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Scholarship Success

scholarpage1imgIt’s human nature to wonder what former classmates and colleagues, friends and first loves are doing these days. We’re curious if they married so-and-so, fulfilled a childhood dream of becoming a doctor or teacher, and, let’s be honest, have they changed?

Social media lets us fill in the gaps, reconnect and follow their lives.

Recently at the Southwest Florida Community Foundation we’ve begun following the lives and successes of the people impacted by our programs. One of our biggest thrills is seeing scholarship recipients earn post-secondary college degrees and certifications and sharing their success stories with our community.

The foundation administers 88 scholarship-related funds and last year distributed $700,000 in new and multi-year awards to the freshman class of 2016, current college students and adults returning to the classroom. These funds have been established by community patrons who realize post-secondary education is an investment in the community.

“Scholarships have the power to shape someone’s future,” said Sarah Owen, president and CEO of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation. “The beautiful thing about our scholarship programs is that the donors understand the importance of launching a student on a career path. They tell us, ‘I want to help a student pursue their goals and dreams even if I never meet them.’”

The community foundation has awarded $2.75 million in scholarships during just the last five years, providing financial assistance to students like 2016 Dunbar High graduate Nahisha Alabre, just wrapping up her freshman year at Cornell University. Receiving scholarship money was “a blessing upon me and my family,” said Ms. Alabre.

A scholarship is just the beginning of the community foundation’s connection with students. Like proud parents, we walk with them every step of the way, supporting and cheering them on, celebrating college and technical college graduation and the next big step to a career. We’ve seen many scholarship students change their community and the world, becoming engineers, artists, scientists, teachers, advocates and leaders.

Sharing the successes of nine present and former scholarship recipients shows how scholarships have opened a world of opportunity for thousands of Southwest Florida students. These students and young professionals have realized their dreams, including a practicing cardiothoracic surgeon, an Emmy Award-winning manager at NBC Sports, and a chief financial officer for a Texas gas and oil company. Others are working right here in Southwest Florida, including the assistant head of school at Montessori School of Fort Myers, an assistant district attorney, and the 2008 Miss Florida who now mentors young women through her church and runs a home-based business.

The Power of Believing

Scholarships permanently entwine the lives of donor and recipient.

“Someone believed in me and really wanted me to succeed,” said Jessica Williams, the recipient of the 2011 Paul & Aline Flynn Scholarship established by the community
foundation’s former CEO and his wife Aline Flynn. “I want to thank them for giving me a chance to become who I could be. Someone who I had never met wanted to invest in me. That kept me going.”

As a first-generation college graduate, Ms. Williams said her bachelor’s degree in communications from Florida Gulf Coast University is “my family’s degree. They are so proud of me.” She is now working on her master’s at the University of Vermont where she received a full-ride scholarship.

Christopher Howland received the first Flynn scholarship in 2008, following the career path of Mr. Flynn who started in sports journalism and later became president of USA Today. Mr. Howland landed a job at NBC Sports soon after graduating from Florida State University and
received a 2016 Emmy for digital innovation. He’s nominated for two 2017 awards and was recently promoted to manager of sales integration, responsible for the custom commercial advertisements users see when streaming live events.

“What the Flynns did is admirable, giving kids like me an opportunity,” he said. “I know Mr. Flynn was a major player in sports journalism. I would love to have met him. I would ask for career advice and what he would do in my shoes to continue to advance.”


Scholarships for Every Scenario

The Southwest Florida Community Foundation awards annual scholarships to students who meet a variety of criteria established by donors – from simply living in the five-county region and demonstrating a financial need to those following a certain career path or attending a donor’s alma mater.

Ms. Alabre was identified in middle school as a candidate for the Jo Anne Olmsted and John F. and Mary W. Hotchkiss scholarships which the community foundation provides to the Foundation for Lee County Schools to administer. The scholarships were created in 2005 from $2 million in gifts to the community foundation and require recipients maintain good grades and stay drug and crime-free through middle and high school.

Ms. Alabre, who lights up the room with her megawatt smile, was selected by her teachers and mentored through the school foundation’s Take Stock in Children program. She also received the Dunbar Heritage Scholarship and is grateful to the donors who gave her an early start.

“If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be where I am now, doing what I’m doing,” she said. “The scholarships were important because I knew my parents couldn’t afford college. I don’t have the stress about where the money is coming from and if I’m coming back next semester. There are kids who couldn’t come back.”

A Dunbar track standout and Lee County’s fastest woman in 2016, Ms. Alabre was also recruited for the Cornell track team. She’s majoring in human development, minoring in business and plans to pursue sports psychology in graduate school. She’ll then return to Dunbar and give back to the community she credits with supporting and guiding her to success.

“I don’t quit,” she said. “I want to lead by example and give back to the community that built the Nahisha Alabre you see today. I have a big heart and once I put that in
there, boy, boy, boy. Things get rolling and magic happens.”

Multiyear Awards Shape a Doctor and a Scientist

Erin Gillaspie and Lee Visone received money for college from the John M. and Mary A. Shanley fund, a fouryear scholarship. It helped Dr. Gillaspie realize a lifelong dream of becoming a cardiothoracic surgeon.

Ms. Gillaspie was a unique candidate for scholarship – at 18 she had already achieved her high school diploma and her first college degree.

“I knew I wanted to do this since I was a little 13-year old in oversized scrubs sitting in the operating room watching my first case,” said, Ms. Gillaspie, who recently completed a fellowship in surgical training at the Mayo Clinic and is an assistant professor in thoracic surgery at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. “I’ll never forget my first day as an attending walking into my office knowing I accomplished this because of people like the Shanleys. I remember the day I interviewed with the Southwest Florida Community Foundation for the scholarship. Everyone was kind, compassionate and excited for me.”

The Shanley scholarship funds supplemented money Mr. Visone received through the GI Bill after serving a four-year tour in Iraq. The Marine veteran graduated with honors from the University of Florida in microbiology and is now a senior-level patent examiner for the federal government.

“This scholarship helped me achieve a lot of things in life,” he said. “I’d like the donors to know their money went to a great cause.”

Erin Gillaspie MD - standing

Erin Gillaspie, MD
Cardiothoracic surgeon & professor

Jessica Williams - standing

Jessica Williams
2017 graduate with master’s degree, Univ. of Vermont

Lee Visone - standing

Lee Visone
Sr. Examiner, US Patent and Trademark Office

Lindsay Scott - standing

Lindsay Scott
Asst. State Attorney

Michael Dignam - standing

Michael Dignam
Chief Financial Officer

Nahisha Alabre - standing

Nahisha Alabre
Student, Cornell University

Rachel (Fox) Roberts

Rachel (Fox) Roberts
Asst. head of Montessori School of Fort Myers

Sierra (Minott) Jones

Sierra (Minott) Jones
Former Miss Florida, mentor, entrepreneur


Guy Whitesman, Chair
Larry Hobbs, Vice Chair
Sandy Robinson, Secretary-Treasurer
Joseph Mazurkiewicz, Jr., Immediate Past Chair


Aurora Badia
Juan Bendeck
Carolyn Conant
Patricia K. Dobbins
Kevin L. Erwin
Craig Folk
Chauncey Goss
Dennie Hamilton
Hon. Archie B. Hayward, Jr.
Christopher Hill
Mike Jung
Hugh Kinsey, Jr.
Howard Leland
Alan Mandel
Gail Markham
Fred Moon
Sarah Owen
Dale Reiss
Darren Robertshaw
Robbie Roepstorff
Jonathan Romine
Gay Thompson
Karson Turner
Myra Hale Walters
Rusty Whitley

Senior AdvisoryTrustees

Marie M. Ackord
Audrea Anderson
Gary Aubuchon
Jay A. Brett
Robert da Frota
Dawn-Marie Driscoll
M. William Frey
Chris A. Gair
Sam Galloway, Jr.
Charles K. Idelson
David Lucas
Melvin Morgan
William T. Prather
John W. Sheppard
J. Tom Smoot, Jr.
Gene Solomon
A. Scott White

Return on Investment, a Return to Southwest Florida

Rachel (Fox) Roberts has found her calling at the Montessori School of Fort Myers. She said receiving the Lewis Barber Memorial Scholarship marked a life milestone. “It was the first time as an adult I made something happen for me. “I was really proud I got this money.”

Sierra (Minott) Jones received the George E. Judd Scholarship and supplemented it by getting involved with the Miss America program at Palm Beach Atlantic University. She was named Miss Florida in 2008 and competed at the national level the following year, finishing fourth in Miss America.

“Because of the scholarship money, I completed my education debt-free,” said Mrs. Jones, who earned a master’s in seminary and returned to Fort Myers where she and her husband are raising a family.

Lindsay Scott gives a voice to victims of domestic abuse as an assistant district attorney with the 20th Judicial Circuit, a career inspired by watching “Law and Order” as a child.

Ms. Scott credits guidance counselors from Fort Myers High School for providing lists of available scholarship money. “It was a proud moment for my family when I found out I received the Sam Sirianni Athletic Scholarship.”

Paying it Forward

Michael Dignam, the CFO of an oil and gas company in Corpus Christi, Texas, received numerous scholarship awards including the 2006 Sam Sirianni Athletic Scholarship and the Southwest Florida PGA Scholarship 2006. “He was recruited to play golf at Vanderbilt University where he majored in economics and Spanish.

“I reached out for any scholarship I could to take the financial burden off my family,” he said. “The scholarship donors were very helpful to a young person trying not to take on a ton of debt while going to college.”

Mr. Dignam plans to one day pay it forward by getting involved with organizations like the community foundation. “Scholarships so thoughtfully provided by donors who are no longer here continue to give,” said Mrs. Owen. “They have created a ripple effect in the community by impacting these students’ lives who in turn impact our community and the world. There’s an exponential return on donors’ generosity.”

“I’m starting to ask myself how I can help young people trying to follow the same path I followed … I want to repay the favor I was given.”
— Michael Dignam
CFO of a Texas oil and gas company
Corpus Christi, TX

Multiple-year Scholarships Becoming the New Norm

Scholarships and post-secondary education have the power to change lives for high school seniors and the growing numbers of nontraditional students returning to the classroom to finish degree or certification requirements or completely change careers.

As a result, multi year scholarships that follow a student through college or technical school have become mission critical, according to Sarah Owen, president and CEO of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation.

“Getting a scholarship for freshman year or the first year for nontraditional students is the beginning of the story,” she said. “Getting it done is equally important as getting in.”

The community foundation is working with donors to establish multiyear awards and is walking alongside students throughout their degree or certification attainment.

“We’re having different conversations about scholarships,” Mrs. Owen said. “We have to take a new approach because things have changed. College students aren’t necessarily high school seniors nor do they complete their degrees in four years. The new norm is six years and a large percentage of students are now nontraditional students who need a different support system.”

Two local professionals understand the importance of renewable scholarships. Gail Markham, founding partner of Markham Norton Mosteller Wright & Co. P.A. with offices in Fort Myers and Naples, received five four year scholarships while attending the University of Maryland. To this day, she credits the kindness of others for changing her life.

As the first generation in his family to attend college, Christopher Hill qualified for scholarship money during his years at Barry University in Miami. Now a financial advisor with Wells Fargo Advisors and the vice chairman of the community foundation’s scholarship committee, Mr. Hill worked a number of full-time jobs to supplement expenses not covered.

“I was lucky,” he said. “Some students have more barriers than I did.”

Ms. Markham established an endowed scholarship fund at the community foundation in 2013, making it available to girls in the five-county region who demonstrate financial need and have a minimum 3.0 grade point average. It’s renewed annually up to four years.

“I didn’t want too many restrictions,” she said. “I just want girls to go to college. That’s how I broke out of my previous world. Education was everything for me.”

The community foundation offers 88 different scholarship funds, each fulfilling a variety of scenarios. Some are broad-scoped like Ms. Markham’s. Others are more specific, awarded to students following a certain career path or attending a donor’s alma mater, for example. Some scholarships even identify students as early as sixth grade.

The foundation is a partner and the anchor organization for the regional FutureMakers Coalition. The Coalition is dedicated to removing the barriers to degree and certificate attainment, recognizing some scholarships awarded by colleges and
universities can be restrictive. ( Money can’t be applied to summer housing, food or living expenses such as gas, transportation or even a warmer wardrobe for Florida students attending a northern school. Some financial awards may even prohibit a student from working to ensure they adapt to academic life.

As part of its communication with current students, the foundation connects through students’ LinkedIn accounts. It’s also looking into creating an emergency fund to help students facing potential drop-out crises, Mrs. Owen said.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, about 60 percent of students who were freshmen at a four-year institution in 2008 had graduated by 2014.

“Numerous studies appear to show that little things can keep people from
graduating,” Mr. Hill said. “They might get sick or their car breaks down. An
unexpected $100 expense could mean the difference in completing a semester.

“I really appreciated the scholarship opportunity I was given,” he added. “I’m proud to help other kids who might be in the same situation.”

The Southwest Florida Community Foundation provides a number of creative ways to establish scholarship funds. Donors can establish them in memory of a loved one, a favorite school or alma mater or specific subject, and also request donations be made to their funds in lieu of birthday gifts or to commemorate other milestones.

— Interested in establishing a multiyear scholarship? Contact Carolyn Rogers at the Southwest Florida Community Foundation at 239-274-5900, email [email protected] com or visit us at 8771 College Parkway, Building 2, Suite 201 in Fort Myers. More information can also be found online at

For more stories on giving, please visit

CAUSE & EFFECT: March 2017 issue

CAUSE & EFFECT: March 2017 issue

March 2017 issue
Milestones like these make us smile
Sarah Owen, Pres & CEO
Southwest Florida Community Foundation
The Women’s Legacy Fund is celebrating its 10 Year Anniversary this year.  That’s 10 years of grants to nonprofits providing education, inspiration and empowerment to women and girls.

By working together, WLF contributors have funded programs designed to improve literacy, employment skills, neighborhood services, career planning, mentoring and suicide prevention.

The 10 year anniversary will mark over $150,000 in grants a $642,000.00 endowment fund, 46 Prima Donors, hundreds of contributors and dozens of Angels. (see our website to learn more about these special women)

We also celebrate the recent addition of Impact Dunbar, a fund focused on the women and girls in the Dunbar community.

We invite you to celebrate with us. If you’re not yet a contributor, it’s not too late – give today (information is featured below) then join us at our WLF Contributors Luncheon on Friday, April 7th.

We will review the latest research and face-to-face conversations with women and girls
 in the region. All contributors will then have a “voice in the choice” on the cause area we as a group of collective philanthropists will address this year. And of course, we will celebrate 10 great years together.  I hope to see you there!

In Gratitude,
Women’s Legacy Fund Contributors Luncheon – April 7
It’s not too late to RSVP

Don’t miss the spring WLF Contributors 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 complimentary luncheon is 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
  • Business/market support for women.
Contributors to WLF contribute 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.
RSVP and/or Contribute Here
If you are a contributor, luncheon reservations are required by March 28 by calling Sydney Roberts at 239-274-5900 or click here to RSVP.

If you’d like to become a Contributor, click here. Please call us with any questions about becoming part of the Women’s Legacy Fund at 239-274-5900.

Spring art exhibit “Fresh Aire” to electrify the Community Hub
Join us for the opening reception – April 5

Aglow by Artist Judi Ekholm

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 exhibit is open to the public and will run through May during regular Community Foundation business hours: Monday through Friday. 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. 

Meet the Artist and Preview the Exhibit – RSVP here

Please join us for the Fresh Aire Art Reception on Wednesday, April 5, 5 to 7 p.m. at The Community Hub.  Click here to RSVP

2016 Grantees Outcome Report
Video outlines work of 2016 “Tribes” 

Tribes Report on video
“Because if you can measure it,
you can move it”

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.
  • 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. 
Learn more about the results of the work of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation Tribes through the video featuring the Tribes at work at
Kresge Foundation grants FutureMakers $50,000 challenge — PASS IT ALONG!

The FutureMakers Coalition was recently awarded a $50,000 challenge grant from the Kresge Foundation as part of its College Access & Success Initiative (CASI). A $10,000 grant was also awarded for administration costs and backbone support.
The grant will be awarded after the Coalition raises $50,000 in additional private donations by 
Jan. 31, 2018. Anyone interested in learning more about the grant or investing in the FutureMakers Coalition may visit
The Southwest Florida Community Foundation serves as the anchor organization for the Coalition. The FutureMakers Coalition encourages residents to join and support this community-changing initiative. For more information, visit, call 239-274-5900 or email Tessa LeSage.

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 Coalition plans to use the challenge grant funding to continue to advance regional outcomes and efforts that support the Florida Higher Education Coordination Council’s statewide goal of 55 percent higher education attainment.

Florida Repertory Theatre establishes endowment fund 

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.

CAUSE & EFFECT: January 2017 issue

CAUSE & EFFECT: January 2017 issue

January 2017 issue
Happy “NEWS” Year
Sarah Owen, Pres & CEO
Southwest Florida Community Foundation
Perhaps you are still getting used to writing or even saying “2017,” but the calendar doesn’t wait and things are off to a great start in the community and the Foundation.

Check out what’s been in the news so far this year:

News-Press People of the Year

  • One of our Foundation’s founders John Sheppard has been selected as the News-Press’ prestigious Luminary for 2016. 
  • Community Foundation trustee Carolyn Conant has been tapped as a TrailBlazer.
  • One of our fundholders and up and coming “Millennials” Marc Devisse is a nominee for Young Professional of the Year. 
  • Fundholders and change-makers Jerry and Sharon Miller are recognized as Heros. 
  • Grantees Heights Foundation’s Kathryn Kelly, Family Initiative’s David Brown and Anjali Van Drie and Valerie’s House’s Angela Melvin are also selected for honors.
From this exclusive list, I would say that we are “Southwest Florida Strong” with such passionate people involved.  (Click here to read more about People of the Year on the News-Press website.)

We announced our newest grantee tribe and they are meeting with us for the first time as a group this afternoon. Stay tuned for more detail on this online and in the news.

FutureMakers and New Funds Opened

Activities in FutureMakers Coalition, a regional coalition that we provide backbone support with the goal to transform the workforce by increasing the number of college degrees and post-secondary certifications by 2025 is strong (, our scholarship season launched this week, and we are geared up for a season of events and programs with our donors, partners and friends. We are still enjoying a record season of opening new funds and welcoming new invigorated donors to the foundation. And that simply means more good for our region.

Train Depot
We finalized our partnerships with the Florida Community Loan Fund and the City of Fort Myers to start the Midtown New Market Tax Credits project breaking ground on the Atlantic Railroad Train Depot renovation and collaboration accelerator  project this February. (read more here

2017 has been something we have been planning for and with your support and partnership, we are ready for a great year ahead.  Join us!

In Gratitude,

THANK YOU to our Referring Professional Advisors

Gift ideas are only limited by causes.  Board Chair Guy Whitesman shows his enthusiasm at a recent reception with donors and friends.

We often say we are better together when working with our donors, friends, partners and supporters. Our referring professional advisers put an exclamation point on that statement. They are those who are estate planning attorneys, bankers, accountants, and wealth advisers who refer their clients to us for philanthropic (and sometimes tax solutions) for current and future gifts.

MANY THANKS the following for all of your support this past year:
  • Lowell Schoenfeld, Green, Schoenfeld & Kyle LLP
  • Michael Stone, CPA, Freedom Tax & Financial Group
  • A. Scott White, Scott White Advisors
  • Kelly Fayer, PA, The Law Office of Kelly Fayer
  • LaDonna J. Cody, PA, Attorney
  • Andrew Barnette, CPA, Andrew Barnette & Associates
  • Juan D. Bendeck, Partner, Hahn Loeser Attorneys at Law
  • Jay Brett, Sheppard, Brett, Stewart, Hersch, Kinsey & Hill, P.A.
  • Terri Alsept, Northern Trust Bank
  • Mary Beth Crawford and Grace Guittierez, Cummings & Lockwood (Bonita office)
  • Guy Whitesman and Eric Gurgold, Henderson Franklin (Fort Myers office)
  • William Horowitz, Cummings & Lockwood
  • Marc Reisman, RS Wealth Management
  • Pavita Sandhu, Regions Bank
  • Renee Porter-Medley, Key Bank
  • Craig Folk, CPA, Miller, Helms & Folk, PA
  • Danielle Lucht, Alliance Financial Group
  • Hugh Kinsey, Sheppard, Brett, Stewart, Hersch, Kinsey & Hill, P.A.
  • Steven “Rusty” Whitley, CPA, Wiltshire, Whitley, Richardson & English, PA
  • Trevor Whitley, Marquis Wealth Group
  • Sandy Robinson (retired) Northern Trust Bank
  • Dave Owens, Midland IRA
  • Fran Payson, Merrill Lynch
  • Jennifer Hammond, Green, Schoenfeld & Kyle LLP
  • Charlotte Hause, Charlotte State Bank & Trust
Donors, we are happy to work your professional adviser on your philanthropic planning. It’s among our most favorite things to do.

THANK YOU!!!!!!!

Jordan Ashley Gutheim Foundation 
Fund established to support causes that were important to local woman

Jordan Ashley Gutheim
The Gutheim family has established the Jordan Ashley Gutheim Foundation Fund 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 plans to fund an annual scholarship at FSU.
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.
“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 and we look forward to walking alongside them in making meaningful and effective grants in Jordan’s memory.”

To give directly to the fund in Jordan’s memory, please click here.

Legacy Society Events Upcoming

It’s our favorite time of the year when we get to spend it 
with our Legacy Society members, those who have a fund with the Foundation or have planned to establish a fund in their estate.  We have three great outings planned for January and February including receptions, evenings at with the Gulf Coast Symphony and at a theatre matinee with Florida Rep.

If you have not received your invitation OR if you have not RSVP’d, please call Sydney Roberts at 239-274-5900.

We can’t wait to see you at the reception and enjoy music and the arts together.

Scholarship Season Opens with $500,000 available 

The Southwest Florida Community Foundation’s scholarship application process for the 2017-2018 school year will begin this month.
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.

Our scholarship portal opened on Jan. 16 and students may apply for scholarships here here.
  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

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. 
CAUSE & EFFECT: Holiday 2016 issue

CAUSE & EFFECT: Holiday 2016 issue

Holiday 2016 issue
‘Tis the Season, and the Reason
Sarah Owen, Pres & CEO
Southwest Florida Community Foundation
As we wrap up the year filled with generosity and hard work on the part of all of our supporters, friends, trustees and partners, our team reflects on so much we ALL have to be grateful for. And together we wish you and yours an abundance of peace, love and joy this holiday season.
With our eye on the holidays, our team encouraged me to share a piece that will be featured in this week’s Florida Weekly (Fort Myers and Bonita Springs issues).  
To be able to give is such a privilege…. 
Thank you for being part of our mission.
In Gratitude,
Holiday Dinners, Dolls and Dignity

Holiday giving is heartwarming.  There are so many opportunities to reach out into the community and do something generous for a neighbor.
I don’t think there is any easier time of year to jump right into the act of giving.  Walk into the grocery store and drop some bills into an iconic red kettle, stand in the checkout line and donate a turkey, adopt a child or a senior citizen from an angel tree and select a gift to make their holiday brighter. 
Join with others from your neighborhood or workplace and provide a special holiday for a family that is struggling, donate toys to a local toy drive or food to an animal shelter, smile at a busy shopper who might look to be having a bad day, the chances to reach out are abundant.
These things make us feel great and connect us to our fellow man.  Most of the time we never meet those that we intend to comfort and help this time of year.
That kind of relationship building happens at the nonprofit level with caring case managers, cause area specialists, and volunteers. These are the folks working on the front lines of need and opportunity and create a special combination of resources and compassion.
If we are on the giving side of things it can be easy to unintentionally get caught up in the emotion of how we feel about our donation and lose site of the receiver.  Research continually points to the physical and emotional benefits of generosity, but that is only one side of the story.
I learned this lesson several years ago when I joined a group of friends and colleagues to provide a full-on holiday experience to a family that had faced a particularly tough year financially. 
Running Out of Gift Ideas? 
Give the Gift That Keeps on Giving

Gift ideas are only limited by causes

Have someone special on your holiday list who is tough to buy for? Consider a donation to a cause or to the community in their honor.

It’s easy.  You can go online, make a contribution and provide your tough-to-buy-for friend or family member’s address and we will send the lucky person a customized gift recognition card with the information or message you would like us to include. 

We never include the gift amount!  

No standing in line, nothing to return.  Just a warm feeling that giving brings to the giver and the receiver.  

Click here to start your gift list now.
Become an Important Part of our Work – Give to the Founder’s Society

We invite you to become part of the Community Foundation’s Founder’s Society, a giving program in honor of our 40th Anniversary that supports the work of the foundation in the community.  We appreciate all the support of our donors who inspire us every day to keep doing our change-making work in the community providing collective leadership, serving as concierges of philanthropy, providing capacity building to nonprofits, and doing research in the region and measuring outcomes of programs.  Click here to give to our work.

This May Be the Best Time Ever to Open a Donor Advised Fund
As PEOTUS Pushes for Lower Tax Rates, Now is the Time to Act

CLICK HERE to download the
Guide to Giving
If the new administration succeeds in their efforts to lower tax rates, the tax deduction for charitable giving could become less valuable as soon as next year, according to Time Magazine (online at

With a Donor Advised Fund, you can make a contribution now and take your time to decide how much and to which organizations you wish to give.
It only takes 5 minutes to establish and if done by December 31st, you will receive a current year receipt.
There are no minimums to establish a Donor Advised Fund at the Southwest Florida Community Foundation.  Customize a fund YOUR way. Read more about ways to give by clicking here.
Wide Open Spaces Art Exhibit Closes January 13
“Wide Open Spaces” the Community Foundation’s art exhibit features the Florida outdoors through the eyes of local artists Martin Gembecki, of Buckingham, and
Brad Phares, of Okeechobee.
“Fish House” by Martin Gembeck
The exhibit features scenes from rural Florida from farmland to lakes and the Gulf of Mexico.
The exhibit is open to the public and will run through January 13 during regular Community Foundation business hours: Monday -Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Some photos 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 is located at 8771 College Parkway, Building 2, Suite 201 in Fort Myers.  239-274-5900.

Year-End Giving Ideas – We Make it So Easy!
Making a year-end gift is so easy. We’d like to make it even easier with simple ways you may be able to save and give. 

Of course giving is more than tax brackets and charitable deductions. You can give your time, your talent as well as your treasure to an organization or organizations you care about.

This is just a brief outline of options of how you can give through the SWFL Community Foundation, and the ways we can help you express your philanthropy.

The tax laws intentionally encourage charitable giving.  Because of the income tax charitable deduction, individuals who make their gifts by December 31 and itemize can significantly reduce their current income taxes for 2016.
Example: if you make a charitable gift of $10,000 in 2016, you can save $3,300 in taxes if you’re in the 33% tax bracket.  And the higher your tax bracket, the more money you save with a charitable gift.

We urge you to discuss your 2016 year-end tax planning with your account and other professional advisor.

Holiday Hours
The Southwest Florida Community Foundation office will be closed in observance of Christmas on Monday, December 26, and in observance of New Year’s Day on Monday, January 2, 2017.

CAUSE & EFFECT: OCTOBER / November 2016

CAUSE & EFFECT: OCTOBER / November 2016

Oct./Nov. 2016 issue

Falling for Our Community

It’s so exciting to see our seasonal friends return from their summers up north and out west.  With their return, we start to see more and and more happenings in the community.  At the Community Foundation, it’s no exception.  We are ramping up for our Community Impact Grants review and the Compassionate Shark Tank so we can award resources to our nonprofit partners focused on improving the quality of life in our community. 
Just yesterday we held our fall Women’s Legacy Fund luncheon (see more below on the WLF grant), presented the first grant from the LGBT Fund of Southwest Florida on behalf of the contributors who established the fund, and we are preparing scholarship funds for the upcoming season starting in January.  We also look forward to celebrating National Philanthropy Month in November with lots of Year-End Giving messages about easy ways to give to the things you care about most.  But you don’t have to wait, you can give us a call any time because we pride ourselves on being your ongoing concierge of philanthropy.
Our annual report is on the layout table and we can’t wait to share our 2016 recordbreaking results with you. It’s because of you and so many others in the community that we are able to do so much good work. Together we are a force for good!
Thank you for reading.
In Gratitude,


FutureMakers Report to the Community

Last month we coordinated the annual FutureMakers Coalition Champions meeting


where Champions Team co-chairs Dr. Wilson Bradshaw, of FGCU, Mary Beth Geier, of the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation and Scott Fischer, of Scott Fischer Enterprises, pulled together the Champions Team consisting of area CEOs, educators, municipalities, business and community leaders, to discuss the work of the coalition this past year. The FutureMakers Report to the Community was presented.  Click here to read: FutureMakers Coalition Report to the Community.
Women’s Legacy Fund Grant Presented to FGCU Program for Young Women & Girls
Tina Parker, Nina Paight (left) and Christina Harris Schwinn and Jane deLisser (far right) of the WLF Grants Committee presented a $20,000 check to Dr. Laura Frost
and Lindsey of FGCU.
At a packed house during the Women’s Legacy Fund luncheon yesterday, the WLF, a fund of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, granted $20,000 to Florida Gulf Coast University’s Whitaker Center for STEM Education.
The Girls in Engineering, Math, and Science (GEMS) program will use 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. The program’s approach involves multiple layers of mentoring including Whitaker Center mentoring during the activity development, FGCU female faculty mentoring of FGCU female STEM majors, and FGCU STEM majors mentoring middle school students. Four Saturday events are planned to reach a total of 400 middle-school girls, 84 FGCU STEM majors, and 24 middle school teacher participants. To read more, click here.  And if you’re interested in learning more about the Women’s Legacy Fund, please click here or call Carolyn Rogers or Andrea McKiddie at 239-274-5900.



Region’s First Multi-donor LGBT Fund Gives First Grant to the Laboratory Theater
Shawn Williams, Julie Thompson, Covey Davis, Ron Penn, Annette Trossbach and Kate Dirrigl, of the Lab Theater, and Arlene Goldman
pose at the $18,000 check presented to the Laboratory Theater


The LGBT Community Fund of Southwest Florida, a fund of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, has awarded its first grant on behalf of the fund’s contributors.
Donors of $250 or more to the fund this year were given a vote for the grant focus area which was: Suicide Prevention.
Presented during the Annual Tied with Pride Gala on Friday, October 7 the $18,000 LGBT Community Fund of Southwest Florida grant was presented to Laboratory Theater’s “Staging Teen Success Through Theater” program. This mentorship-based theater program connects youth ages 13 to 18 who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender with successful LGBT adults within the theater community and licensed counselors. These mentors will support and nurture youth while they learn to better understand themselves and theater through research and development of plays, playwriting and scene study. For more information on the LGBT Community Fund of Southwest Florida, visit



Wide Open Spaces Theme of Fall Art Exhibit

Beginning Nov. 4, “Wide Open Spaces” the Community Foundation’s fall exhibit will feature the Florida outdoors through the eyes of local artists Martin Gembecki, of Buckingham, and Brad Phares, of Okeechobee.
“Fish House” by Martin Gembecki
The exhibit will feature scenes from rural Florida from farmland to lakes and the Gulf of Mexico. 


Exhibit Reception
Thursday, Nov. 3
Call fomore information, 
239-274-5900 or email [email protected]


The exhibit is open to the public and will run through mid-January during regular Community Foundation business hours: Monday -Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Some photos 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 is located at 8771 College Parkway, Building 2, Suite 201 in Fort Myers.

An Evening of Appreciation for our Professional Advisors

The Southwest Florida Community Foundation recently hosted appreciation receptions for its professional advisors network in Naples and Fort Myers.

Community Foundation President and CEO Sarah Owen welcomed guests and thanked them for their support, guidance and introductions this past year during the receptions hosted at the home of Foundation Chairman Guy Whitesman and his wife, Ilene Saffron, in Fort Myers and the office of Trustee Juan Bendeck, Hahn Loeser & Parks, LLP in Naples.

“Our professional advisors are instrumental in introducing their clients to us and we want to continue to be their resource in assisting their clients when seeking resources and causes for philanthropy in the region,” said Owen.

Brian Herrick, Dominika Honisch, Charlette & Ernie Hatch, John Sheppard, Sarah Owen, Juan Bendeck, Guy Whitesman and Ilene Saffron
Announcing an Exciting New Fund: Impact Dunbar
IMPACT DUNBAR Founders Tasheekia Perry and Karen Watson are shown here with SWFL Community Foundation CEO Sarah Owen
The IMPACT Dunbar Fund was announced at the Women’s Legacy Fund luncheon today as a new part of the WLF.  Founded by Karen Watson, MSW, executive director of Our Mother’s Home and Tasheekia Perry, of Crowning Daughters for Success, the fund was established to empower young women and girls in the Dunbar Community. 

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.

“We welcome the women of Dunbar who want to make a difference and create change in our region starting in their own neighborhood,” said Sarah Owen, president and CEO of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation.

“We look forward to working together and learning from one another.”
For more information on IMPACT DUNBAR or the Women’s Legacy Fund, click here.
Year-End Giving Ideas – We Make it So Easy!

Making a year-end gift is as easy. We’d like to make it even easier with simple ways you may be able to save and give.

Of course giving is more than tax brackets and charitable deductions. You can give your time, your talent as well as your treasure to an organization or organizations you care about.

This  is just a brief outline of options of how you can give through the SWFL Community Foundation, and the ways we can help you express your philanthropy.

The tax laws intentionally encourage charitable giving.  Because of the income tax charitable deduction, individuals who make their gifts by December 31 and itemize can significant reduce their current income taxes for 2016.
Example: if you make a charitable gift of $10,000 in 2016, you can save $3,300 in taxes if you’re in the 33% tax bracket.  And the higher your tax bracket, the more money you save with a charitable gift.
We urge you to discuss your 2016 year-end tax planning with your account and other professional advisor.
CAUSE & EFFECT: August / September

CAUSE & EFFECT: August / September

Aug/Sept 2016 issue

Back to It!

At this time of “Back to School,” we are hearing from our 2016 scholarship recipients who are taking big steps toward career paths, and we have recently bid our farewell to our 2016 Florida Fellows, communications interns from the University of Florida. Our nonprofit grantees hosted 3 burgeoning professionals this summer.  (Read more on this below).

We imagine the places that these young men and women will go, the things they will discover and learn and the leaders they will become.  

And if you didn’t know it by now, I am a Future Maker.  I am so proud of the work that this regional coalition is doing to improve the workforce in the Southwest Florida by working with hundreds of other FutureMakers in a collective impact initiative from “cradle to career” pathways. This month we will host the coalition’s annual FutureMakers Champions meeting where we get together with area CEOs, educators, municipal, business and community leaders, and more. We all have one goal in mind, to transform the workforce by increasing the number of college degrees and post-secondary certifications from 27 to 40% by 2025. Click here to learn more about being a FutureMaker too.  
Thank you for reading.
In Gratitude,
P.S. For those interested in applying for 2017-18 scholarships, you will want to be sure to SUBMIT EARLIER for FAFSA.  This year applications will be accepted starting October 1, 2016!  Please watch our website and the FutureMakers website for more information

Sustainability Plan Goes Regional

As leaders for regional change, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation is addressing the quality of life for those who live, learn, work, and play in our region.

In 2015, Lee County Board of County Commissioners transferred the CompleteLee Sustainability Plan to the Southwest Florida Community Foundation. We understand this plan to be a road map for driving continuous improvement. Our goal is to use the plan’s framework to measure the collective impact of regional initiatives that indicate the strength of our community.  

Our plan is a regional one.  So we will use this direction laid by Lee County to establish similar tools for the region.  We can’t wait to see what’s next!  For more information, please visit the plan on our website by clicking here.

Special Note:  This community-driven sustainability work is part of a regional effort to promote sustainability in Southwest Florida.  It is not affiliated with the for profit entity SWFL Sustainability LLC, SWFL Sustainability Summit or the SWFL Sustainability Digital newsletter.  Our efforts are supported by volunteer participation and generous donors dedicated to a sustainable Southwest Florida.  We do not solicit advertising or sponsorships for this initiative.

Announcing New Board Members

Mike Jung, Gail Markham, Dale Reiss and Jonathan Romine are newest Foundation trustees
The Southwest Florida Community Foundation recently elected four new members to its board of trustees.

We extend a warm welcome to Mike Jung, Gail Markham, Dale Reiss and Jonathan Romine. They have each joined the board for a three-year term.

To read more about our dedicated trustees,please click here.

Tessa LeSage, MPA, LEED AP BD+C
the Foundation’s director of social innovation and sustainability

Tessa LeSage is Apex Laureate

Tessa LeSage was chosen as an Apex Laureate by Women in Business. She was selected among women in Lee County who make a difference in their occupations and in the community. She joins our president and CEO Sarah Owen, a 2009 recipient, in the Apex Circle, an esteemed group of the Women in Business, Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce.  

Among her responsibilities at the Foundation, Tessa provides the backbone structure for the FutureMakers Coalition, oversees the grants processes and guides the Foundation’s regional sustainability plan.

“I am truly honored. I strive to make an impact every day, not with the goal of winning an award, but in the hopes of making the community a better place,” LeSage says. “This is very special.”

She will be honored at a black tie dinner-dance Saturday, Sept. 24, along with the Women in Business scholarship recipients.

To learn more or to attend the Apex Awards, click here.
Faces of Philanthropy Photo Exhibit to Close October 11.

It’s almost a wrap! 

This is your last chance to see the exhibit that celebrates outstanding philanthropy from the region and honors those passionate about our community and who give back.

With 65 photos of nearly 100 people, many of our visitors have found the exhibit to be a great study in portraiture.  We welcome art groups and anyone interested in the work.  The exhibit features faces from all walks of life and individuals as young as 8 years of age up to 90, photographed as a gift to the foundation by Photographer Brian Tietz.

The exhibit is open to the public weekdays through October 11 during regular Community Foundation hours, Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Some photos are located in meeting rooms so those interested in seeing the exhibit are asked to call 239-274-5900 before arriving to make sure all areas are accessible.
Prima Donors Discuss Affordable Housing
The Southwest Florida Community Foundation recently hosted more than 20 of its Women’s Legacy Fund’s Prima Donors for a dinner at the Foundation’s Community Hub.

The evening featured dinner conversation exploring housing, homelessness and affordable housing for women. This is group that explores issues affecting women and girls in our region.

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.
The WLF also offers a contributor-giving level at $250 a year. The Fund was established in 2007 by the Community Foundation to enable women in Southwest Florida to direct their giving in focused, strategic ways. Its mission is to engage women in affecting change in our community through collective philanthropy.  If you are interested in becoming a Prima Donor or becoming part of our Women’s Legacy Fund, click here.

Please save the date and plan to join us!
Fall Women’s Legacy Fund Luncheon

The Fall Women’s Legacy Fund will be held on Thursday, October 20th at Miromar Lakes Beach & Golf Club. We will hear from the WISE Women program at Happahatchee Center, our 2015 grantee, and learn more about this year’s cause area “Career Exploration for women and girls” and award our annual WLF grant!  It’s always a good time to catch up on what’s happening with women and girls in our region.

Let us know if you’d like an invitation by emailing Sydney Roberts

TOGETHER Fort Myers Fund
More than $20,000 raised for families of victims

Thanks to the generosity of some very special people and local businesses, the TOGETHER Fort Myers Fund is helping the families of the victims pay for expenses related to the tragedy at Club Blu.  

In partnership with the City of Fort Myers and the United Way, the TOGETHER Fund has proven that we are all here and ready to help one another together with our kind and generous supporters, residents and news media.  Funds are still being collected if you’d like to give online, click here.
Foundation’s Florida Fellows Share Summer with Nonprofits
Kelsey Pena, Taylor Tringali, Karly Marcy are Foundation’s 2016 Florida Fellows
The Community Foundation’s Florida Fellows were each assigned to work for 8 weeks with one of the nonprofit organizations funded through the Foundation’s annual community impact grants. 
The fellows assisted the nonprofit leadership to develop messaging and stories of those who are benefiting from the grant. This year’s nonprofit fellowship partners were Gulf Coast Humane Society for their spay and neuter program, the Alliance for the Arts for the arts economic impact study and Goodwill Industries of Southwest Florida for the Neighborhood Improvement Association community farming programs.
“Through this fellowship and other work with the nonprofit leaders throughout the year in our 2016 Grantee Tribe, we hope to support, strengthen and leverage the important work of the nonprofits in our region and provide a network for nonprofit leaders to connect and share ideas,” said Sarah Owen, president and CEO of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation. 
Now in its second year, the fellowship was made possible through a donation from the Al and Nancy Burnett Charitable Foundation. The project is a partnership with the University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications.  We say a very special thank you and a hearty “Go Gators” to our Fellows and our supportive Fellowship donors.