He sat patiently in our waiting room. He didn’t have an appointment and I was tied up on a phone call. But he waited any way. When I greeted this southern gentleman, I knew it was not going to be my typical meeting.
We stepped into a conference room at the Southwest Florida Community Foundation. At first, he said very little but he shared with me that he knew it was time to start planning his estate and knew he wanted to start with the Foundation. We talked about how he wants to give all his money to charity through a trust after the next generation of his family is gone. He even had a pretty good idea of what organizations and causes he wanted to support, and he also expressed that he wanted to fortify our work so the Foundation could address the community’s critical needs long into the future.
I learned that he was a very successful businessman and land owner who moved here many, many years ago with little in his pocket but opportunity abound. He worked hard, raised his family, even started a church and has enjoyed a beautiful relationship with his wife whose health was now failing.
Before he concluded his visit, he paused and looked me squarely in the face with a tear welling up in his eye as he leaned in across the table. “I want to give my money here in this community because I made my money here,” he said.
I was struck by this because I am such a believer in driving out of my way to eat at a locally-owned restaurant, support the small businessman/woman, and patronize boutiques and local enterprise. There is nothing like home-made and handcrafted, a handwritten note. I laud the American Express campaign “Shop Local” because with a large percent of our local economy driven by small businesses, it’s just good practice.
Giving local is what sustains our community. I suddenly realized that what this special man wants to do is not unlike the Foundation’s first major benefactor, Leonard Santini. A farmer in the Iona and Fort Myers Beach area, Mr. Santini planned his estate to be left for causes he cared about deeply. Through his estate, he left the Foundation a shopping center. Upon his death in 1978, the shopping center became the Foundation’s to sell. The proceeds of that sale garnered the foundation $2.5 million in an endowment fund. The foundation invests the assets and annually pays out a portion of the fund to grant to nonprofits that serve those cause areas.
The Santini Fund has granted out well over $9 million since 1980 to local organizations, but the best part? The fund still has $2,564,642.66 today. We call that the power of endowment.”
So as our new foundation friend walked out the door, I was left thinking about the future and the possibilities of his gift to our community. He and so many others define “Give Local.”
If you want to know more about how you can give locally with great impact, or if you simply want to know of some great local restaurants, repair shops, and nearby boutiques, give us a call at 239-274-5900. We’d love to talk to you. No appointment necessary.
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.