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Smooth Moves

Smooth Moves

Last week I ran into now former Fort Myers city councilman, Mike Flanders in a downtown coffee shop.  I flagged him down on his way out the door to introduce him to my coffee meeting companion and for a quick hello.

I explained to my colleague that Mr. Flanders is always on the move both literally and figuratively and I mistakenly introduced him as a former council member. He was quick to correct me as our encounter happened to fall on the the final day of his term.  That evening would mark his last meeting as the representative for Ward 4.

No, you didn’t miss an election.

The reason for my mistake was several months ago Mike was named the new Executive Director of the iconic Edison Ford Winter Estates.  For anyone who has visited this historic landmark recently you know he is taking on a big, exciting job.  The Estates are a community treasure and while preserving history the Estates are also leading the way in education and innovation projects.

I assumed that Mike had already vacated his seat, as the council appointed his replacement a few weeks ago, but in keeping with Mike’s commitment to our community he had been giving his attention to both of his roles.   He was still wearing his council hat that morning with just hours to go in that role.

Moving from one set of responsibilities to another always comes with a period of transition.  I have heard that taking a break between jobs or major commitments is important, but I have never managed to do it and don’t know many people who have put that advice into action.

In our fast paced world, it seems when we are transitioning jobs, cities, board appointments, or retirement we keep one foot in the former life as we transition to the new one.  I know when I started at the Southwest Florida Community Foundation there was about a month that I fulfilled responsibilities for leading two organizations.  No one asked me to do it but I think when we care about something we are leaving we want to exit well, while at the same time we are excited to jump into the new role and want to hit the ground running.

At the Foundation we tend to meet people while they are in transition.  Research shows that many charitable decisions are made in moments of change.  Retirement, a new company, the sale of a business, marriage, kids leaving the nest, or an unexpected life event are all moments when we reflect on the past and look toward the future.  Giving back and creating change seem to find their way into these life decisions.

Many of the plans we help design for donors evolve from these moments of change.  I have learned a great deal from watching others navigate their life journeys.

I am inspired by the ideas that are born out of these times of transition.

As Mike was running out the door of the coffee shop I thanked him for his service to the city and told him I couldn’t wait to see what happened next at the Estates under his leadership.

My companion told him not to be surprised if our conversation showed up in this column.  He laughed it off under the guise that he hadn’t done anything yet.  But that’s the thing about transitions, we can can focus on the journey, not the destination.

If you find yourself in the midst of a life change and want to think about how to create something for the common good as part of the move, reach out to us.  We would love to be part of your transition.

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