When people I meet out and about in Southwest Florida learn I grew up here, they always express surprise because the region is made up of so many people that are from somewhere else. This time of year in particular, it’s a regular conversation. Nine times out of ten, the person asking where I’m from is not from here. My follow up question is always, “Why did you choose Southwest Florida?”.
I often learn they were drawn here by a family vacation. More times than not, our unique environment and warm winter climate are the appeal. Sometimes, they report it was a job or to continue their education. If you dive deeper, these visitors, part-timers and those who now reside in the region permanently will tell you stories of what they love but also their worries.
These are really important conversations to have and, for the thousands of people working everyday to ensure Southwest Florida is a place where people will always choose to live, work, learn and play, it’s critical that we pay close attention to the responses and the deeper stories of concern for the community. In these stories we learn of our magnetic strengths, the things we need to protect because they make this place we love unique and desirable, and also those things we should consider opportunities for improvements in order to ensure opportunity and make people want to stay, learn, earn a degree or industry certification, find a great job, freelance or start a business, enjoy the outdoors, invest in the local economy, and give back to a community they love. The reality is the planet is always turning, changes are always happening, and our willingness to adapt and continuously improve is critical to ensuring a quality of life in Southwest Florida that is sustainable.
With a mission of cultivating regional change for common good, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation has been having these conversations for 40 years. Sustainability is at the heart of all we do. In this issue of Florida Weekly, you can read about our vision for a more sustainable community based on research, best practices, and the voices of real people that live and work here. The question that remains, what are we going to do about it?
Building upon a planning process that took place in Lee County, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation will work alongside partners and provide a regional framework that uses community-level outcomes and activities to better understand the opportunity, desirability, and long-term sustainability of an area; it’s a measurable plan. This work aligns with the goals of the foundation and local non-profits and the desires of funders, all of whom can benefit from tying their resources and work to improving the quality of life in the region.
Further, the foundation will use this work to expand the impact of such collaboration to the region in the months and years to come.
If you would like to see the plan created in Lee County, the CompleteLee plan is at www.FloridaCommunity.com/Lead. Take a look, I bet you’ll find what you love about Southwest Florida and the things you’re passionate about inside. It is truly a vision of the future framework to cultivate and measure regional change for the common good.
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.