Florida Weekly Column

Who Will Cross the Bridges?

Who Will Cross the Bridges?

Recently there has been quite a bit of talk about bridge building in our nation and in our communities. Not the literal infrastructure kind of construction but rather symbolic scaffolding to connect people and ideas.

Whenever and wherever there are choppy waters of change, someone suggests building a proverbial bridge.

Just last week during a presentation on inspiring more registered women to vote in the 2020 election, the speaker fielded a number of questions on women’s issues that can cause divisiveness. She urged and encouraged the audience to find common ground and coalitions that encourage bridge building and collective thinking to reach a common goal of getting women to the polls to express their own unique views.

Her comments on bridge building grew applause and affirmative head shaking all around the room and it reminded me of how many times I had heard the term in conversation over the past several months.

At the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, we find ourselves in settings that require connecting diverse views on a regular basis. When you are working alongside passionate advocates and donors you are bound to hear a wide range of views on topics like education, health care, civic engagement, economic development, animals, poverty and arts.

We have found the best opportunities and innovations come out of conversations with a wide range of world views, but that does take some bridge building.

There are organizations, trailblazers, philanthropists, and leaders in our community who are willing to step up to build bridges across regional boundaries, cause areas and social, economic and cultural barriers.

Sometimes the bridge building is a lonely task while other times it gains a great deal of energy and support. Either way the bridge is built; coalitions are established; organizations are formed; and unifying conversations are started.

I see a lot of bridges all over our region. But what I am eager to see next is people willing to walk over them.

We can build goodwill and a framework to navigate some of our most difficult topics but if we as individuals we are not willing to take a step across the infrastructure that has been built nothing can really change.

Take a few minutes to look around and find a bridge that deserves your time and attention and start the journey. And if you want some guidance, reach out to me at [email protected]

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.

 

 

 

I’m Not Busy

I’m Not Busy

I am wondering what your reaction is when you read the headline to this week’s column. Some of you might be thinking, “Are you kidding me, season in Southwest Florida is the busiest time of year?” You may be wondering if I am slacking off in my job or just not receiving invitations to all the happenings in our region.

Everywhere I go these days when I ask how someone is doing, 9 out of 10 times they will express how busy they are and seem to be on the verge of collapsing on the spot. Sometimes extra words are thrown in to make the point- “I am so busy, incredibly busy, extremely busy, or never busier” are among the chorus of the tribe of busy.

People seem to perceive that I too am busy and want to welcome me to the club. When someone sends me an email or leaves a voicemail they almost always open with “ I know you are so busy but….” and then take it from there. I have to admit until very recently I almost wore being busy as a badge of honor. I thought is was a positive that people saw me as busy because it meant so many exciting things were going on at the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, I could barely keep up.

Several weeks ago our team at the Foundation discussed this idea of busy and how we perceived the word. We were checking in to make sure we never used it as an excuse or promoted the idea that our busyness kept us from serving the community.

We considered other ways of expressing the energizing work we are engaged in. Our full lives don’t drain us but rather give us purpose. The team committed to moving away from claiming, “I’m busy” as a moniker of success.

I thought the conversation was interesting but it really hit home over an omelet breakfast that I have the pleasure of sharing once a year with a philanthropist and former volunteer at the Foundation. This gentleman is a winter resident with a very full calendar but he always makes the time to see me between singing in a choir, playing golf, his consulting business, and various volunteer positions at local nonprofits- that’s right he is very busy.

We had a wonderful time together, catching up personally and professionally and at the end of our allotted hour (he always keeps it to one hour- I would linger longer) I commented on how much I enjoy and look forward to our yearly breakfast.

He smiled and told me he almost didn’t call this year and even after the date was set on the calendar he almost called to cancel. He was worried I would be too busy.

I realized this perception came very close to ending something that I look forward to and value. I wondered how many other opportunities I might be missing when I express how busy I am to others. How many people are not reaching out to me and how many I do not connect with because I think they are on the busy track of life.

Yes, my life is full and for that I am extremely grateful. But I’m not busy. I would love to hear from you, email me at [email protected]

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.

Southwest Florida siblings open fund to help future generations

Southwest Florida siblings open fund to help future generations

The next generation of philanthropists, those who fit into “Gen X” (born 1964-1980) or “Gen Y/Millennial” (born 1981-2000), will wield more philanthropic power than any previous generation, according to Nextgendonors.org. In 2014, 84 percent of millennials made a charitable donation.

The Devisse family of siblings, who grew up in Naples, is a prime example of this giving.

Brothers Marc, Matt and Julien, along with their sister Claire, recently opened a donor advised fund with the Southwest Florida Community Foundation in order to help the area’s children for decades to come.

“These siblings are what we call the ‘New’ Faces of Philanthropy,” said Sarah Owen, president and CEO of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation. “Whether they want to give back to the communities that helped them be successful or they want to leave their current community better for future generations, these ‘Next Gen’ philanthropists are extremely passionate about their giving.”

The idea for the Devisse Fund began with oldest sibling Marc wanting to start a foundation to help local children, and approaching his brothers and sister to join him.

“Ever since my son was born, I’ve realized the importance of helping others,” said Marc, 32, a Florida Gulf Coast University alumnus who lives in Bonita Springs and owns Tri-Town Construction. “I see how much love that he is given and how happy he is in life, and it hurts me to see other children who don’t have basic needs taken care of for them. Kids should be able to remain carefree and not have to be forced to be adults and raise their siblings or have to worry about what they are going to eat or where they’re going to sleep. I am in a position that I can help, and I feel it’s my civic duty to do so, plus it feels really good.”

Marc started the fund with $500, and the other siblings joined in with individual matches.

“The four of us were very fortunate to have a stable household with loving parents growing up,” said Claire Devisse Gogan, 27, a realtor with John R. Wood Properties. “They gave us so much love, and they were always there for us. They also provided guidance and pushed us to be the best we can be. Because of that and the opportunities we were given, we are able to have the careers that we have today.”

According to the family, the plan is to grow the fund and continue to think of the best ways to help the siblings’ passions including less fortunate children, animals and more. A majority of the fund will be dedicated to children who want to improve their lives and the lives of others but have been put in unfortunate situations.

“I think our main focus is to continue to donate to the fund in order to set it up for the future and really be hands on down the road to make a difference,” said Julien, 29, a coastal engineer living in Wilmington, N.C. “It’s great to donate to various causes but you don’t always know where that money is going. This will allow us to be hands on and actively manage where our funds are going.”

Nextgendonors.org reports that four key aspects define millennials philanthropy: They are driven by values, not valuables; they want impact they can see and they want to know that their own involvement has contributed to that impact; giving without significant, hands-on engagement feels to them like a hollow investment with little assurance of impact; and rather than waiting until the sunset of their lives to decide who they are as philanthropists and what legacies they want to leave, these next gen major donors actively craft their identities now and actively think about their own legacies.

“We are all really excited about this,” said Matt, 25, a litigation attorney with Coleman, Yovanovich & Koester, P.A. “We are all interested in leaving this community better than we found it as kids. After learning about how easy it was to start a fund with the Community Foundation, it was a no brainer.”

“We were raised to help others and never take for granted what you have,” Claire added. “I think that played a big part in why we started this fund. We want to help others who may have not had the same opportunities that we did, because everyone deserves a chance to succeed.”

In addition to the new fund, the siblings are involved in a number of their local civic and charitable endeavors. Marc is the founder and current president of the Bonita Kiwanis, and his company holds an annual charity golf tournament that has benefitted Liberty Youth Ranch, Make-A-Wish and the Passion Foundation. Julien volunteers with Habitat for Humanity and the Cape Fear Volunteer Center as well as youth sports. Claire is a passionate volunteer with Domestic Animal Services. Matt is involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters as well as Kiwanis.

“It’s great that this allows me to work with my siblings who are all extremely intelligent and big thinkers,” Marc said. “I’m excited for the ideas and brainstorming that we have started and continue to improve on. Many people in our community have nothing, and we want to help change that.”

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.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Southwest Florida Community Foundation’s Annual Report now available

Southwest Florida Community Foundation’s Annual Report now available

The Southwest Florida Community Foundation’s 2014-2015 Annual Report is now available online at www.floridacommunity.com/annual-report.

“2015 was a year of major milestones in the Southwest Florida Community Foundation’s work as active change-makers,” said Sarah Owen, president and CEO of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation.
The Community Foundation’s total assets of $93.5 million increased 13 percent from the previous fiscal year while investments rose 14 percent. The increases are a result of new funds, additional contributions and investment returns.

Since its inception 39 years ago, the Community Foundation has received $110 million in contributions and distributed $63 million in direct support to the community.

Last year, it granted more than $2.9 million to nonprofit organizations supporting education, animal welfare, arts, healthcare and human services. It also granted $782,000 in nonprofit grants, including more than $551,000 in regional community impact grants and an additional $450,000 in scholarship grants.

“Our flexibility, combined with a comprehensive understanding of community needs, attracted more than 150 new contributions and donors during the 2015 fiscal year – people committed to getting things started now while envisioning future needs,” said Immediate Past Board Chairman Joe Mazurkiewicz.

Highlights from the past year include the FutureMakers Coalition launch in March with the backing of Lumina Foundation to improve the quality of Southwest Florida’s workforce. The Community Foundation is engaging local business and education leaders, government officials, nonprofit organizations and community stakeholders in an ongoing dialogue and cradle-to-career strategies to achieve this goal.

A collaborative effort with the Lee County Board of Commissioners resulted in transferring the CompleteLee community sustainability plan to the Community Foundation in 2015. Over time, the infrastructure established during the four-year planning process, along with more than 80 organizations and hundreds of individual stakeholders, will lead to a regional map that guides the Foundation’s commitment to ensuring a high quality of life and change for the common good through an established collective impact model.

“The components of the plan address Community Foundation causes and the nationally recognized pillars of community sustainability,” said Tessa LeSage, director of social innovation and sustainability at the Community Foundation. “The plan provides measurable outcomes to show the Foundation and our partners how we are making an impact in the areas that lead to the long-term success and desirability of a community. Ultimately, it makes our region a better place to live, work, play and learn.”

The Community Foundation also welcomed its first Florida Fellows from the University of Florida in the summer thanks to the Al and Nancy Burnett Charitable Foundation. The four public interest communications students worked in three local nonprofits that received grants from the Community Foundation. They helped the nonprofits enhance communication and effective storytelling.

The Community Foundation also partnered with the city of Fort Myers to identify opportunities to create greater efficiencies among some of its nonprofit organizations, with a focus on the Imaginarium and the Southwest Florida Museum of History. The yearlong effort allowed the Foundation to contribute to developing plans aimed at establishing a state-of-the-art regional science and history museum and a merged board of directors that would better serve the two organizations and support many of the city’s larger strategic goals. This public-private partnership will improve taxpayers’ return on investment and potentially serve as a catalyst for redevelopment along the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard corridor.

“The Southwest Florida Community Foundation offers customized giving, dedicated to helping every donor find the right opportunity for them, whether it’s a one-time contribution or an endowment that lives on in perpetuity, a family fund or foundation dedicated to a specific cause, or jumpstarting a new idea to fill a community need,” added Owen.

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.

Copies of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation’s IRS Form 990, IRS Form 990-T, if required, and the current annual audit are available for your review online at www.floridacommunity.com or at its main office by calling 239-274-5900, ext. 228.

Southwest Florida Community Foundation announces new fund

Southwest Florida Community Foundation announces new fund

Man’s frugal nature, savvy investing and hard work help him save millions to donate back to the community

 

FORT MYERS, Fla. (Nov. 4, 2015) – Frank Stern was one of those self-made millionaires who never dressed the part or lived extravagantly. He even avoided driving on toll bridges to save a dollar – literally.

Every dollar Stern saved – more than $4 million during a 14-year span – was endowed to a donor-advised fund at the Southwest Florida Community Foundation upon his death at age 95 in February 2014.

“It is people like Frank who inspire us in our work to do everything we can as effectively and efficiently as possible to create change in our region,” said Sarah Owen, president and CEO of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation.

Stern followed a low-key and healthy lifestyle, and he remained active in his businesses until a few years before his passing.

“I think he took the bridge once or twice,” said Larry Sickler, a long-time supervisor for FTE Developers, one of several local businesses operated by Stern and his brother Ed Stern. “He never went across the Midpoint Bridge because he didn’t want to pay the toll. He always said, ‘I can get where I want to go without paying a dollar.’”

“Frank was really into investing and making sure his money did a lot of good when he was gone,” said Michael Davis, a financial advisor who met Stern 12 years ago and helped him plan his charitable giving. “Frank was extremely frugal, and he wanted to make sure he didn’t run out of money.”

Stern made his fortune in real estate investment and development during the first wave of seasonal residents to Fort Myers and Cape Coral in the mid 1900s. He discovered Southwest Florida after his father, a butcher, retired to the area and started purchasing land.

“Frank never had anything handed to him,” said Sickler. “Every dollar he had he gained by working hard.”

Born in Wisconsin, Stern tapped into his entrepreneurial spirit in high school, renovating and selling Ford motorcars. He was working toward a business degree at the University of Texas during the onset of World War II.

“He figured if he volunteered, he would get a better job,” said Charles Marble, a long-time friend and Stern’s caregiver. “He didn’t want to be in the infantry, so he went to flight school.”

Stern was stationed in England and flew unarmed recognizance missions into enemy territory.

“He was like Forest Gump because he witnessed a lot of history,” Davis recalled fondly. “Frank had so many stories about the war in Europe. He even took a picture of one of his friends with Churchill and Eisenhower. He was a real gentleman and very interesting to talk to.”

He retired as a major in the U.S. Air Force and was active in its reserve program for 20 years. He established his permanent roots in the Fort Myers area in the 1960s. He never married or had children.

Stern was committed to giving back to the community where he’d made his fortune.

“He was thinking about starting his own foundation until he learned the Southwest Florida Community Foundation was right here and basically doing the same thing,” Marble said. “Frank donated to a number of projects but would never accept a plaque or have anything named after him. That wasn’t Frank’s style. He was not looking for accolades from anyone.”

And he left a never-ending legacy for Southwest Florida.

“Frank was a fine man. He was honest and fair, a very good person,” said Sickler. “Once he opened up, you’d see all these great qualities. We started off as business partners and ended up as family.”

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 $61.2 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves. Last year, it granted more than $2.9 million to nonprofit organizations supporting education, animal welfare, arts, healthcare and human services. It also granted $782,000 in nonprofit grants including more than $551,000 in regional community impact grants and additional $450,000 in scholarship grants.

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

 

 

A Healthy Prediction for the Future

A Healthy Prediction for the Future

I predict I am going to come down with a nasty virus in about 72 hours. I am not a medicine woman or a flu whisperer that can foresee pending colds and infections and I don’t have a crystal ball that reveals my future.

My prediction is based on the fact that I was trapped in a germ tube, also known as an airplane, with what I am now sure was filled with people recently diagnosed with bronchitis, strep throat, a mystery itchy rash and fever.

On my flight coughing, sweating, itchy, and wheezing travelers surrounded me. I tried to hold my breath but after several hours it became a challenge. Finally I succumbed to inhaling the contaminated air. I kept thinking this was the time to deploy the oxygen masks but I couldn’t convince the flight attendants.

As I sat strapped in the airbus of clinical doom I imagined waiting at an urgent care or my doctor’s office, time away from work, filling out paperwork and filling prescriptions. Basically I was feeling sorry for myself in advance.

Then I remembered Yajaida Vasquez, ARNP.

Yajaida was the speaker several weeks ago at the Southwest Florida Community Foundation’s Women’s Legacy Fund fall luncheon.

Once a year contributors to the Women’s Legacy Fund and their invited guests gather to award grant dollars to support women and girls in Southwest Florida. The contributors to the fund determine the grant focus area based on research conducted by the team at the Foundation. They also hear from a speaker who creates change in our community.

This year the women of the fund selected increasing access to goods and services in neighborhoods as their focus and Yajaida was on hand to discuss the access to healthcare in underserved areas of our region.

I was expecting her to present the challenges and opportunities women and girls face in gaining access to healthcare. What I wasn’t expecting was her firsthand testimony of her experiences of navigating the healthcare system as a young woman living in poverty and for a short time homelessness.

She told the group her authentic and heartfelt story of waiting all day to see a doctor, less than friendly interactions with overworked clinic staff, stark waiting rooms that smelled like sickness, and never seeing the same doctor twice.

There was not a dry eye in the house. But the tears were not of sorrow, but rather of hope. Yajaida’s story is one of taking a challenge and turning it into opportunity. She took her life experiences and through scholarships from Southwest Florida Community Foundation donors and others went to school and became a Registered Nurse and an Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner simultaneously, and opened her own practice. She has dedicated her life to changing the experiences she faced. Her message about access to healthcare for women in Southwest Florida began with her willingness to make a difference.

I considered my certain near future trips to the doctor I was suddenly filled with gratitude. I have insurance, I see the same physicians consistently and so does my whole family, I am always greeted with compassion and friendliness at the clinics I frequent and I have money to handle the co-pays. I am privileged and one of lucky sick people.

Yajaida opened my eyes to the fact that not everyone shares this same experience. She also showed me that thanks to people like her and women like those in the Women’s Legacy Fund, we could create better experiences for women and girls.

Suddenly I was feeling much better. If my prediction on a lurking virus comes true, I think I will make an appointment with Yajaida. It will feel good to be part of the vision of healthcare she is trying to create for all of us.

If you would like to hear more about Yajaida’s story, check out her video “Scholarship Recipient Comes Back to Give Back” on the home page of our website at www.floridacommunity.com.

Community Foundation/Brian Tietz Photography seeking Faces of Philanthropy nominations

Community Foundation/Brian Tietz Photography seeking Faces of Philanthropy nominations

Deadline is Nov. 25; winners to be honored with spring art exhibit and reception

In honor of National Philanthropy Day® (NPD), and in the spirit of philanthropy this November, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation and Brian Tietz Photography are seeking nominations for outstanding philanthropists in the our region to honor as one of the Southwest Florida Faces of Philanthropy.

Selected nominees will be photographed by commercial, editorial and corporate Photographer Brian Tietz,  and will be featured in the Southwest Florida Community Foundation’s Photo Art Exhibit “Faces of Philanthropy” next spring.

“Faces of Philanthropy is a celebration of the giving spirit in Southwest Florida,” said Sarah Owen, president and CEO of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation. “It all started when photographer Brian Tietz offered the gift of his talent to capture the essence of Southwest Florida philanthropists through his portraits. The Foundation knew we had to share this generous act with the whole community. I can’t think of a more fitting way of celebrating our 40-year history and honoring the legacy of our founders than by capturing the faces of those who are making a difference in our community now.”

Special receptions will be held during the Foundation’s 40th Anniversary Celebration on April 14 and 15, 2016. Nominees and those who nominated them will receive invitations.

Nominees must be passionate about our community and/or giving back to our community through their time, talent and/or treasure. They must live within the five-county area of Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties.

Deadline for nominations is midnight on Wednesday, Nov. 25.

To nominate a change-maker for the Faces of Philanthropy, visit www.floridacommunity.com/faces-of-philanthropy.

National Philanthropy Day is Nov. 15, the day that thousands of people celebrate “the love of humankind,” and come together to both put that word into action and recognize the change that word has brought to our communities. National Philanthropy Day is both an official day and a grassroots movement. Every year, since 1986 when President Ronald Reagan first proclaimed Nov. 15 as National Philanthropy Day, communities across the globe have celebrated by hosting events to recognize activities of donors, volunteers, foundations, leaders, corporations, and others engaged in philanthropy.

Tietz is based in Fort Myers and specializes in portrait and lifestyle images. Originally from Northern Wisconsin, he moved to the South Florida as a teenager and learned to love photography after his parents subscribed to the St. Petersburg Times (now Tampa Bay Times) newspaper. He worked his way through high school in the One Hour Photo Lab of a neighborhood Eckerd Drug Store, an experience that exposed him to the technical aspects of photography and offered an opportunity to learn from the successes and mistakes of tourists and amateur photographers who would come in on a daily basis.

Tietz went on to graduate from the University of Florida with a degree in journalism, which offered editorial photography opportunities. He has worked as a correspondent for wires like AP and Getty, and newspapers like USA Today and the New York Times.

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 $61.2 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves. Last year, it granted more than $2.9 million to nonprofit organizations supporting education, animal welfare, arts, healthcare and human services. It also granted $782,000 in nonprofit grants including more than $551,000 in regional community impact grants and additional $450,000 in scholarship grants.

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

Every Little Thing

Every Little Thing

On my way to a breakfast meeting I was hustling across a crowded parking lot and an unfamiliar black SUV pulled up next to me. As the window rolled down I peered in thinking it would be someone I knew. The early morning sunlight was hitting the windshield just right and blinded me to the driver’s identity.

I could hear him talking but I couldn’t make out his face. I still assumed I knew who he was so I made my way over to greet him. I felt safe and at ease because his words had been warm and he was paying me an unexpected compliment.

As I blocked the sunlight with my hands and gazed into the truck I realized it was a perfect stranger smiling warmly at me. I asked if we knew each other and he said no. He just wanted to say something nice to me to start my day. With that he pulled away and I felt like I floated into the restaurant.

It was such a little thing that made such a big difference. A warm word of encouragement from an unexpected person changed my whole day. I shared the story with several people and they all were able to relate on how the smallest gestures can mean so much.

At the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, our team spends a lot of time thinking about, designing and executing big ideas for change. In the last year we have hosted design sessions and convenings on issues like children’s behavioral health, water, sustainability and college access and attainment. These are not little things.

Our community has also been addressing and, in some cases, wrestling with violence, poverty, pedestrian safety and food insecurity. There is no shortage of big conversations around big issues these days. I have read with interest guest editorials and letters to the editor from caring advocates and citizens who are willing to remain both optimistic and hopeful that we can work together to strengthen our region.

It is tempting when we are facing a monumental situation or conversation to pass it off as undoable. The solutions can seem out of reach and we must guard against discouragement.

I think one of the best ways to combat the bigness of some things is with the little things.

Last week we all celebrated national Make a Difference Day which allowed us all to focus on the little things we can each do to make a big impact. Make a Difference Day is an annual event of community service sponsored by USA TODAY and its parent company, Gannett. Other sponsors included the volunteer organization Points of Light, and Newman’s Own, the philanthropic food company founded by late actor Paul Newman and author A.E. Hotchner.

I kept my eye on social media all day and saw the News-Press team cleaning a stretch of Fort Myers Beach. Each piece of trash or debris seemed small but in the end they made a difference. FGCU students and faculty were deployed renovating a space that will be used by a startup nonprofit, Valerie’s House, to support grieving children, and I saw a group of bankers working at local food pantries sorting and shelving food. All over our region and throughout the country people took time away from their regular routines to focus on the little things. They rolled up their sleeves and took action to create something individually and collectively for our community.

Watching the day unfold I was left with the same feeling I had from the friendly stranger and was reminded in the midst of all the big things we are trying to solve we must never lose sight of the power of the little things.

One of the wise founders of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, John Sheppard, the absolute example of leading a life of honoring the little things, has a beautiful quote from his book Little Things Mean A Lot which I think says it best:

“We cannot all do great things nor make great gifts but we can all do little things and our little things said or done in love can change one life and when passed on to others can change the world.” — John Sheppard

About the SWFL 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 $61.2 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves. Last year, it granted more than $2.9 million to nonprofit organizations supporting education, animal welfare, arts, healthcare and human services. It granted $782,000 in nonprofit grants including more than $551,000 in regional community impact grants and additional $450,000 in scholarship grants.

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

Community Foundation’s Women’s Legacy Fund Fall luncheon and Photo Gallery

Community Foundation’s Women’s Legacy Fund Fall luncheon and Photo Gallery

The Women’s Legacy Fund hosted its Fall luncheon on Thursday, October 22 at Miromar Lakes Beach & Golf Club.

Yajaida Vasquez, ARNP, served as the keynote speaker and shared her journey from experiencing homelessness to opening a healthcare clinic that serves women and families in Southwest Florida. A Community Foundation scholarship recipient, Vasquez is a first generation college graduate and community change-maker.

The luncheon also featured the 2015 WLF grant check presentation and an Angels Tribute.

$22,675.92 was presented to Dr. Genelle Grant of the Happehatchee Center. The grant will be used for Happehatchee Center’s Working to Improve with Self Employment (WISE) Women program which focuses on the San Carlos Park neighborhood of South Fort Myers and the Covered Wagon Trailer Park in Estero.  Instructors from Happehatchee and the GRACE Project, as well as invited teachers and planned field trips, will provide programs such as personal health, self-exams for cancer detection, infectious diseases information, agencies who provide screening; cake making and decorating, field trips to bakeries and supply stores, sewing and clothing alteration skills, visit to tailors, sewing machine donations; reproductive Health, Family planning; yoga, meditation, visualization, and acupressure for self-healing; financial literacy, budgets, income/expense planning for self-employment; use of public transportation; nutrition and food choices shopping and much more.

Three angel tributes were also announced. Gloria Whitesman, Honey Costa and posthumously Jean and John Hawker are the Legacy Fund’s newest angels. The Angel honorary designation is for mothers, sisters, aunts, daughters, grandchildren, friends, loved ones and community leaders, either living or deceased, who have had a special impact on the lives of those around them. WLF members can make the special women in their lives a WLF Angel with a minimum contribution of $1,000 in their name.

A fund of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, the Women’s Legacy Fund is a group of women who foster the immersion of women in philanthropy and develop the region’s next philanthropic leaders. In eight years of existence, the WLF has been able to provide $100,000 in grants to benefit people and communities in Southwest Florida. Currently, the Fund has nearly $400,000 in endowment that will continue to help fund local issues now and in the future.

Contributors to the WLF give a minimum of $250 each year ($100 for women younger than 25). The first half of contributions is pooled for the purpose of immediate annual grants, while the second half is pooled into the WLF’s endowment fund, which provides additional grants to be made both now and in years to come. Prima Donors are local women who have contributed $10,000 or more to the WLF endowment and are committed to making an impact in their community through charitable giving.

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 $61.2 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves. Last year, it granted more than $2.9 million to nonprofit organizations supporting education, animal welfare, arts, healthcare and human services. It also granted $782,000 in nonprofit grants including more than $551,000 in regional community impact grants and additional $450,000 in scholarship grants.

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