Florida Weekly Column

Stay Curious My Friends

Stay Curious My Friends

Are you a student of wonder?

One of the 5 values that guides our team’s work at the Southwest Florida Community Foundation is encouraging curiosity and exploration to promote learning and development from the inside out.

One of the risks of value statements is they are created, written down but not actively lived out in the culture of the organization.

At the Foundation, we understand that as we pursue cultivating regional change for the common good, our mission, we must be relentless students of wonder.  We must strive to be curious.

A big part of our work is our connection to others.  Donors, non-profits, community advocates, and our neighbors.  We can’t wait for partners to seek us out, instead we must be actively curious about the work, challenges and opportunities in our region.

Curiosity leads to exploration, conversations and in some cases solutions.

Our team must commit to listen well, ask questions and respond when it is helpful.  I hope you have seen us out and about involved in the community through our work with grantees, donors, civic leaders or engaged in conversations, events, meetings or gatherings.

Once a quarter we host “Caffeinated Conversations” in which nonprofits come to our Community Hub and share their work with our team.  Just a couple of weeks ago, a group of 6 leaders of nonprofits were at the table and 3 were new organizations that we learned about for the first time.

Later that same week I found myself in several conversations with donors and colleagues and shared what I had heard, which in turn sparked their interest.  That’s one of the great things about curiosity, it’s contagious when cultivated.

I would love to hear what you are curious about in our region.  I might not have the answers but our team is willing to find out.  Your input will guide some exploration expeditions across the region next year and we will invite you to come along! You can contact me at [email protected]

Let’s stay curious together.

 

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.

 

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]

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.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

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.

 

Gratitude in the Present Tense

Gratitude in the Present Tense

My sister-in-law has a decorative plaque hanging in her house that begs the question, “What if tomorrow you had only the things you gave thanks for today?”

Inspirational quotes show up on pillows, artwork and signs in many of our homes and offices.  They have become so common that is easy to read them and move right along.

I only visit my sister-in-law and her family about once a year and generally around the holidays.  I was with her when she bought the sign and there is something about that simple question that challenges me every time I encounter its call to action.

Inevitably when I visit her I lay in bed at night letting the list of things I want to carry over to the following day roll over in my mind.  It’s as if I don’t want to fall asleep for fear that if I forget something it might be gone when I wake the following morning.

This exercise has a way of bringing laser focus to my gratitude.

I am fortunate to work in the world of philanthropy at the Southwest Florida Community Foundation where gratitude and its outward expression though giving and generosity is part of daily life.

Often our team is astonished to learn the stories of gratitude that inspire giving by generous donors and friends.     We have written about them often in this space and sometimes wonder out loud how and why people are so big-hearted particularly at this time of year.    Even if we don’t have a sign to remind us to be grateful the calendar has a way of doing that for us.

I have always thought of gratitude as a feeling or emotion expressed in a journal or a quiet moment of introspection, but recently I read an article by Robert Emmons, a psychology professor at the University of California, Davis, who studies the “science of gratitude.” He argues that it leads to a stronger immune system and lower blood pressure, as well as “more joy and pleasure.”

I like the idea of examining gratitude from a scientific point of view.   Recent research also points to the fact that gratitude keeps you connected to the present and can be extended from an internal experience to a social interaction.  Ultimately gratitude is expressed through others; a higher power, a friend, a boss, the farmers growing your food, and the list goes on.  Most everything we are grateful for can be attributed to someone in our lives.

I find this to be true in my contemplation of the question on my sister-in-law’s sign.  Nothing on my list would be there without the people and relationships that make my gratitude possible, tangible and meaningful.

So this Thanksgiving I plan to make certain that I don’t keep my expressions of gratitude to myself.    I will find ways to share it with those who help me realize this grateful state of mind.

To those of you that work tirelessly to make this community better and the work of philanthropy so meaningful, I say thanks.  I wouldn’t want to wake up tomorrow without you.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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.