Hynden family opens charitable fund through the Southwest Florida Community Foundation

Hynden family opens charitable fund through the Southwest Florida Community Foundation

FORT MYERS, Fla. (April 20, 2015) – The Southwest Florida Community Foundation recently established a new fund for the Hynden family of Fort Myers.

The Hynden Family Charitable Fund was established by Eric and Sherri Hynden, both chartered financial consultants, to continue their lifelong mission of helping others after they’re gone.

The couple has spent their lives helping others and have also spent many years teaching their sons Daniel, 25, and Ben, 27, the value and joy of volunteerism and charitable contributions.

The elder Hyndens’ commitment to serve was strengthened after Eric read a book by Stanley Tam.

“He was a Christian man who gave away 90 percent of his company,” Eric said. “We set up our business to meet our salaries and use 80 percent of the profits to fund missions and charities.”

Tam’s book and the business patronage of the Southwest Florida community have influenced the Hyndens’ charitable giving to agencies supporting children and Christian missions. They’ve also been involved with the Southwest Florida Community Foundation and its work, guiding clients with philanthropic interests to the organization.

The family has traveled around the world on faith-based mission trips and has donated their time and money to charities that help the underserved, be it the homeless, orphans or unmarried mothers. Locally, they support Teen Challenge’s program for drug addiction, the Gabriel House for abandoned, displaced and medically needy children, Verity Pregnancy and Medical Resource Center, and other causes.

“Any group that focuses on the spiritual health of the family and keeping families together is really important to me,” said Sherri. “There are needs everywhere you look. We have been so blessed by this community, and it is our way of giving back. We’re excited to get to know the groups the Community Foundation works with. They do such a good job paying attention to the community’s needs.”

The Hyndens will continue to contribute financially to their legacy annually while allocating money to charities of their choice each year.

“The Southwest Florida Community Foundation is convenient; its people are personable, and they know the needs of the community,” said Eric. “We wanted to leave something for our sons in our estate and more importantly, we wanted to set up a foundation that continues to give money away.”

Daniel and Ben, who serve as fund co-advisors, have followed their parents’ career paths in finance and work in the family’s Flint Financial Group office at UBS in Fort Myers. Sherri is a senior wealth strategy associate, and Eric is senior vice president of investments and a senior portfolio manager.

“We want to get Daniel and Benjamin involved now and take them with us to the Southwest Florida Community Foundation each year to make decisions as a family,” added Sherri. “We want them to see where the needs are. We are thankful to be able to do this.”

The Community Foundation has also introduced new programs to empower donors with ownership on the issues they care deeply about. Donors with donor-advised funds can choose their investment strategy, from conservative to more aggressive, and they can continue to work with their investment advisors through the foundation.

“We’ve made it even more convenient for donors to become vested in their giving, launching a Donor View portal on our new website that provides 24/7 internet access to their funds,” said Sarah Owen, president and CEO of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation. “Here, they can track the history of their giving, create reports and receipts, and conveniently make grants.”

As leaders, conveners, grant makers and concierges of philanthropy, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation is a foundation built on community leadership with an inspired history of fostering regional change for the common good in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Community Foundation, founded in 1976, connects donors and their philanthropic aspirations with evolving community needs. With assets of more than $80 million, it has provided more than $60 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves. Last year, it granted more than $2.8 million to nonprofit organizations supporting education, animal welfare, arts, healthcare and human services. The Community Foundation granted $782,000 in nonprofit grants including more than $400,000 in regional community impact grants and additional $450,000 in scholarship grants.

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


One Thousand Two Hundred and Twelve Possibilities

This year the Southwest Florida Community Foundation received 1,212 scholarship applications from 304 SWFL students.  It will take 111 volunteer readers to score and evaluate information and nearly $500,000 and 70 scholarships will be awarded.

For every student who receives a yes, others will receive a compassionate no.  Most of these kids will have applied for a multitude of scholarships so we won’t be the only organization sending along both good and not-so-great news.  I give just as much thought to those kids we are not able to help as those we do.

I always take numbers and stats and create stories in my mind.  Although it is important for us to track the numbers, what I begin thinking about is the 304 individual stories that are represented by those applications.  They are someone’s daughter or son with so much hope and possibility in front of them.  They are a single mom returning to school or a first year law student trying to find a way to pay for year two.

Those are the broad strokes I paint but when I read some of the individual essays I get to know the students on a much deeper level.

It is amazing to learn about someone you have never met through a powerful essay.  I am humbled that both teens and adults alike are willing to share some of their deepest struggles in order to create an opportunity for their greatest hopes and aspirations.

I recall when my middle child was writing his personal statement for college applications and scholarships and chose bravely to reveal his seven year struggle with obsessive compulsive disorder.  I had always encouraged him to be bold in sharing his story but I must admit I worried if he would be judged by his transparency.  He wasn’t.  Instead the essay told the story of overcoming adversity to gain strength and perseverance.

The same is true with most all the applications we receive. The students share stories of accomplishments, dedication and personal values.   Our donors have established these scholarship funds to allow a wide variety of students with a broad range of qualifications to consider the possibilities of a future with a post-secondary degree or certification.

These donors join with us to create the opportunities for these students to accomplish their goals.  Not just to start on the road to a degree or career but finish the journey.  It is not just about gaining access to school but also having the resources to complete the program or degree.    Working together we are developing our future teachers, nurses, machinists, business owners, chefs and accountants.    Our job at the Foundation is to match the right student with a scholarship that helps them achieve the vision.

As I am imagining these stories of success I also let my mind wander to the students we didn’t reach.  Those who are finishing up their senior year in a few months who can’t afford their next step, or the adult student who is trying to get back to classes, or the first generation college student trying to become the first one in their family to navigate getting into school, or the student who we never connected with a mentor or information that could change their lives forever.

Our scholarship program not only represents the one thousand two hundred and twelve possibilities of those kids we reached but also the tens of thousands we didn’t.  I want to find a way to reach them.

If you can help us reach them, or if you would like to learn more about creating possibilities for local students through a scholarship fund reach out to me at


Southwest Florida Community Foundation hosts showing of “Hardy” for Prima Donors

Southwest Florida Community Foundation hosts showing of “Hardy” for Prima Donors

FORT MYERS, Fla. (April 8, 2015) –In partnership with the Fort Myers Film Festival, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation recently hosted a private showing of the film “Hardy” for its Women’s Legacy Fund’s Prima Donors followed by a Q&A with the film’s director and star.

“Hardy,” directed by Natasha Verma, is the story of Heather Hardy, a female boxer who rises above the inequalities in professional boxing and aspires to become a world champion as she struggles to provide a life as a single parent. She is one of two of the first women to box at the famous Barclay Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., cementing her status as a must-see attraction in front of a sold-out crowd. The compelling film goes behind the scenes to reveal the complicated life Heather lives as a single mother pursuing an uphill battle to achieve self respect and make it in a “man’s sport” against the odds.

The showing is one example of an ongoing educational series the Community Foundation is providing for Prima Donors who 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 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.

As leaders, conveners, grant makers and concierges of philanthropy, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation is a foundation built on community leadership with an inspired history of fostering regional change for the common good in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Community Foundation, founded in 1976, connects donors and their philanthropic aspirations with evolving community needs. With assets of more than $80 million, the Community Foundation has provided more than $60 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves. Last year, it granted more than $2.8 million to nonprofit organizations supporting education, animal welfare, arts, healthcare and human services. It also granted $782,000 in nonprofit grants including more than $400,000 in regional community impact grants and additional $450,000 in scholarship grants.

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

The Baby Aisle

The Baby Aisle

It’s that mystical grocery store aisle that is usually numbered something like 15 or 18, tucked away somewhere between Ziploc baggies, a/c filters and car wax.  The Baby Aisle is that place that you just don’t wander down unless, of course, you have a baby!  Chock full of every imaginable style and size of diaper to newfangled toddler convenience foods and disposable bottle supplies, you can find things on the baby aisle that you didn’t even know you needed!

I have gone down the baby aisle just a few times since my boys have been grown.  The memories of little fingers reaching for Cheerios on the highchair tray, gooey infant cookie crumbs and that indescribable smell of baby shampoo come flooding back.

Now the Baby Aisle has become a metaphor for me representing the new experiences, and the passages in life.

My oldest son has gone off to college and his brother is right behind him,  and I have recently lost my father after a life well lived.  I have experienced the newness of the Baby Aisle in a much different fashion, but in a very similar way.  These enriching experiences have enhanced my work and my perspective at the Foundation.

I have sought out scholarships for my boys hoping to ease the burden of college tuition.  While my sons are unable to apply for the Foundation’s scholarships because I work here, I am able to relate to the over 1,000 applications made for our competitive funds.  And, I have relished in the company of scholarship donors who could in no way understand the gratitude I feel for such generosity, not for my sons but for those young men and women, or adults seeking to return to school, who will benefit from their scholarship funding in the near future and the others just like them who will also benefit every year after.

Losing a loved one comes with its own toolkit usually provided by friends who have gone down that aisle before me.  Understanding that grief can be exhausting and is often only soothed by time, I have learned to talk about death more easily because I have experienced  loss and know that we will all go that way one day.  I have learned from our future fundholders, our committed Foundation companions, that the more you plan for your final hours, the kinder the gift for your loved ones.

I have worked with many who have planned their legacies in detail.  No matter the amount of their wealth, or whether they give now or simply are planning their giving in their will or estate,  these donors write up a simple “letter of request and direction” so that when they are gone, there is a directive to us in order to benefit the causes that they cared about throughout their lifetime.  Sometimes there are estate tax benefits to the donor and other times it is all about their love of their community, alma mater or charity.

An important part of our work,  each year the Foundation grants out over $500,000 in community impact grants to regional nonprofit organizations with endowed money left to us by donors for certain causes.  It is endowed to last forever.  The board of trustees and staff are the stewards of their generosity and see to it that their philanthropy is well spent on measurable results according to their wishes.

Taking a trip down the baby aisle is a lot more fun the first time around, but it is all part of the journey.  If you want to plan for your legacy, we make it very easy, and I may even suggest it as fun.  Check out how on our website at, or just give me a call or email me at  I am finding out that grocery shopping truly can be a pleasure.

photo from


Cause & Effect: March 2015

Cause & Effect: March 2015

March 2015

Our March e-newsletter – and time marches on!

We have had so much going on at the Community Foundation this winter season, if we have missed you in March, we hope you will join us for some April activities highlighted here, or you can always check out our website’s Event Calendar.

April Roundtables

Please join Sarah Owen and several other community leaders

for a roundtable discussion about

The New Philanthropy

and a private briefing on our work in the community and its regional impact

Your choice of dates:

Wednesday, April 15th

12noon to 1pm

The SWFL Community Foundation Office

8771 College Parkway, Suite 201

Fort Myers, FL 33919

Wednesday, April 29th

4pm to 5pm

The SWFL Community Foundation Office located on Sanibel Island

455 Periwinkle Way

Sanibel, FL 33957

Click here to RSVP or please call 239-274-5900

Please note this is not a fund raising appeal

WLF Spring Luncheon  for Contributors Only 

Thursday, May 14
Gulf Harbour Yacht & Country Club

Invitations are forthcoming, or email us if you would like an invitation.

FutureMakers Coalition Launched 
National recognition, support from Lumina Foundation

More than 80 business, government, education, workforce and economic development leaders joined together this month to launch a regional cohort, FutureMakers Coalition.

The goal of the FutureMakers Coalition is to increase the number of people in Southwest Florida with high-quality degrees, certificates, and other credentials to 40 percent by the year 2025.

“Currently 27 percent of the workforce in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Glades and Hendry counties has some sort of post-secondary degree,” said Sarah Owen, president and CEO of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, the Coalition’s backbone organization. “With targeted funding, legislation and uniting groups around the same goal, we expect to be able to meet this milestone by 2025.”

Click here to read more and to see photo from the FutureMakers Rally held recently.


Women’s Legacy Fund

We Invite You to Become Part, Renew & Save the Date


It’s that special time of year to focus on identifying the cause areas for the Women’s Legacy Fund 2015 grant.

Be sure to have a “voice in the choice” and become a contributor, or renew your support by May 1.

Watch for your invitation for the Contributors-Only Spring Luncheon

Thursday, May 14

Gulf Harbour Yacht & Country Club

We will dive deeper with discussion into the areas affecting women and children in the region for grant consideration from the collective philanthropy of women.

Click here to contribute today!

Sign Up for SWFL Grants Information
Nonprofits Can Opt-In for Info
Interested in getting the most up-to-date information on the Southwest Florida Community Foundation’s grant opportunities? Please take a moment to sign-up for notifications on our website today! 


Non-profit Regional Road Trip


Our team of program evaluator, writer and photo/videographer visited with five of our 15 nonprofit 2015 Community Impact grantees to meet with their end-users and to see how the grant money is working toward the nonprofits’ program goals.

Check out their stories and watch the short videos to get to know the nonprofits a little better.

Click here


Scholarship Season, oh my!


Just like spring, the Community Foundation’s scholarship season has sprung. This year’s cycle has attracted an unprecedented number of 1,212 applications for the nearly $500,000 in awards. More than 100 volunteer readers are working on their evaluations, due by April 10. If you are interested in helping, please contact Melanie Holaway, scholarship coordinator, by clicking here

Click here


Art Blooms in Community Hub



The Fort Myers Art League hosted more than 60 guests at the March 26 Art & Community Reception. The Women’s Legacy Fund contributors and friends enjoyed a screening of Hardy, in partnership with the Fort Myers Film Festival, at the Bell Tower Cinema, and the prima donors welcomed Heather “the Heat” Hardy for a private screening, along with the documentary film’s director Natasha Verma included a Q&A led by Stephanie Davis.

Wait, there’s more! Please save the date April 30 from 4 to 6 p.m. for the Pan American Alliance and Naples Art Association Reception celebrating their show to be featured in the Foundation’s Community Hub throughout the month of April.


Safe Streets – We are Advocates!


Getting to our office, the beaches, or the ball park on safe streets has been a hot topic of conversation thanks to the News-Press. Check out more on that from reporter Janine Zeitlin and a guest editorial from our President & CEO Sarah Owen.

Click here

Forward this email

This email was sent to by |


Southwest Florida Community Foundation | 8771 College Parkway | Building 2, Suite 201 | Fort Myers | FL | 33919
Renew Your Subscription for the Future

Renew Your Subscription for the Future

A couple of years ago, I was the proud owner of some orphaned reward points on a credit card I rarely used. I wanted to cash them in for the espresso machine but came up short by a few million purchases. For that matter, I came up short for most everything except the offer on magazine subscriptions.

In an effort to make the most of my languishing points, I decided I would order subscriptions on a wide variety of topics, including health, economics, current events and world travel. I had once read somewhere if you read at least 10 books on a single topic you are considered an expert. These subscriptions seemed to be a gateway to a world of expertise on many topics. I spent all my points, canceled the credit card and waited for the digital or glossy print magazines to arrive.

They arrived, and arrived and arrived. I stacked, filed and stacked. I knew there would be a long weekend or an evening curled up on the couch somewhere in my future in which I could catch up on the Middle East, cooking healthy meals and the latest on technology in education.

The only thing that came faster and with more intention than the magazines themselves were the renewal notices. My points had not provided me with more than 3 to 12 month access to this new world so as soon as the publications arrived so did the onslaught of reminders to renew.

Each request reminded me of what I would be missing, and as the time for expiration grew closer the pleas grew more intense. “Don’t be left behind”, “Don’t be out of touch,“. The best is yet to come”, and “FINAL NOTICE” greeted me on a daily basis.

A couple of the magazines that enhanced my desire to be a lifelong learner have remained on my list and in my mailbox and inbox while others I let fall away. There was no way I could afford to keep up all the subscriptions and they did not all suit my needs or interest. But it was nice to know that I could renew something I had started. I had many options at my disposal.

Over the last several years, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation has been collaborating with a group of regional partners, the FutureMakers Coalition, around increasing the number of our residents who have college degrees or other industry recognized credentials. This work benefits the individuals who live here but also contribute to a healthy vibrant region.

One of the biggest roadblocks to completions of degrees or certifications is persistence – the person’s ability to stick with the programs. We are used to the concept of school or training programs having a beginning, middle and end and if we get off track our instinct is to think we somehow blew it.

Much like my credit card points, we start on an educational journey with some kind of one-time offer. A one year scholarship, an 18-month program that runs consecutively, coursework that is offered once every two years. We get off to a great start with fantastic intentions but then find ourselves without the resources to continue.

Maybe our work schedule changed, financial aid ran out, the scholarship didn’t continue, our families needed us at home, or we were not ready for life away at college.

Most of the renewal notices we receive when this happens come in the form of tuition bills or the risk of being dropped from a program.

What if we began to view our education as a subscription that was up for renewal?   What if each year we evaluated which options best suited where we were headed? Could we add a certification, consider an internship, start a graduate degree or take an online course that would enhance our career path? As employers, could we help our teams evaluate how they can enhance their skill sets and connect them with resources that make that possible? There seem to be as many options as magazine subscriptions.

At the Foundation, we are working closely with donors designing scholarships. Rather than focusing on one-size-fits-all scholarships for high school seniors, the options are endless. Flexible plans that allow students to move from certifications to two-year and on to four-year institutions, financial assistance for adult and returning students, career enhancement and laddering credentials and most importantly scholarships that allow the students to renew rather than a one-time award. These are subscriptions that are worth our investments.

Would you like to lend your support to the FutureMakers Coalition? If so, please contact me at


photo image from







I call that traditional view, “Big Work,” and millennials intuitively understand that’s not where the future is. They are, in a sense, the first generation of freelance natives. They’re embracing freelancing in a way no other generation has. And now, they’re the majority of the workforce.

They are generation with markedly diverse interests––they’re into design, tech, activism, the arts, everything. They’ve been told their whole lives that they can and should pursue as many of those interests as they want. The Internet has opened more doors to this generation than any other.

Read the full article here:

Southwest Florida Community Foundation hosts art reception for community

Southwest Florida Community Foundation hosts art reception for community

The Southwest Florida Community Foundation hosted more than 60 people at its spring art reception on Thursday, March 26.

The spring exhibit included more than 75 art pieces of varied mediums such as watercolor, photography, digital, stained glass and acrylic by Steve Conley, Barbara Chloe Murdoch, Portia Wright, Lisa Peterson and more artists from the Art League of Fort Myers. A piece by Anne Liebermann was sold and 35% of the price is given to the Foundation’s Fund for the Arts by the artist.

Andrea Hetherington and Ewan Hetherington-Rugg Winnie Hoffman and Sue Grimes Vicki Baker Tracy Cullimore and Susanne Brown Tracy Cullimore and Steve Conley Sue Dunham, James Blanchard, Curt Dunham and Cherie Blanchard Stephen Staack Portia Wright Penny Fox, Portia Wright and Emily Samuelson John Merchant and Sandra Mark James and Cherie Blanchard IMG_1263 Chip Olsen and Vicki Baker Chip and Joanna Olsen Carol Warren and Sue Dunham Carl Kerstann Carl Kerstann and Marjorie Newton (1) Carl Kerstann 2 Bob and Marilyn Hedlund Barbara Murdoch



Garden Party to Urban Farming

Garden Party to Urban Farming

I still can’t look at a cherry tomato. Not that I have an aversion to tomatoes in general, just the petite variety.

Several lifetimes ago my husband and I entertained a fantasy of living on the land. We wanted to escape the hustle and bustle of a busy city in Virginia and move to a rural setting. Keep in mind that the word fantasy is in no way linked to reality and this pretty much sums up our move.

But I was all in and painted a picture of idyllic bliss to my friends of my life on the land. One of the things I was most looking forward to was planting a garden. Keep in mind I have never been able to keep a house plant alive for more than 30 days, but somehow the move to the country was going transform me into a master gardener. I had my friends so convinced that as part of my sendoff party they donned me with a lovely wide brimmed hat suitable for my new role in life.

I don’t have the luxury of space here to go into all the ways I was ill equipped for life on over a 1/4 acre in the suburbs, but no one told me I would have to take my own trash to the landfill and that other than cows, milk was a 30 minute drive each way. By the way, a family of five drinks more milk than you can ever imagine.

Even with the setbacks I was determined to wear that hat, which meant I needed to plant a garden. The project started with great gusto and in my enthusiasm I planted enough vegetables to feed an entire community. For some reason I had a special affinity to cherry tomato plants and purchased 42 of them for my first crop.

Did you know that an average cherry tomato plant can produce 250 tomatoes a season? Me neither.

Now multiply that by 42 plants all harvested at the same time by a novice gardener in a very cute but albeit uncomfortable hat.

I was giving them away to everyone and anyone. I think some people were running when they saw me coming and I heard some disparaging remarks about my hat.

That was my first and last year as a country gardener, but fast forward a few years and I found myself as a hunger fighter and searching for ways to produce healthy food for people experiencing food insecurity. I was now living back in the suburbs and working in more urban settings but the demand for food was great.

I remembered my bumper crop of cherry tomatoes but more importantly the other successful gardens I had seen developed by my experienced neighbors. Fortunately local non-profit groups and schools were exploring the concepts of container and urban farming and I knew from my limited experience that this was a viable option.

Over the last decade in Southwest Florida I have seen the urban garden flourish in many different settings. Through my work at the Southwest Florida Community Foundation I have seen our donors support local gardens designed specifically to support the needs in our community.

Most recently we funded a garden in the Pine Manor community and I was thrilled to get an update that our grant helped the Improvement Association to get even more grants to support their community garden. The families have embraced it and are nurturing crops and just enjoyed their first harvest from more than 20 garden boxes. We continue to work with our grantees like the Pine Manor Improvement Association as their grants and their plans merge from the community garden which will also support their culinary arts training program. I cannot wait to taste the fruits of the earth and the training kitchen in Pine Manor.

If any of you are interested in learning more about urban farming in our community, please reach out to me at I have great hat you can borrow.