NEWS

The Right Fit

The Right Fit

I have a great pair of shoes that I never wear.  I bought them the night before a special event and did not have much time to decide.  When I saw them it was love at first sight and they were perfect for the occasion.  My shopping companion gave them the friend seal of approval and I was on my way to the register.  Mission accomplished.

The only problem is they were a half size too small and I knew it.  I jammed my feet into them in the store, took a few spins around the displays and convinced myself of a couple of possible scenarios. 1.  They will stretch.  2. My feet were a little swollen at the end of the day and/or 3.  I used to wear a size 7 a few years ago and everything would be fine.  Anyone who has great shoes they never wear sitting in their closet at this very moment knows exactly how this happened.

I like to call this magical thinking.  It defies logic and can be powerful in the right situations.  When it happens with shoes it’s pretty harmless except for 5 to 8 hours of agony that bursts the bubble, but I have also seen it reveal itself with career moves, relationships and business decisions.

We know what the right choice looks and feels like but for a variety of reasons we persuade ourselves that the figurative half size too small will end up being a good fit in the end.

In my role at the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, I have seen this happen with charitable giving.  It might be hard to believe that there is a bad fit when it comes to generosity as any act of kindness can produce a positive benefit.

But when you are looking for a nonprofit partner that is going to impact a cause you care about fit does matter.

Sometimes donors find themselves giving to organizations because everyone in their circle of friends is passionate about the cause or they just are not sure how and where to research the right partnerships.  Businesses can confuse marketing dollars with philanthropic dollars and then wonder why their brand is not linked to creating positive change in a community and their employees struggle finding the culture of purpose in the work.   This is all about the right fit.

At the Foundation, we have created tools and conversations that help individuals, families and businesses match their values and interests with nonprofits and initiatives that create powerful, measurable and impactful partnerships and that is where magical thinking is transformed into effective giving. Recently we worked a senior leadership team at a local company matching their personal passions to organizations in the community which creates engaged and motivated volunteers.

A few weeks ago, I saw a colleague in the same pair of shoes that sit idly in my closet.  They looked great on her, and when I asked how they fit…she said “perfect, I love them.”  I am going to donate mine to someone who can enjoy them and find a pair that works for me.

If we can help you do the same with your giving send me an email at [email protected]  Life is too short for a bad fit.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Personal and Personalized

It’s Personal and Personalized

My latest coffee shop order is an iced grande cinnamon almond milk macchiato with sugar free cinnamon dolce, hold the caramel drizzle.  I practice saying it in my head before I stand in line and try not to listen to all the other people ahead of me, as it can throw me off my game.

If you hang around the barista stand long enough you might be shocked to learn how many different ways there are to order coffee.

Recently I was buying a cup of joe for a friend and when she said she wanted “a small coffee, black” I was in shock, and I think the person behind the register was as well.

My companion wondered out loud when coffee had become so imaginative.  I blew her mind when I explained she could order a Frappuccino that changed colors and flavors during consumption.

Our world has become hyper-customized.  A couple of years ago our team reached out to a national chain to discover the number of ways there were to order a caffeinated concoction and were shocked to learn it was 170,000 options…for coffee!

We’ve all honed our personal preferences in many aspects of our lives and companies of all sorts stand at the ready to meet our desires.

It is the same in philanthropy.  Gone are the days for one-size –fits- all giving.  Generosity comes in all shapes and sizes and there are endless ways to connect with your passion and make a difference in the lives of others.

At the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, our days are filled with customizing and personalizing philanthropy. Just last week we directed a quarter of a million dollars from individual donors to local nonprofits who impacted their personal giving strategy and passions.  They didn’t need our help in identifying what they cared about- that was deeply personal.  Instead they were looking for the right organizations and projects that fit what they were committed to achieving.   We felt like the Match.com of philanthropy when we saw the grantors and grantees connect and feel equally fulfilled.

Our matchmaking extends beyond what a donor funds to how they make it happen.  A generation ago giving primarily happened via cash, check or for the ultra-wealthy a private foundation.  In our customized philanthropy culture there is on-line giving, crowd-funding via text message, virtual endowments, giving challenges, and philanthropy mortgages.

Many times we meet with families and individuals who know they want to change the world but are just not quite sure how to make it happen.  That’s when we become the baristas of giving.

Step up, tell us what you want and we will help you create something special.  The options are endless.

I am ready to take your order 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.

 

 

 

 

 

$133,000 awarded to local nonprofits and scholarship recipient in memory of Jordan Ashley Gutheim

$133,000 awarded to local nonprofits and scholarship recipient in memory of Jordan Ashley Gutheim

20-year-old graduate of Evangelical Christian School and a junior at Florida State University was killed one year ago in a car accident

Four local nonprofits, a church mission trip and a high school senior were the first recipients of funds from the Jordan Ashley Gutheim Foundation Fund and the Jordan Ashley Gutheim Scholarship Fund, funds of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation.

The funds were established in memory of Jordan Gutheim, a 20-year-old who graduated from Evangelical Christian School and was a junior at Florida State University. Jordan and her boyfriend Benji Piechoczek were killed in a car accident on May 12, 2016, while waiting to make a legal turn.

Recipients included Valerie’s House, Gulf Coast Humane Society, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and the Dr. Ella Piper Center’s grandparents program. In addition, Evangelical Christian School senior Kathryn Pinchin received a scholarship to FSU, and a grant was also made to a New Hope Presbyterian Church to aid with a mission trip to the Dominican Republic planned for this June.

“We’re honored, and words can’t describe how meaningful this news is,” said Angela Melvin, executive director and founder of Valerie’s House. “Knowing the Gutheims’ love for their daughter and what this represents to them is beyond special to all of us and especially me personally.”

Valerie’s House was the recipient of a $100,000 grant to be provided during a six-year period.

According to her family, Jordan was passionate about animal safety, seniors and helping those in need in impoverished countries like the Dominican Republic. Her parents plan for the fund to support efforts including no-kill animal shelters, seniors facing dementia, humanitarian mission trips, driver safety and family services. Annually, the Foundation will also award a four-year scholarship to FSU.

“The Gutheims have been in our thoughts as they show such strength, compassion and kindness during this tragic anniversary,” said Lori Burke, executive director of MADD. “My heart goes out to them. We will honor them and their daughter by ensuring we provide meaningful teen groups dedicated to road safety.”

Born in Fort Myers, Jordan was known for her fun and loving spirit, her happiness, sensitivity and interest in going out of her way to help others.

“Jordan had an outpouring of love for her family, friends and people in need,” said her father Greg. “She valued loyalty and kindness,” “She loved to travel, exercise, experience new things and make others laugh. We miss her more and more each day, and through this fund, our wonderfully kind and caring daughter will live on and continue to help others.”

“The Gutheims are saving and enriching the lives of those that need us and enables Gulf Coast Humane Society to be their voice,” said Jennifer Galloway, executive director, Gulf Coast Humane Society.

“This grant award will allow us to enroll two additional foster grandparent volunteers who will be serving at least 2,088 hours in a year serving at least five students daily with one-on-one mentoring and tutoring,” said Nida Eluna, executive director of Dr. Piper Center for Social Services, Inc. “With an additional two foster grandparent volunteers, we will have a total of 98,136 hours annually devoted to mentoring and tutoring children with special needs.”

The fund is available for anyone who would like to contribute at http://bit.ly/JordanAshleyGutheim, or those interested may send a check to 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. 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 Storytelling

Community Storytelling

When I was a little girl if someone said you were telling a story that usually signaled you might not be telling the whole truth on a particular matter.  On more than one occasion I remember my grandmother looking me square in the eye and asking, “Sarah Ann are you telling your Mimi a story?”

Some people are better storytellers than others. In the context of my childhood I wasn’t too great at the stories I designed to get out of trouble.  I added too many details that made my Mimi laugh under her breath but didn’t help my case.

She was a great storyteller in the classic sense of the idea.  We spent summers together in North Carolina and there was no television reception on the mountain so we spent quite a bit of time listening to records, reading books and telling tales.  Her best stories were always those she had experienced herself and then shared with me.  She often said the best storytellers were those who could help others feel something even if they had never experienced it themselves.

Over the past few years there has been a resurgence of the art of storytelling in a wide variety of fields. Now both the technical and creative side of creating a compelling story is considered key to delivering messages in the private, public and social sector.

If she were still with me I think my Mimi might be surprised to learn that storytelling has become a big part of my life.  Not the yarns to get out of trouble but rather telling the stories of generous donors, community advocates and nonprofit heroes and superstars in our region.  I am always looking for ways to communicate the incredibly generous culture of Southwest Florida in the written and spoken word.

At the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, we love to tell these stories but we are equally committed to equipping and supporting the region’s nonprofits to tell the stories of their amazing work.  Each year our donors grant millions of dollars to create change through these change-making organizations and it is important their work and passions on behalf of all of us is being shared.

Effective and impactful storytelling is an art and a skill and as my Mimi taught me it has to be practiced and honed so people will listen and respond.  To that end, each year the non-profits who are awarded funding in our annual competitive grant cycles are also provided the opportunity to participate in a three-day academy presented by the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications that is designed to expose these nonprofit leaders to the skills, strategies, theory and techniques required to build movements and drive positive social change using strategic communications.

Once home from this public interest communications immersion, the organizations have new insights on their brand of storytelling.  As a result, we have seen compelling grant proposals, documentary style videos, focused on-camera interviews, social media exposure and articles and columns in print.

Through a partnership with Florida Weekly the non-profits submit a column that appears in this space over the summer.

If you enjoy a good story with a cause as much as I do, you won’t want to miss it.

If my Mimi were alive today and could ask me if I was telling her a story, I would answer, “yes-mam I sure am.”

As always, we would love to hear your community stories 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Land of Opportunity Fund established at Southwest Florida Community Foundation – Two pilot programs launched

The Land of Opportunity Fund, an endowed field of interest fund of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, has been established by an anonymous donor who will match donations of $50,000 or more with an additional $50,000.

Through its grant making, the Land of Opportunity Fund aims to sustain nonprofits that serve immigrants and to support innovative ideas to meet the future needs of both the immigrant community and the economy of Southwest Florida. Major donors to the Fund will constitute an advisory board and assist in evaluating future grant applications. After research about local needs, a team of volunteers has designed two pilot programs to connect immigrant residents with legal services. Online donations for both pilot projects and the Fund are accepted at www.landofopportunityfund.org.

The two pilot programs associated with the Land of Opportunity Fund are:

Immigration Legal Services (ILS), a pilot project that supplements staffing support at nonprofits by placing a qualified immigration attorney in a location convenient for clients who would otherwise not be able to access such legal help or afford it.

El Camino (The Path), a mobile and web-based app that offers immigration guidance and local resources in order for individuals to qualify and pursue employment and permanent residency. Unique in the country because of its local focus, it is in development and will be available for download and distribution by employers, faith-based organizations, social service agencies and others. It will assist users by providing the information they need in advance of appointments with immigration attorneys.

“The five counties of Southwest Florida are home to many of the state’s immigrants working in such fields as health care, agriculture, construction and the hospitality industry,” said Dawn-Marie Driscoll, a project team member. “Yet only two counties provide effective nonprofit legal aid to assist immigrants with their status issues. Lacking access to reliable and affordable legal services, many immigrant residents, especially those of low to modest means and those facing deportation, have fallen victim to predatory legal practices.

Dawn-Marie Driscoll
Dawn-Marie Driscoll

“These projects actually started back in 2015 before the issue of immigration was front-page news,” said Driscoll. “It was never a response to a public policy discussion but a careful study of the issues facing our neighbors, fellow parishioners, college students and local employers. The legal paths are so complex that we found everyone is better served with the guidance of an immigration attorney.”

ILS began in March at the Heights Center in Harlem Heights located in Fort Myers, funded by David Lucas. Immigration attorney Lindsay Ray of Amigos Center is accepting appointments at the Center to efficiently service residents who need legal advice. Consultations are free and confidential.

Linday Ray, Amigos Center
Linday Ray, Amigos Center
David Lucas
David Lucas

“Certain immigrants from El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Haiti, who have temporary protected status here in the U.S. due to extraordinary circumstances in their home countries, need help getting their status extended and their work authorization renewed every 18 months,” said Ray.

She added victims of violent crimes who help law enforcement with the prosecution of the offender qualify for a visa that allows them to live in the U.S. for four years, obtain work authorization, and eventually apply for permanent residency. U.S. citizens and permanent residents are also able to petition for the permanent residency of certain immediate family members living abroad who wish to move to the U.S.

“The Heights Foundation and The Heights Center are very grateful for this partnership with the Land of Opportunity Fund,” said Kathryn Kelly, president and CEO of The Heights Foundation. “The pathway to citizenship is complicated and difficult, especially for our low-income families. This is a much-needed service, as it is almost impossible to navigate this system without an attorney. We look forward to serving our most vulnerable families with this pilot program.”

Others who need assistance include students who were brought to the U.S. at a young age by their parents and are able to apply for protected legal status (DACA). As recipients of DACA, they are called “dreamers.” They receive a temporary status for two years at a time, which is renewable. That status allows them to work and to continue with their studies through college and even graduate school.

Amigos Center provides high-quality legal services at a very low cost. It never turns anyone away based on his or her inability to pay, and it doesn’t charge for consultations.

“Our free consultations are one of the most important services we provide to our community,” said Ray. “They allow us to educate our clients about their individual case as well as provide them with information that they can use to protect themselves and pass on to their community. We often use our consultations to remind clients that fraud is common in the field of immigration, and we share the warning signs that they should look out for if they’re ever confronted with someone who wants to charge them thousands of dollars for a legal status, even though they don’t qualify for one.”

The American Bar Association commission has reported that unscrupulous “notarios” or “immigration consultants” have become an increasingly serious problem in immigrant communities. Often using false advertising and fraudulent contracts, notarios hold themselves out as qualified to help immigrants obtain lawful status or perform legal functions such as drafting wills or other legal documents. Unethical notarios may charge a lot of money for help that they never provide. Often, victims permanently lose opportunities to pursue immigration relief because a notario has damaged their case. Unfortunately, notario fraud is usually identified after the fact when an immigrant has already suffered an adverse event as the result of a consultant’s services (e.g., a denial of temporary protective status or a removal order), and seeks the assistance of a licensed immigration attorney. Local nonprofit human service providers have reported that having lost money to notarios, families are then in need of food as well as housing and other assistance.

Funds for an immigration attorney at other locations such as United Way houses and underserved regions such as Hendry and Glades counties are also being sought through the Fund’s website.

The next phase for The Path includes development and distribution of the app, which would expand its content and distribution to all of Southwest Florida.

The immigration project team includes Sister Maureen Kelleher, a prominent immigration attorney and advocate on behalf of the immigrant community in Immokalee, Fla., Dan Bevarly, an experienced civic and public policy technology consultant, Julie Ben-Susan, a former financial services executive from Fort Myers, Dawn-Marie Driscoll of Cape Coral, an attorney and former chairman of the board of trustees of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, and Virginia Stringer, a former corporate executive and community leader from Sanibel.

The two pilot project initiatives are separately funded by local donors to demonstrate that innovative ideas can provide services to help residents who are already in Southwest Florida assimilate, prosper and contribute to their communities. If successful, the goal is that an existing nonprofit will be funded to continue them.

“Southwest Florida is the canary in the coal mine for changing demographics, as the Baby Boomer generation ages into retirement,” said Driscoll. “Foreign-born residents and their children will be its future workforce, particularly in critical industries such as health care, construction, hospitality and agriculture. Consider the example that immigrants already comprise 25 percent of all medical doctors and 20 percent of home health aides in the U.S., and Southwest Florida is already facing a shortage of health care workers in the future.”

Immigrants spend money in local businesses, which creates jobs. They pay state and local taxes, funding essential services (nearly $600 million in Florida, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy). The businesses they create sustain the jobs of even more workers.

“I think the relevancy of this proposal to our employment market is very timely as our unemployment numbers plummet,” said Diana Willis, owner of Jason’s Delis, Southwest Florida. “I know of a few folks who have been taken for a ride with counselors who would draw the process out and keep taking their money. Ultimately, they are not getting the results they needed.”

“Our family founded and has operated Cement Industries for more than 63 years,” said Gay Rebel Thompson, president of Cement Industries of Fort Myers. “I worry about our future sustainability – and that of other construction companies – if we cannot find or develop trained employees with a command of English who want to enter into the skilled trades essential to sustained, safe and quality construction here. Our region emphasizes a college ​education for some, which is fine, but local residents can earn a great income in construction in a very short time. I hope that foreign-born newcomers to Southwest Florida will be a part of our labor force in the future because we need them and value their contribution to our community.”

“The clear majority of immigrant families only want the opportunity to work hard, to share in the American dream,” added Craig R. Folk, CPA, Miller Helms & Folk PA. “Yet every day they face the fears of exploitation, of assimilation to a new culture, of uncertainty and even of arrest. The Land of Opportunity Fund helps them sort through the mind numbing bureaucratic maze of immigration forms and law. Two of our staff accountants are immigrants. They are excellent employees, pay their taxes and are an asset to our community. With help from the Land of Opportunity Fund, more success stories will be possible.”

For more information and to contribute online, visit http://bit.ly/LandofOpportunityFund or www.landofopportunityfund.org, email [email protected] or mail donations to the Southwest Florida Community Foundation office at 8771 College Parkway, Building 2, Suite 2, Fort Myers FL 33919, with notation for El Camino, ILS or the Land of Opportunity Fund.

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.

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Eat Local. Shop Local. Give Local.

Eat Local. Shop Local. Give Local.

He sat patiently in our waiting room.  He didn’t have an appointment and I was tied up on a phone call.  But he waited any way.  When I greeted this southern gentleman, I knew it was not going to be my typical meeting.

We stepped into a conference room at the Southwest Florida Community Foundation. At first, he said very little but he shared with me that he knew it was time to start planning his estate and knew he wanted to start with the Foundation. We talked about how he wants to give all his money to charity through a trust after the next generation of his family is gone.  He even had a pretty good idea of what organizations and causes he wanted to support, and he also expressed that he wanted to fortify our work so the Foundation could address the community’s critical needs long into the future.

I learned that he was a very successful businessman and land owner who moved here many, many years ago with little in his pocket but opportunity abound.  He worked hard, raised his family, even started a church and has enjoyed a beautiful relationship with his wife whose health was now failing.

Before he concluded his visit, he paused and looked me squarely in the face with a tear welling up in his eye as he leaned in across the table. “I want to give my money here in this community because I made my money here,” he said.

I was struck by this because I am such a believer in driving out of my way to eat at a locally-owned restaurant, support the small businessman/woman, and patronize boutiques and local enterprise.  There is nothing like home-made and handcrafted, a handwritten note. I laud the American Express campaign “Shop Local” because with a large percent of our local economy driven by small businesses, it’s just good practice.

Giving local is what sustains our community.  I suddenly realized that what this special man wants to do is not unlike the Foundation’s first major benefactor, Leonard Santini.  A farmer in the Iona and Fort Myers Beach area, Mr. Santini planned his estate to be left for causes he cared about deeply.  Through his estate, he left the Foundation a shopping center.  Upon his death in 1978, the shopping center became the Foundation’s to sell.  The proceeds of that sale garnered the foundation $2.5 million in an endowment fund. The foundation invests the assets and annually pays out a portion of the fund to grant to nonprofits that serve those cause areas.

The Santini Fund has granted out well over $9 million since 1980 to local organizations, but the best part?  The fund still has $2,564,642.66 today. We call that the power of endowment.”

So as our new foundation friend walked out the door, I was left thinking about the future and the possibilities of his gift to our community. He and so many others define “Give Local.”

If you want to know more about how you can give locally with great impact, or if you simply want to know of some great local restaurants, repair shops, and nearby boutiques,  give us a call at 239-274-5900.  We’d love to talk to you.  No appointment necessary.

 

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

 

CAUSE & EFFECT: The Future Is Indeed Very Bright in Southwest Florida

CAUSE & EFFECT: The Future Is Indeed Very Bright in Southwest Florida

Imagine the stories of 1800 students who have a dream for their future and are asking for support from generous strangers to help them get there.

Then consider the stories of 88 people or organizations compiled over four decades who are dedicated to trying to make some of those dreams come true with millions of dollars of funding.

Then add another 100 amazing volunteers across Southwest Florida who are willing to be the matchmakers (aka scholarship reviewers and interviewers) that bring the dreamers and dream-makers together and you have the makings of a dynamic scholarship program at the Southwest Florida Community Foundation.

As an organization, we are all about cultivating regional change for the common good and we know scholarships power students’ potential and aspirations, and our entire 5-county region is better as a result.

Every year we celebrate with a new class of scholarship recipients at the Community Foundation and it is a festivity that is repeated all over the region within other organizations like the Foundation for Lee County Public Schools, Uncommon Friends Foundation, Community Foundation of Collier County, industry associations, gated communities and service organizations.  But the initial scholarship award is just the beginning of the journey for the recipients.

Here at the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, we walk alongside hundreds of scholarship donors who have special and personal reasons for funding a student’s future education. Their motivations and passions might be unique but their goals are the same: to help the student get where they are willing to work so hard to go.

Not a single donor has ever come to us and said they were interested in a student getting into school, without the intent of that student finishing.  Getting into school is one thing but getting to completion and a fulfilling career is the goal.  Today’s students are tomorrow’s workforce, community advocates and providers for their families.

So, what happens to all these scholarship recipients after the initial awards?  We are committed to helping tell the rest of the story.

Of course we will continue to celebrate with each new class of awardees.   This year alone we will award 88 scholarships to high school seniors, adults and non-traditional students returning to the classroom from across the region.   We will also be working harder to stay in touch with the students all along the way and telling the stories of their lives after graduation.  We are looking at new ways to establish scholarship funds that create renewable, multi-year awards that follow the student throughout their degree or certification program. We are also exploring emergency funds that can help when the unexpected circumstance threatens to derail a dream. And, we are partnering with others like the United Way of Collier County and the Women’s Foundation of Southwest Florida to raise dollars for matched savings plans for education.

This year we caught up with several former Community Foundation scholarship recipients and discovered educators, doctors, attorneys, chief financial officers, social workers, and students who are were able to return to classes year after year thanks to ongoing funding.  (You can read about and hear their individual success stories at www.floridacommunity.com/scholarship-success).

Another student we connected with, Maria Valladares, a 2016 graduate of Florida SouthWestern Collegiate High School, is just finishing her freshman year in legal studies at Nova Southeastern College in Fort Lauderdale and she made a special trip to Fort Myers to spend some time with this year’s scholarship reviewers.  We had asked her to come and share a poem she had published which was beautiful, but she also took a few minutes to share her thoughts on what the generosity of others through both time and funding had meant to her.  I think her words are the essence of what it means to walk alongside someone on their way to a dream.

“My mother always stressed the belief that one cannot accomplish anything alone. If a seed, she used to tell me, can recognize that it relies on the sun, the rain, and the dirt to grow, then how can we not recognize that those around us are essential to our individual growth?

Thank you for the dedication and time that you have compiled for the Southwest Florida Community Foundation. All of you have impacted the lives of hundreds of young people because you believe in us. On behalf of every person that has received a scholarship: thank you. My mother has trained me to understand that gratitude is not simply a state of mind. It is a state of being. It is a lifestyle. And on this day I come to tell you that I have tried my best to live in gratitude in reverence of all of you and in reverence of every scholarship recipient. You are truly making a difference in the lives of this generation. You are helping us write our narrative for you provide us with the ink to do so. You are catalysts for change and we are merely a reaction. So… thank you.”

Thank you Maria for your dedication to your goals, it is our honor to be part of your story, and to follow you along the way. We can’t wait to learn the rest of your story. If you or someone you know has received a scholarship from the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, we would love to hear from you 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 Foundation hosts thank-you reception for scholarship reviewer

Community Foundation hosts thank-you reception for scholarship reviewer

1,800 scholarship applications were reviewed this year

 The Southwest Florida Community Foundation recently hosted 50 of its scholarship reviewers at a thank-you reception on April 20. Maria Valladares, a student of Nova Southeastern read a poem she wrote and had published thanking the Foundation’s donors.

This year, the Foundation received the volunteer efforts of 82 people in the community to review 1,800 scholarship applications and essays. There were 88 scholarship funds available, 64 of which were in the online competitive process, for local high school, undergraduate and graduate students from Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry and Lee counties.

More than 130 recipients will receive these scholarship awards totaling more than $700,000.

If you’d like to learn more about where past scholarship students are, check out the stories of 8 young professionals at http://floridacommunity.com/scholarship-success/

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.