NEWS

Community Love Notes

Community Love Notes

Last week I was driving down College Parkway in Fort Myers and noticed a car stalled out in a turn lane.  A moment later people were racing across the road from a nearby convenience store, pulling over their cars and jumping out to help the young driver push the car to a gas station parking lot.  There were so many people helping I think they could have picked the car up and carried it away.

Others were friendly honking and cheering them on, and I smiled and proclaimed out loud to no one, “I love this place.”  It is encouraging and inspiring to see people come together to help their fellow man.

I was feeling particularly positive since this chance siting happened to fall on Valentine’s Day and I had spent the morning meeting with our team at the Southwest Florida Community Foundation.

Valentine’s Day is the perfect holiday to consider and celebrate philanthropy.  At its core philanthropy means ‘love of humanity.’  Our team was reflecting on the work we see so many of our donors and nonprofits advancing in our region.  Acts of generosity and compassion that are fueled by love.

Our team also recognizes that there are challenges and opportunities facing our region that philanthropy has the potential to impact. But in the spirit of community and Valentine’s Day I asked them to consider and share what they loved about Southwest Florida, their work in the region and the generosity they see in others.

Throughout the day they took a few minutes and captured their thoughts on a white board as a love note to the community and I wanted to share some of them with you.

  • I love the environment
  • I love helping people
  • I love our new LGBT fund and the founding donors
  • I love the hearts and passion of our nonprofit leaders and their teams
  • I love the beaches
  • I love the FutureMakers Coalition
  • I love our donors and fundholders
  • I love that we receive gifts from all over the world (first gift from Germany!)
  • I love the plan for our new Technology Hub in downtown Fort Myers
  • I love the sunshine
  • I love our Women’s Legacy Fund Prima Donors and contributors
  • I love SWFL’s diversity
  • I love impacting lives
  • I love our (volunteer) board of trustees
  • I love our amazing team

That’s some of our list and we have decided to keep it up for a while.  It would be wonderful to add your words to our board and our love note. What do you love about Southwest Florida?   Reach out to me at [email protected], or post it on our Facebook page @SWFLCF or our Twitter page @SWFLCFnd.

 

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.

 

 

A “Compassionate” Shark Tank

A “Compassionate” Shark Tank

Over the last several years, I have met with hundreds of individual donors, businesses, the faith community and family foundations who are looking for ways to fund great ideas and great organizations in our Southwest Florida nonprofit sector.  I also meet with countless nonprofits who are seeking their funding.

I thought bringing them together in our Compassionate Shark Tank might be a great way to introduce them to each other.  It isn’t our intent to throw the nonprofits to the sharks but conversely, to introduce them to our own Mark Cubans and “Mr. Wonderfuls” (two of the investors on TV’s Shark Tank) who want to help.

Nonprofits that have submitted some great ideas to the Community Foundation for funding consideration through our Community Impact Grants come face to face with a group of funders and community stakeholders interested in investing time and money in the causes they represent.  The Compassionate Shark Tank panel consists of a wide range of donors and philanthropists, some with Donor Advised Funds at the Community Foundation and some who have foundations of their own.  The fun happens when a cross section of funders come together to make a nonprofits idea a reality.  The nonprofits have three minutes to pitch their ideas, and the compassionate “sharks” ask questions for 10 minutes.

 

Click here to read more.

Some Who Wander Are Actually Lost

Some Who Wander Are Actually Lost

I enjoy the challenge of navigating a new city, particularly as a solo traveler.  I feel empowered when I am able to get from point A to point B on my own in a place that is foreign to me.

I even give myself bonus points if I don’t speak the language and use public transit.  But this type of adventure lends itself to mishaps.  In Washington DC I once took a train that landed me in a residential part of Virginia and in Berlin I ended up on a subway that came to a stop, everyone exited and I found myself sitting alone in an unknown station.  Finally, a kindhearted person came and tapped me on the shoulder and signaled that this was the end of the line on that route and guided me toward a new train.

Just last week I was in Philadelphia and found myself making about 10 laps in a roundabout until I figured out which way I was headed.  All in the name of exploration.

Several times on this most recent trip I threw in the self-navigation towel and called a cab or summoned an Uber.  Normally the drivers know their city like a human GPS but not this trip.  I found myself backseat driving on more than one occasion and late to a few meetings.

I was struck by how much I trusted them to get me to my destination.  I assumed if I said I was going to the Liberty Bell they would know exactly how to get there.  I eventually found a driver who knew every inch of the city and I stuck with him for the rest of the trip.

Sometimes in life we are ready for exploration and sometimes we need a trusted advisor.

I see this with our donors at the Southwest Florida Community Foundation when they are making decisions about funding organizations or causes.  Many times they know exactly where they would like to see their dollars directed.  They have a long, positive relationship with a

non-profit and have committed to sustaining operational and program support.  Other times they are exploring possibilities on their own, researching websites, attending events and volunteering to get a sense of where they are going with their support.  And then there are times they are looking for direction and ask our team to help connect them with a cause or nonprofit that offers opportunities and solutions for their particular passion.

Since many of our neighbors are seasonal residents or have moved to our community from somewhere else, navigating giving can feel just like finding your way through unfamiliar streets and we are happy to share information, guides to giving (http://floridacommunity.com/guide-to-giving/) and make introductions to local non-profits.  Often we share the letters of ideas for projects that have been submitted by local non-profits through our own grant making process and we learn about new initiatives and organizations throughout the year.  With nearly 2,000 non-profits in our region there are fantastic opportunities to get involved, adventures awaiting and guidance when you need it most.

If you are on a giving journey, reach out to us at [email protected] and we will be happy to help every step of the way, I promise we won’t get you lost!

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.

 

 

 

Less than two weeks to apply for Community Foundation scholarships

Less than two weeks to apply for Community Foundation scholarships

FAFSA form required for need-based scholarships

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Southwest Florida Community Foundation, founded in 1976, cultivates regional change for the common good through collective leadership, social innovation and philanthropy to address the evolving community needs in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. Last year, it partnered with individuals, families and corporations that have created more than 400 philanthropic funds over the last 40 years. Thanks to them, the Foundation’s invested $5 million in grants and programs to the community. With assets of more than $93 million, it has provided more than $67 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves since inception. The Community Foundation is the backbone organization for the regional FutureMakers Coalition and Lee County’s Sustainability Plan. Based in Fort Myers, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation has satellite offices located on Sanibel Island, in LaBelle (Hendry County) and downtown Fort Myers. 

 

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

All We Need Is Love, or Is It?

All We Need Is Love, or Is It?

I love the way kids think.  That’s why I always end up talking to mine about topics that aren’t on your typical list of kid conversation ideas.  To be fair, more times than not, I don’t seek out opportunities to talk about difficult things, like politics.  Why would I when it’s hard enough for most adults to understand more or less explain it to children?

The way these conversations usually play out is to catch me by surprise, usually when I’m most tired or busy trying to get them out the door to school.  That’s when they hit me with the really tough questions about adult things.

I can’t blame them.  They observe and soak in the world around them.  Plus, it’s a great bait and switch tactic.  Either way, I’ve made it a point to always try to be honest, not shelter them too much, but explain things in a truthful, kid-sized way.

Lately, we’ve been talking about emotions and feelings and that it’s normal to feel anger or sadness just like it’s natural to feel happiness.  Sounds simple, but it can be tough particularly in the heat of an emotion like anger.

As February approached, we had a talk about love.  When asked, my soon-to-be 6 year old proclaimed love is something he experiences every day – hugging and family.

His older sister, described love as kindness and thoughtfulness.  She went on to explain that you don’t have to be family to love each other.  You can love anything, including animals.

The idea of loving anything got the younger one thinking.  What would happen if everyone in the world loved a little more?  “If people are different than us, we could laugh at them and make them feel bad.  Or we could love them, and they could be our friends!” he exclaimed.  His sister chimed in to support this theory, explaining that our differences are what makes us unique.

The Southwest Community Foundation is made up of a diverse team of change-makers.  We all bring distinct skills to our combined effort in cultivating regional change for the common good.  Each of us also falls on different points along the spectrum between being realists and optimists. Our individual uniqueness strikes a nice balance and helps us promote ingenuity in our work.

As adults, it’s easy to dismiss elementary school-aged ideas about feelings and choices. You could probably point to hundreds of examples that show it’s so much more complicated than that.  The world is riddled with complex problems that need to be solved. Is love really all we need?

As a change-maker and realist, I’m going to raise my hand alongside my diverse colleagues, the generous donors, non-profit leaders, private sector executives, educators, and community members that pass through our doors each day and say yes!  I may be a little biased, but these elementary school-aged ideas are on point.

Love opens the door to positive change on every level.  Love for our neighbors, our community and region, animals, and the environment is what we need right now. It certainly couldn’t hurt to give it try.

Ms. LeSage is the director of Social Innovation and Sustainability at the Southwest Florida Community Foundation.

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.

 

 

Cause & Effect:  It’s All Gone.

Cause & Effect: It’s All Gone.

It’s all gone.  That was the message delivered by my friend who emailed to let me know that the home shared by multi- generations of her family had been lost to a devastating fire.

This news was heartbreaking, and what made it worse is it followed on the heels of other tough health and personal challenges she had faced with courage.   It all just seemed too much.  I was thinking, “enough already!”

My friend lives in another part of the country so we stay in touch via email and text, but I struggle to find the right words for her.  I knew that as result of the fire the family had lost some valuable legacy establishing artifacts created by her father who had passed away a number of years ago.

The family had been busy working to curate and memorialize his work so that it could be shared with the world in perpetuity — a painstaking task.   I had learned from another colleague who is overseeing her late husband’s collection of artwork that this kind of responsibility carries the weight of the world.

Honoring and protecting legacy while grieving is difficult.

I knew I wouldn’t have the opportunity to connect with my friend in person, so I planned a video Skype call just to check in and make sure that I could see her face to gauge how she was holding up.  She is really skilled at sounding strong over the phone.

This news happened to correspond with a trip I was making to Philadelphia, and I couldn’t help but think that if after spending some time in the City of Brotherly Love I would somehow be inspired to share words of love and comfort with my hurting friend.  I had even thought of texting a photo of the famous LOVE sign in JFK park to let her know her family was on my mind.  Again, just the right words escaped me.

My original plan for this month’s Cause & Effect column was to share insights on the concept of brotherly love, which I had researched as part of my trip, and how it pertained to philanthropists and local nonprofits who shower love on our region every day.

But my plans changed when I Skyped with my friend. Surprisingly enough, I discovered it was she comforting me with the lessons learned from the fire and how it related to legacy and love.

With tragedy comes reflection and she was quick to share that the loss of the home and material possessions particularly those with financial and legacy implications had helped her focus on the true meaning of what matters after we are gone.

She made special note of the gratitude she felt that her loved ones escaped the fire and talked about the tedious and messy work of trying to sort through the remains at the site of the blaze, standing ankle deep in wet ash.

At one point the firefighters helping with the recovery of items from the home, opened a drawer of a nearly burned out dresser to find a single photo encased unharmed in an acrylic frame.

The photo was of she and her husband and their two kids and she said in that moment she knew that was the legacy of her father and that home.   Not just the continuation of the family but what they give of themselves and their work in this world which includes their faith, and service to the local and global community.

Because she lived in our part of the world for several years she made a point to mention the work that happens through the Southwest Florida Community Foundation and more specifically the nonprofits and donors we have the honor and privilege of working alongside every day.

She said the fire taught her that legacy developed by helping our fellow man, our environment and our communities lasts forever, because love endures all even when belongings and heirlooms do not.

So in a hotel room in the City of Brotherly Love, on a Skype call with my friend in the Midwest, who had returned from sorting out a family tragedy in the Northeast I learned a lesson about creating and sustaining love and legacy in our backyard.

A special thank you to all the nonprofits and the incredible people who support them, work in and with them for creating a legacy in Southwest Florida that can never be destroyed.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Open Shelf

An Open Shelf

The first home my husband and I bought together was a 1920s bungalow just a couple blocks off Daytona Beach.

It had hardwood floors hidden under carpet and many other quaint features that were covered with layers of paint, wallpaper and drywall.  A few years of our lives were spent uncovering the treasures of this house.

The first time we looked at our future home with a real estate agent we noticed the living room built ins were filled with keepsakes you wouldn’t normally find displayed in that setting.  A well-worn baseball cap, stacks of folded paper grocery bags and an assortment of fly swatters.  They weren’t thrown haphazardly on the shelves but were arranged as a display that seemed to hold meaning.

Long after we moved in and had filled the shelves with our own brand of memorabilia we would wonder out loud about the meaning of the eclectic tokens of the previous owners.

We created stories about the items and imagined how they made their way to a place of honor on the main room shelves.

When is the last time you took inventory of the things displayed on bookcases, mantels or shelves in your home or office? For the most part we reserve those places for things that hold memories, special meaning or inspiration.

Recently my son cleaned off some shelves in his bedroom that were filled with youth sports trophies, various certificates, collectibles and souvenirs from family vacations.

When I noticed the cleared out space I asked him what was up with the redecorating.  I knew a number of the things packed away had meant something to him over the years.

His answer was short and to the point.  “I am just making room for what is coming next,” he said.

I turned around, closed his door and went to find a few shelves of my own to clear.

The team at the Southwest Florida Community Foundation has recently been refreshing and sharpening our strategy on how to support donors, stakeholders and our nonprofit partners in cultivating change in our region.  Although we have 40 years of experience in philanthropy and change making, we realize that we always have to make room for what is coming next.  The next community need or opportunity and the next donor with their own unique story and vision for giving.

Many of our proverbial shelves will be filled in perpetuity with the generous keepsakes of those who came before and established funds to care for the community.

But we will always keep an open shelf, an open door and an open mind to what comes next.

 

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.