Giving Opportunities

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200 Valentines

200 Valentines

Over the last few weeks, hundreds of volunteers have walked through the doors of Collaboratory.  The space doesn’t provide direct services to individuals so volunteering here takes on a different look and feel. The remarkable work of serving food to the hungry, teaching financial literacy, reading to children, leading a beach cleanup or mentoring a student happens in our fantastic nonprofit community each and every day, and they count on generous and compassionate volunteers to carry out their missions.

Volunteering for the Southwest Florida Community Foundation provides Southwest Floridians an opportunity to support the work of nonprofits and residents by reading scholarship applications, matching funding to causes in our Compassionate Shark Tank, serving on topic area study groups, mentoring entrepreneurs, hosting community conversations, providing data and research for projects and supporting organizations that are collaborating and creating change.

Every Valentine’s Day, I try to imagine who I would like to shower with gratitude even if we have never met. Who would be my community valentines?

This year I was struck by the 200 volunteers who are willing to step up and read and score the hundreds of scholarship applications we receive.  It is not an easy assignment.  There are so many students from all walks of life that pour their hearts and accomplishments out to us in hopes of getting some of the financial assistance they need to pursue their dreams.  Reviewers often tell us they wish there was more money available so they could be relieved of some of the tough decisions.

A few weeks ago, Malaina Mote our Scholarship Manager shared a beautiful story of a scholarship reader meeting one of the recipients they had the honor of reviewing.  Although they had never met, there was a special knowing and instant connection between them. (If you missed her column you can find it here

I couldn’t help but imagine more of those moments this May as I met and welcomed many of this year’s scholarship readers at our trainings.   Some were first time reviewers, while others had years of experience.  They were all energized by their part of the process and looking forward to their responsibilities. It really is a labor of love.

Happy Valentine’s Day to the scholarship donors, readers and applicants.  Your love of community and an equitable future for all is inspiring.  I wish I had a valentine for each of you.

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. The Foundation partners with individuals, families and corporations who have created more than 400 philanthropic funds. Thanks to them, the Foundation invested $7.7 million in grants and programs to the community. With assets of $134.9 million, it has provided $85 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. The Southwest Florida Community Foundation’s regional headquarters are now located in the historic ACL Train Depot at Collaboratory in downtown Fort Myers, with a satellite office located in LaBelle (Hendry County). For more information, call 239-274-5900 or visit

Sarah Owen
Sarah Owen

Sarah Owen, President & CEO of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, leads a passionate and diverse team dedicated to driving regional change for the common good. The Foundation is committed to engaging the community in conversations and action that creates sustainable positive change and provides the funding to make those changes a reality. More