NEWS

Throwback Thursdays Take on a Whole New Meaning

Throwback Thursdays Take on a Whole New Meaning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

OUR COMMUNITY SPRING 2017

OUR COMMUNITY SPRING 2017

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.”

videostories

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

Officers

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

Trustees

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. (www.futuremakerscoalition.com.) 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 www.floridacommunity.com.

For more stories on giving, please visit www.FloridaCommunity.com/Scholarship-success

Moon joins Southwest Florida Community Foundation board

Moon joins Southwest Florida Community Foundation board

The Southwest Florida Community Foundation recently added Frederick Moon to its board of trustees.

Born and raised in New York City, Moon graduated from Amherst College and the Harvard Business School. After business school, he served as an assistant treasurer at the Morgan Guaranty Trust Company in New York City. During that time, he engaged in a variety of community-based educational and health activities which led him to a career shift from banking to the nonprofit sector. From 1975 to 1990, he was vice president and treasurer of Pomona College. Pomona College is the founding institution of The Claremont Colleges, a consortium of five independent colleges. As a consequence, administrative work there focused on collaboration and partnership. In that time frame, he was active with the California accrediting body (WASC) rewriting the financial and governance standards for college and university accreditation. In 1990, he opened the west coast office of Cambridge Associates, the national consulting firm serving the investment and endowment management needs of large nonprofits across the U.S. His consulting clients focused on west coast colleges, universities and foundations.

After leaving Cambridge in the late 1990s, Moon worked as a director of The Surdna Foundation in New York City. He was a director for 20 years, chair for six years and chairman of the investment committee for his full tenure there. He helped transform the foundation from a low-key family foundation to a professionally managed one, noted by field building, collaboration with other national funders and partnering with grantees. In addition to grant-making activities, Surdna had founded two operating nonprofits – a residential treatment center for learning challenged youth and a retirement home – which Moon helped transform to self sustaining, locally managed institutions. The foundation held extensive timber assets in California that Moon managed. Consistent with Surdna’s environmental grant-making program goals, Moon developed sustainable forestry practices and positioned the foundation’s timber assets as a demonstration model for others in the business. As chair of the investment committee, he sought to bridge the gap between the separation that exists between grant making and endowment investing. These efforts helped encourage grant making to be more strategic and business like on one hand while helping locate endowment investment opportunities, which could support the foundation’s overall mission and program goals on the other.

Moon has served on numerous nonprofit boards during his career in southern and northern California and Maine. He continues to be active in many causes, notably environmental sustainability and energy issues, human and civil rights, and finding strategies for local communities to be healthy and sustainable. He has two daughters, each of whom has three sons. In addition to living in Florida, he has a house on the coast of Maine.

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 Foundation invested $5 million in grants and programs to the community last year. With assets of $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.

Currently, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation’s regional headquarters are located off College Parkway in South Fort Myers, with 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’s Women’s Legacy Fund hosts spring luncheon for contributors

Community Foundation’s Women’s Legacy Fund hosts spring luncheon for contributors

Nearly 100 Women’s Legacy Fund contributors and Prima Donors recently attended the Fund’s spring luncheon. The luncheon was complimentary and exclusively for WLF contributors and Prima Donors in celebration of the Fund’s 10th anniversary.

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 included 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 of existence, 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.

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.

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 Foundation invested $5 million in grants and programs to the community last year. With assets of $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, it has satellite offices located in Sanibel Island, LaBelle (Hendry County) and downtown Fort Myers.

For more information, call 239-274-5900 or visit www.floridacommunity.com.

Thanks for the Memories

Thanks for the Memories

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

Community invited to construction kickoff of new Southwest Florida Community Foundation Collaboratory

Community invited to construction kickoff of new Southwest Florida Community Foundation Collaboratory

The Board of Trustees of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation and the City of Fort Myers City Council and staff will host a Construction Kickoff Community Celebration of the Foundation’s new Collaboratory on Thursday, April 27, 8 to 10 a.m.at 2031 Jackson Street and Bennett Hart Park in Downtown Fort Myers. The event is free and open to the public. A brief program will begin at 8:30 a.m. featuring comments from the leadership of the Foundation, the City of Fort Myers, and a representative of the Florida Community Loan Fund.

The event will celebrate the public-private partnership of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation and the City of Fort Myers and mark the beginning of the transformation of the Atlantic Coast Railway station and construction of a 10,000-square-foot LEED addition to create a campus that includes the Foundation’s regional headquarters and state-of-the-art shared space for the community and tenants.

The Foundation is funding the project with a $10 million New Market Tax Credit deal, or NMTC, a program which encourages economic development in distressed neighborhoods. Florida Community Loan Fund provided the NMTC allocation and U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation is an investor on the project. Whitney Hancock Bank provided additional financing.

Fort Myers based- Parker Mudgett Smith Architects and OAK Construction Co. are leading the project’s renovation and construction.  The project is focused on preserving historical features of the property and railway station.

When complete in summer 2018, the Collaboratory will feature vibrant spaces for work, gatherings and special events. In addition, plans include state-of-the-art technology that encourages regional collaboration.

“We are excited to share this celebration with Southwest Florida because the building is designed with the community in mind,” said Sarah Owen, president & CEO, of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation.

To attend the event, reservations are requested by calling 239-274-5900 or email [email protected] Parking is available in the city parking garages, in city metered spaces and valet parking is available.  For more information on parking, visit www.floridacommunity.com/kickoff-parking.

The Atlantic Coast Line railway station 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 physically to the Imaginarium’s site at Cranford Ave.

 

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 donors: 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.

Currently, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation’s regional headquarters are located off College Parkway in South Fort Myers, with satellite offices located on Sanibel Island, in LaBelle (Hendry County) and downtown Fort Myers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Growing Up Together

Growing Up Together

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

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

They were there for us.

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

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

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

They are here for us.

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

They are there for women and girls in Southwest Florida.

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

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

Southwest Florida Community Foundation Fund for the Environment Inspired by Earth Day

Southwest Florida Community Foundation Fund for the Environment Inspired by Earth Day

                 Just in time for Earth Day on April 22, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation is crowdfunding for the Fund for the Environment in Southwest Florida.

            All monies raised through this multi-donor fund will be given back out to the local community through nonprofit organizations with projects focused on the long-term sustainability of the Southwest Florida environment.

            Donations starting at $10 are now being accepted online at www.floridacommunity.com/environment-fund. The first 22 donors will receive an “environment” button in the mail.
The first grant from this new fund was awarded this year to Audubon of the Western Everglades Protection of Vital Wetlands and Habitat in Southwest Florida.

Earth Day is celebrating its 47th year as a movement that continues to inspire, challenge ideas, ignite passion and motivate people to action. The first Earth Day on April 22, 1970, activated 20 million Americans from all walks of life and is widely credited with launching the modern environmental movement. Today, the Earth Day Network (EDN) works with tens of thousands of partners in 192 countries to broaden, diversify and mobilize the environmental movement. More than one billion people now participate in Earth Day activities each year, making it the largest civic observance in the world.

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 Foundation invested $5 million in grants and programs to the community last year. With assets of $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, it has satellite offices located in Sanibel Island, LaBelle (Hendry County) and downtown Fort Myers.

For more information, call 239-274-5900 or visit www.floridacommunity.com.

You Make Your Community

You Make Your Community

April is upon us and that means a couple of things are top of mind in my household.  First, it’s that time of year when the weather starts to shift to a more summer-like pattern and our part-time seasonal Southwest Floridians begin to make their trek somewhere north of here.  It’s an interesting thing to have watched over the years, as our part of the world and economy shifts to become more local.

The other thing that occupies our minds in April is Earth Day.  We love our northern, part-time residents and visitors, but April brings the months with fewer people. It creates an opportunity to experience Southwest Florida’s sharp but fragile, wet, bird- and reptile-filled ecosystem that so many call paradise and we call home.  While unlike anywhere else, the region’s ecosystem is well-connected to others and those to the rest of the planet’s ecosystems; that’s what Earth Day, April 22nd, is all about.

While our part of this beautiful planet is not for the faint of heart, we wouldn’t stay here if we didn’t love it.  Since we love it and depend on it in so many ways, April is the perfect time to think about how each of us can help ensure Southwest Florida maintains this magnet that makes it the perfect place to live, learn, work, and play.

A year ago, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation created the Fund for the Environment of Southwest Florida, which is as unique as the ecosystem it is intended to protect because it is crowdfunded.  The environment is something we all have in common.  It is always near the top of the list of reasons people choose to visit and often decide to move their families and businesses here.

This shared love for a cause created the perfect opportunity to crowdfund our first Fund for the Environment.  Crowdfunding lets us all be philanthropists and what better cause to rally around than one we all need. The environment belongs to us and the responsibility to protect it is each of ours.  Regardless of what is happening with politics or policies near and far, you can make a difference.  You make your community.

This April, we’re doing it again.

The Foundation is taking up this shared cause and creating a new opportunity to let everyone help protect this incredible resource that promotes beauty, peace, the economy, life, and memories to last a lifetime.

As summer approaches, my kids and I will be making memories and plans to take advantage of these things that make our hometown unique.  We’ll hit Fort Myers Beach, enjoy an airboat tour of Lake Okeechobee, ride bikes through J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, paddle the Charlotte Harbor, and maybe even brave a Swamp Walk at the Big Cypress National Preserve.  How about you?

As you venture out into Southwest Florida’s environment this April and start to make your summer plans, please take a moment to consider joining the crowd that will fund, through contributions big and small, projects that support something we all love, Southwest Florida’s environment.

 

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.