Giving Opportunities

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Connecting Around a Computer and a Cause

Connecting Around a Computer and a Cause

The subject line of the email proclaimed “This Event is NOT Cancelled” and for obvious reasons it caught a lot of attention.

I’ve learned that some people felt a momentary flash of anger at the thought of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation ignoring the wise counsel of the CDC and local health officials while others experienced a glimmer of unrealistic hope of a gathering.

The non-cancellation alert was designed to create a healthy dose of optimism that an annual event that brings philanthropists together around creating opportunities for women and girls in Southwest Florida would find a safe and appropriate way to go on as planned.

Each Spring, contributors to the Women’s Legacy Fund (WLF), a fund of the Foundation gather for a working lunch to learn, think and evaluate their grantmaking strategy for the year.  They review data, participate in facilitated table discussions and exchange ideas that shape their funding decisions.

Currently the WLF is in the midst of a 3-year commitment they made to support women pursuing careers in healthcare, with a specific emphasis on filling a gap in Certified Nurse Assistants (CNA).  When the funding was awarded our health system was experiencing 100 terminal vacancies for CNAs.  With the help of the WLF funding, the Lee County School District and the FutureMakers Coalition that gap shrunk to 30 in less than 2 years.

Never could any of the Contributors to the Fund have imagined the situation we would be facing today as frontline healthcare workers battle the pandemic and are in more demand than ever before.

Due to COVID-19 the need for CNAs is growing while the funding and access to receive the certification is shrinking.  The WLF funding to support the costs of the training is some of the only support available.

It was with this knowledge we knew the luncheon must go on, only this year we would meet virtually.

Last week hundreds of women, gathered around their home computers to connect with the cause they care about deeply.  They received an update on the progress of the grant, the new challenges that exist in filling positions and heard from a CNA currently working at Lee Health’s Cape Coral Hospital via a pre-recorded interview.

Our virtual luncheon guest not only described what it was like to work in the hospital during this unprecedented time, but also shared what the pursuit of this career has meant to her children, her confidence, her purpose and her future.  She is currently working toward obtaining her degree in nursing and her teenage daughter has expressed an interest in following in her footsteps.

It was inspiring to hear about her service to our community now and her family’s hopes and dreams for the future.

The virtual connection provided the WLF contributors to feel “together, apart” and to continue to champion their cause for the common good.

If you support a local non profit, they will welcome hearing from you.  They are all still finding ways to continue their work and will welcome your interest and support.  Staying connected to the causes you care about is more important than ever.  I would love to hear about ways you are finding to stay in touch with our community at [email protected].


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