization for the regional FutureMakers Coalition and Lee County’s Sustainability Plan.

Based in Fort Myers, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation has satellite offices located on Sanibel Island, in LaBelle (Hendry County) and downtown Fort Myers. For more information, call 239-274-5900 or visit www.floridacommunity.com.