News-Press Causes Column

CAUSE & EFFECT: Pushing the Tube Up the Mountain Together

CAUSE & EFFECT: Pushing the Tube Up the Mountain Together

If people watching were an official sport, I am fairly certain I could be a contender for the Olympic team or championship game.

Wherever I go I look for opportunities to observe people and their behaviors.  I often say I am listening, but many times I am watching to see what I can learn about others.

Most recently my people watching training took me out of state to a land full of mountains and snow.

One of my favorite people watching moments in these wintery conditions is taking in a couple hours of snow-tubing.  This entails tubers of all ages pushing an inflated rubber tube up a snowy hill to the top and then riding it full speed to the bottom.

Pushing the tube up the mountain is nothing short of a monumental task. Your feet slip, it’s cold, and a tube big enough to ride is just awkward to maneuver.

Kids are the best to watch because the tube is about twice their size, but they are relentless in getting that chariot up the slope because they know the joy of the exhilarating ride to the bottom.

In an afternoon of tubing, the riders will repeat this ritual over and over. But I have noticed some people are more willing to push the tube up the hill than others.

It seems to be some sort of return on investment proposition based on the satisfaction of the ride down.  In my casual observations tenacity is increased when others are there to help or share in the journey.  Groups tubing together will help fellow travelers when the tube gets too cumbersome, and in some cases they will work together to get one tube up the hill and then ride down together.

In every case, the journey is never easy.

A few weeks ago when I was feeling a bit discouraged about a tough journey of my own and was worried about keeping our Southwest Florida Community Foundation team engaged and energized a colleague shared a story she sometimes conveys to her team.

This woman is a trailblazer who I admire and she has successfully launched several community projects that many thought impossible, so I knew she had some sage advice.

Interestingly it also involved a snow laden scenario.  Not of pushing a tube up a hill, but instead a snowball.  She says she often thinks of her projects and community movements as snowballs that are being pushed up a mountain.  At the beginning many people will gather around to help push but when things get tough some fall away.  She keeps her team and volunteers motivated by painting the picture of what will happen once they reach the top of the mountain.

Whatever size snowball they have could roll to the summit; the minute they push it over the other side of the mountain it will gain momentum.  It will pick up speed, size and people who want to be involved.   But none of that happens without finding a way to get to the top with the people who are willing to go with you.

Over the last few months I have read, watched and been inspired by the profiles of the News Press People of the Year nominees and recipients.  These are fellow residents who have accomplished amazing things over the past year.  As my friend shared her story I realized that everyone featured had pushed their own proverbial snowballs up some pretty steep mountains.

Overcoming health issues, human trafficking, business challenges, being under the microscope of the public eye, or finding their way as a next generation leader.  Each story has both its snowball up the mountain and down the mountain moment (You can still find the stories by clicking here).

At the Southwest Florida Community Foundation we also have the great honor and privilege of supporting nonprofit organizations of all sizes and missions in our region.  I see these teams working hard to tackle issues facing the environment, poverty, education, animals, the arts, health and safety, and community development.  They work hard but they need the support of our region.   Just like the tubers who ride in groups, the journey up hill is always better when taken together.

So what snowball or tube are you trying to push up the hill?  Or who could you help up the mountain?  Whichever it is, remember the ride down is worth it and as a semi-pro people (and their causes) watcher, I can’t wait to see what happens 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

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.

How are you going to change the world?

How are you going to change the world?

How are you going to change the world?

It was an innocent enough question that I asked each of the young professionals who visited our office last week.  These six young women and two young men were home for the holidays.  They have still not met each other but have so very much in common.  They each answered my query without a pause as if it was something they thought about often and do as they go about their daily work.

A former Marine and senior level patent examiner at the US Patent Office, an assistant state attorney, a new mother and former Miss Florida and 4th runner-up Miss America who went on to get a masters degree in theology, a CFO for an energy company, a first generation college graduate now finishing a master’s degree program in communication at the University of Vermont on a full scholarship, a head of a Montessori school, an assistant professor in the department of Thoracic Surgery at a major medical institution, a Lee County Public Schools Take Stock in Children alumna who is currently a student studying sports psychology at Cornell — they are all going to change the world but not how you might think!

They are also Southwest Florida Community Foundation scholarship recipients over the last decade. Some live here and some do not.  They all say they are going to change the world starting with wait for it, wait for it…..

COMMUNITY.

Yes, community! The responses varied only slightly and differed only from how they defined community.  Some said they were going to change the world starting with their cities or towns where they lived, others spoke of their colleagues and peers in their chosen careers as their community, or the patients they serve, and another said she was going to change the world starting with her own family.

How are you going to change the world? It’s something we all ponder every day at the Southwest Florida Community Foundation.  I guess that’s why I asked them.

I used to think that changing the world was such a big thing, as large and as difficult and as magnanimous as our globe.  Where do you start? I thought this so much so that when I used to ask the question I would add a caveat, an extra line like this: “Do you want to change the world? — at least our corner of it?”

I quickly realized with this bunch, they understood the question very clearly without my expanded version.

“With a smile,” said Lindsay Scott. She said if she can brighten just one person’s day, she’s changing the world.

“I would encourage people to seek opportunity,” Lee Visone said. “If one person accomplishes that, then it will have an exponential effect on the world.”

“Oh, I have a plan!” said Dr. Erin Gillaspie. “I am focused on research for lung cancer patients and I want to find treatments to make their quality of life better so we can best treat these people.”

“First I will change my community,” said Nahisha Alabre.  “It’s how I can give back to my community because this community gave me my start. Then if I can change my community, I think it will change the city, then the state, then the country, and then the world, but I have to start small right here where I came from.”

“I have a strong sense of community, I want to help out young people who are following the same path I followed,” said Michael Dignam.  “I want to get involved in an organization like this because it has greatly influenced me.”

“My hope is to first and foremost change the world through my family by supporting and loving my husband and raising our daughter,” said Sierra Jones.  “I want my daughter to learn what it means to be kind and have compassion, I think we need to start at home with our family unit – it’s in our daily interactions with others that will change the world.”

“As a first-generation black woman getting an education, I am changing the world by changing the narrative, and I am giving people a voice who may not necessarily have a platform,” said Jessica Williams. “I am going to continue to do that to change the world.”

So now it’s your turn, how are YOU going to change the world?  We’d love to know.  Please post it on our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/SWFLCF), tweet about it (@SWFLCFnd), email us ([email protected]) or call us (239-274-5900).  If you want to start with your community,  so do we!

 

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, the Foundation partnered with individuals, families and corporations who have created over 400 philanthropic funds.  Thanks to them, the foundation has invested $5 million this year 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.

 

Some Records Are Made to be Broken

Some Records Are Made to be Broken

I recently heard a story in which a man was trying to break a Guinness World Record by rowing the distance in a boat made out of a huge, human-sized pumpkin grown originally to win the record for the world’s largest pumpkin competition.  When his prized pumpkin came up short, he found another record to beat.  I had never heard of a pumpkin boat much less a record for the longest miles rowed in a gourd.

When he set out on his adventure he knew from the folks at Guinness that he needed to travel 8 miles to break the record.  The voyage went off without a hitch and when the 8-mile finish line was in sight he received an urgent text informing him that the old record had been broken the week before with an astonishing 15 mile journey.

So the great pumpkin traveled on and 13 hours later made it to the 25.6-mile mark, crushing the previous record.

I am sure that to the pumpkin growing captain breaking the record was of utmost importance but the rest of us were probably not losing sleep over it.

Records and milestones provide people and organizations unique opportunities to celebrate accomplishments and milestones.  Some are personal bests while others impact entire communities.

In this edition of Florida Weekly you will find the Southwest Florida Community Foundation’s annual report to the community. And I am pleased to report that our generous donors have reached a record of their own in 2016:  A record breaking $5 million year of investing in our region.

This is only possible through powerful partnerships with donors, funding partners and a visionary board of trustees.  But it’s not only about the dollars, the investment also represents a diverse funding stream addressing a variety of community opportunities including the environment, social justice issues, economic development, the arts and health, safety and animals, and more.

More resources to support these important causes is a record worthy of being broken every year.

Our goal in 2107 is to create more record breaking moments of change.  I hope we have the tenacity and drive of the pumpkin paddler to not only hit the mark but move way beyond it for the good of our region.

Please read our annual report here in Florida Weekly, and go online at www.floridacommunity.com/annual-report to view the hundreds of partners and supporters of the Foundation’s work.  If you want to get involved and become a change-maker, or simply be part of a record with us, please let me know 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. Last year, the Foundation partnered with individuals, families and corporations who have created over 400 philanthropic funds.  Thanks to them, we’ve 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.

 

 

 

 

 

United Arts Council of Collier County helps make Arts:Work

United Arts Council of Collier County helps make Arts:Work

Through music, performing and visual arts, the UAC works with our community to make real and positive change.

by Laura Burns, Executive Director

What’s your definition of success? Or how about economic impact? At UAC ours is the sound of singing, making music, dancing, poetry, painting; you name it, if it involves creative problem solving, we are all about it!

During any given week, someone contacts the UAC to tell us about the impact the arts are having on their lives. We received this inspiring e-mail just the other day.

“My grandson is taking lessons with one of your teaching artists. and without UAC, this would not be possible. He is considered a high risk youth that has struggled with many things that included school work and confidence. But he really wanted to change things. He really connected with music and selected the flute when he signed up for middle school band. When I realized how much he enjoyed it towards the end of his first year I started to look for lessons and we discovered the wonderful teacher UAC had available to help.

He has learned that it’s all about practice and how far he goes is in his hands. He became the go to person for the flute, withstood the teasing from those who questioned why he selected the flute because some view it as a feminine instrument, his grades have come up to where he is actually working above grade level now. He has entered competitions, trying out for the all county band and has been accepted into a church youth band. He plans on being in marching band next year.

He is surrounding himself with a great musical family and has managed to escape the influence of drugs and gangs that lurk in his neighborhood. I am forever grateful!”

The United Arts Council is thrilled to be able to contribute to the development of those important life skills and help enrich so many lives through the arts. Research shows soft skills lead to many positive impacts, a few of which are improved attendance at school, higher academic achievement and more developed critical thinking. All of these skills lead to positive personal development, which in turn has positive economic impacts. That small investment in the arts then becomes the vibrant and engaged communities we call home.

Through the generous support of Southwest Florida Community Foundation and the Community Foundation of Collier County, the United Arts Council of Collier County is undertaking an Economic Impact Study in partnership with Americans for the Arts and Alliance for the Arts. This research will offer concrete evidence of the economic value of the arts to our community where the results will be national, as well as specific to Collier County.

The United Arts Council is designated by the state of Florida as the official local arts agency for Collier County.  The non-profit organization is responsible for promoting the arts locally and coordinating a consolidated calendar for the county’s arts and cultural organizations.  They also provide arts education to at-risk students in after-school programs. To view the calendar and for more information visit www.uaccollier.com.

This summer and fall, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation is spotlighting the nonprofit organizations funded through the 2016 competitive grant cycle.  We have asked our 2016 grantees to send us their stories.  The Foundation is pleased to partner with these change-makers. 

About 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. Last year, the Foundation partnered with individuals, families and corporations who have created over 400 philanthropic funds.  Thanks to them, we’ve 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 Immokalee Foundation gives young readers the literacy boost they need to succeed

The Immokalee Foundation gives young readers the literacy boost they need to succeed

by Steven Kissinger, executive director of The Immokalee Foundation

 

When older students help younger students improve their reading skills, the impact is great on many levels. The Immokalee Foundation’s Immokalee Readers program has proven this for years.

Teachers recommend students in kindergarten through third grade who read below grade level, as well as those who have difficulty completing required skills, including initial sounds, alphabet recognition and sight words.

Those students who are recommended for the program enroll with their parents’ permission and, three days a week, work directly with high school-aged tutors until the young students’ skills are brought up to grade level.

Testing is done every nine weeks to evaluate progress in the achievement gaps identified by teachers. If students still need help, they remain in the program; those who have made sufficient progress continue learning with their regular classroom teachers.

The difference is usually obvious even without testing – just ask the young students’ mothers.

Mary Ramirez was understandably concerned when her youngest son, Isaiah Torres, didn’t talk much until first grade. Consequently, his English language skills lagged behind those of his classmates at Lake Trafford Elementary School.

After a short time working The Immokalee Foundation’s high school tutors, Torres caught up to his appropriate reading level. “Now, Isaiah comes home and tells me about how he works in a group and they read together, and he loves to read now,” Ramirez said. His tutor also was a role model and friend, and Ramirez noticed a boost in her son’s confidence level as a result.

The experience is rewarding for the older students, as well. “Being involved in Immokalee Readers has helped me develop my resume and opened my eyes to new experiences,” said Karina Estrada, who began tutoring when she was accepted into The Immokalee Foundation’s Take Stock in Children scholarship program her senior year at Immokalee High School.

Ulna Beaubrum finds tutoring personally satisfying, as well. “As young as I am, it is heartwarming to know I am playing the role of a leader, role model and teacher to students who are below the academic requirements,” she said.

Tutoring at school is particularly important because many Immokalee Readers students come from homes in which English is not the first language spoken, and it can be difficult for their parents to help with homework, said Marisol Sanders, program specialist for the nonprofit. Many of The Immokalee Foundation’s student tutors struggled with language skills themselves when they were younger, so they bring a personal understanding of their reading buddies’ situations.

Contributions from generous donors – along with a recent Community Impact Grant from the Southwest Florida Community Foundation – keep vital programs like Immokalee Readers lighting the way to brighter futures for Immokalee’s youth.

The Immokalee Foundation provides a range of education programs that focus on building pathways to success through college and post-secondary preparation and support, mentoring and tutoring, opportunities for broadening experiences and life skills development leading to economic independence. To learn more about The Immokalee Foundation, volunteering as a mentor or for additional information, call 239-430-9122 or visit www.immokaleefoundation.org.

 

This summer and fall, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation is spotlighting the nonprofit organizations funded through the 2016 competitive grant cycle.  We have asked our 2016 grantees to send us their stories.  The Foundation is pleased to partner with these change-makers. 

About the Southwest Florida Community Foundation
As leaders, conveners, grant makers and concierges of philanthropy, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation is a foundation built on community leadership with an inspired history of fostering regional change for the common good in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Community Foundation, founded in 1976, connects donors and their philanthropic aspirations with evolving community needs. With assets of more than $93 million, the Community Foundation has provided more than $63 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves. Last year, it granted more than $3.2 million to nonprofit organizations supporting education, animal welfare, arts, healthcare and human services, as well as provided regional community impact grants and scholarship grants.

 

 

Real World Learning Model Student Highlight: Darchelle Excellent

Real World Learning Model Student Highlight: Darchelle Excellent

by Jason Kurek, Champions for Learning

“If you know you have the potential to do something, then you need to do it,” says Darchelle Excellent, Champions For Learning Real World Learning Model participant and a Naples Daily News 2016 Graduate of Distinction.

Darchelle’s motivation to reach her full potential came from her parents who immigrated to the United States from Haiti. Despite searching for a better life, Darchelle and her family struggled.

“My family struggled financially. Growing up I knew I didn’t want that. I wanted to do something about my situation, so I focused on my education,” says Darchelle.

Her drive led her to attend Lorenzo Walker Technical High and in 10th grade she decided to dual enroll at Florida SouthWestern State College. Her classes have helped her get a head start on her career of becoming a nurse practitioner with a focus on neonatology. Darchelle’s love of helping her community sparked her interest in the medical field, but it was something close to home that solidified her decision.

“I always wanted to become a nurse,” says Darchelle. “But once my little sister was born premature I knew that this was the field I needed to get into.”

Despite having big plans for her future, Darchelle found herself stuck. She had a dream like everyone else, but being a first generation student, she needed extra guidance to reach her goals. In her junior year of high school, Darchelle found this help through the Real World Learning Model College and Career Prep program where she received support with filling out financial aid forms, scholarships, and college applications. Champions For Learning received multiple grants from organizations such as the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation and the Southwest Florida Community Foundation to support this program.

“The program really helped me. When I had a question about a form the Champions For Learning staff were there to help,” says Darchelle. “If I didn’t have this program I would’ve really struggled.”

Receiving support from others inspired Darchelle to pay it forward by becoming a part of a mentoring program called “The Golden Hour.” The program matches Honor Society Juniors and Seniors from Lorenzo Walker to North Naples Middle School students. This program was devised by 2015 Golden Apple recipient, Ed Laudise, through his Golden Apple grant funded by Suncoast Credit Union Foundation.

“It was such a great experience mentoring my 6th grade students,” says Darchelle. “My student had potential, but didn’t know how to use it. In 3 weeks he made a complete turnaround. He would come in with his homework done. His grades went up. I honestly saw a big change.”

Darchelle has embedded her roots deep into Collier County, but moving away to the University of Florida doesn’t shake her up.

“I’m ready to take the next step,” she says with an excited smile. “I’ve been preparing for this for a long time.”

 

This summer, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation is spotlighting the nonprofit organizations funded through the 2016 competitive grant cycle.  We have asked our 2016 grantees to send us their stories.  The Foundation is pleased to partner with these change-makers. 

About the Southwest Florida Community Foundation
As leaders, conveners, grant makers and concierges of philanthropy, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation is a foundation built on community leadership with an inspired history of fostering regional change for the common good in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Community Foundation, founded in 1976, connects donors and their philanthropic aspirations with evolving community needs. With assets of more than $93 million, the Community Foundation has provided more than $63 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves. Last year, it granted more than $3.2 million to nonprofit organizations supporting education, animal welfare, arts, healthcare and human services, as well as provided regional community impact grants and scholarship grants.

 

 

 

 

The Boot That (almost) Stole Christmas

The Boot That (almost) Stole Christmas

In a flurry of holiday preparation I made a bold leap to the top of a closet to stash a box of decorations out of the way.  Somewhere mid-flight the crate I used as my launching pad gave way and I came crashing to the floor.  The moment I landed I knew my right foot would not bear an ounce of weight and I silently mumbled “Merry Christmas to me” under my breath and then yelled for help.

This year I am giving winter boot season a whole new meaning and sporting an orthopedic contraption on my foot that enables me to move freely, yet slowly along my merry holiday way.

For the first few days I was committed to keeping a great attitude, but as Christmas drew closer, my holiday cheer seemed to be fading away.   Everything I needed to accomplish was taking twice as long and my patience was wearing thin.  I began to feel as if the boot was actually draining Christmas joy from my body.

I knew I needed to make a last minute mental adjustment or instead of the Grinch who stole Christmas I would be living out my own rendition of the boot that stole Christmas.  If Dr. Seuss’s hardhearted mean-spirited Grinch could turn things around then so could I.

Fortunately, as if on cue, I met a Salvation Army Red Kettle bell ringer who helped me put things into perspective.  I was hobbling my way into a store with I am sure the grinchiest of attitudes when he stopped mid ring to ask me what happened. I reluctantly shared my story and as if I was in a momentary therapy session expressed my concern about my less than stellar attitude.

He smiled warmly and without judgment shared that he could never be down at Christmas because for decades he had been ringing the bell for the Army.  In fact just the year before he had had double knee replacement but it was not going to keep him from his holiday tradition of helping others.  Apparently he had to receive special permission to sit on a walker, rather than stand to fulfill his duties.  There was not a single hint of the Grinch in him, and he said that was one of his best years on the bell. He felt so grateful that the surgery had not held him back and it made him appreciate this year in a new and special way.

It also gave him the empathy to reach out to this Grinch as she made her way past his kettle, and gives her the attitude adjustment she desperately needed and the inspiration to pass it on to others facing much greater challenges than a bionic boot. If you are looking for ways to pay it forward this holiday season, I’d like to hear from you, [email protected]

 

Welcome, Christmas, bring your cheer. Cheer to all Whos far and near. Christmas Day is in our grasp, so long as we have hands to clasp. Christmas Day will always be just as long as we have we. Welcome Christmas while we stand, heart to heart, and hand in hand.   – from The Grinch That Stole Christmas