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Pull Over or Turn Back for a Great Report

Pull Over or Turn Back for a Great Report

Recently I was traveling on a back road in Northeast Florida that reminded me of car trips with my grandparents.  I spent many of my childhood summers with them and we traveled back and forth to North Carolina.

I remember road side citrus stands and a variety of small mom and pop stores that worked hard to draw passing travelers into their establishments.  Their main form of marketing was some variety of billboards.

Not the electronic versions we see today, but rather professional or hand painted signs that promised the freshest juice, the flakiest biscuits and the cleanest restrooms.  And since it was the days before the kids in the backseat had any electronic devices the signage was also a form of entertainment.

My favorites were the teaser billboards that started miles before a destination and would continue to lure you in until the business was upon you.  “Fifteen miles until the ultimate orange blossom honey or homemade pecan roll” Then ten miles, five miles, 2 miles and 500 feet.  Even if we didn’t stop I couldn’t wait to see what the much-publicized utopia looked like out of my backseat window.  Of course, I wanted to pull over at every stop but my Papo was committed to making good time.

As soon as the road side business was in the rear view mirror the signs would begin again, but this time they were designed to make me feel guilty or a sense of loss for not stopping.  “Oh no!  You just missed the life-changing tangerines, turn back now.” Or, “it’s not too late, U-turn ahead in a mile.”

If this edition of Florida Weekly was a road trip, consider this column a billboard for the Southwest Florida Community Foundation’s Annual Report.  In this issue of the publication you will find our report to the community covering our work over the last year.  If I was using road side billboard language I would tease you with “record assets and strong investment returns, fantastic nonprofit partners, exciting initiatives transforming our regional workforce, the launch of a new Collaboratory and Tech Hub in a historic train depot in downtown Fort Myers, and a not to miss announcement about the largest endowment established by living donors in Foundation history.”

This year’s theme, “We’ve Got Your Back, Southwest Florida” highlights the many ways we worked together with our donors, partners and residents to create change in our community.

Whenever someone tells me they have my back, I feel empowered to take more risks, a sense of safety and trust and motivation to keep going with my work.  Those are the characteristics the Foundation wants to foster with our donors, partners and the community.  We have your back, Southwest Florida and we know you have ours as well.  That’s the way things get done, and we love being on this journey with you.

If you have had the chance to read the report, thanks for pulling over and taking the time to review our work.  If you flipped right by it, don’t worry there is a U turn ahead, and you can find this year’s report at


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 $5.4 million in grants and programs to the community. With assets of $115 million, it has provided more than $71 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. Currently, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation’s regional headquarters are located off College Parkway in South Fort Myers, with satellite offices located on Sanibel Island, in LaBelle (Hendry County) and downtown Fort Myers. 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