FORT MYERS, Fla. (Nov. 11, 2013) –Leaders of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, along with community leaders from Lee, Charlotte, Collier, Glades and Hendry counties, traveled to a number of nonprofit agencies in the Southwest Florida region the week of Nov. 4 to present and celebrate $440,000 in funds during the inaugural “regional road trip.”

Fifteen agencies in the five-county area were the recipients of funds totaling $439,812 in Community Impact Grants provided by the SWFLCF. The foundation administers more than 330 endowed funds that are created through the generosity of local donors today and those who plan for the future through the power of endowed funds.

Turning the unemployed into entrepreneurs, improving conditions for homeless animals and protecting people from human traffickers are just a few of the ways the recipient nonprofits are helping to strengthen our region.

“This is more money than we’ve directly given to individual nonprofits during this grant cycle compared to prior years, and it’s going to have a bigger impact for our community,” said Joe Mazurkiewicz, board chair of the Community Foundation.

The agencies receiving funds included: Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Sun Coast, Children’s Advocacy Center of Southwest Florida, Inc., Dress For Success SW Florida, Early Learning Coalition of Southwest Florida, Grace Community Center, Gulf Coast Humane Society, Healthy Start Coalition of Southwest Florida, Inc., Hendry County Library System, Human Trafficking Awareness Partnerships, Junior Achievement of Southwest Florida, Literacy Council Gulf Coast, Naples Botanical Garden, P.A.W.S. Lee County, Inc., Pine Manor Improvement Association and Redlands Christian Migrant Association.

An important part of the funding includes a new foundation endeavor aimed at strengthening nonprofits across the region by providing ongoing collaboration and group meetings of the grantees, coined as “tribes” based on their organizations’ missions. These tribes are focused on education/mentoring, early-childhood education and prevention, life empowerment and economic development and animal welfare. The tribes meet monthly for coaching from the SWFLCF’s chief strategy officer, for ongoing exploration into regional issues and solutions. Through this practice, the Community Foundation expects to award larger annual grants to organizations like these that are working to have a greater collective and regional impact.

“We want to walk alongside the organizations, be a resource and connect them with other opportunities,” says Anne Douglas, the SWFLCF’s director of regional initiatives.

Examples of success stories resulting from the SWFLCF’s funding include how one woman’s fruitless job search led her to Dress for Success’ new Entrepreneurial Spirit Project, which was funded by a $10,000 grant. Through a series of free workshops, she learned the basics of crafting a business plan, marketing and other aspects of starting a business that looks after homes when homeowners are away.

“If we did not have the Entrepreneurial Spirit Program, she would have not known how to start her business,” says Barbara Dell, executive director of Dress for Success SW Florida, which promotes economic independence for disadvantaged women in Collier and Lee counties. “The program gave her the idea, then it gave her the inspiration.”

For decades, Gulf Coast Humane Society struggled with dilapidated chain-link fences, which had jagged holes through which dogs could escape and that were hazardous for workers and volunteers.

“I was going to have to shut down the back half of the kennels. It was too dangerous for anybody,” says Jennifer Galloway, executive director of the Gulf Coast Humane Society.

With $15,000, the Gulf Coast Humane Society was able to repair the fences and rehab its Canine Clubhouse area, which now means the nonprofit does not need to turn away animals from this no-kill shelter.

Nola Theiss, founder and executive director of Human Trafficking Awareness Partnerships, knows the power of collaboration. Her Sanibel Island-based organization has partnered with dozens of entities, including law enforcement, hospitals and businesses, to fight trafficking, leading to the formation of the Southwest Florida Regional Coalition Against Human Trafficking.

A $15,000 grant from the SWFLCF last year enabled the group to create training materials so HTAP’s Point of Contact Point of Rescue program could educate and train workers at malls, medical facilities and restaurants to recognize signs of human trafficking and report suspicious activities. The effort is expanding into Charlotte, Hendry, Glades and Desoto counties to further inform and protect potential victims.

During the funding “regional road trip” the week of Nov. 4, SWFLCF leaders joined community leaders in each county during the following presentations:


Monday, Nov. 4 

11 a.m. Children’s Advocacy Center

Messina Center

4650 Fowler Street

Ft. Myers, FL 33907

Received $50,731 to expand the Family First prevention and early intervention program to two additional childcare centers in collaboration with Child Care of Southwest Florida


2 p.m. Redlands Christian Migrant Association

Immokalee Community School

123 N. 4th Street

Immokalee, FL  34142


Received $25,237 to provide iPad minis for students at the Immokalee Community School, which will be used for individualized instruction, learning, and assessment in math and science and will also be used to involve parents in their children’s education


4 p.m. Hendry County Public Library

Clewiston Library

120 Osceola Ave.

Clewiston, FL  33440

Received $50,000 to implement the IHELP (Impact Hendry Employability Program) in collaboration with community partners to provide classes to unemployed, underemployed and small business entrepreneurs and provide access to additional technology resources


Wednesday, Nov. 6

11:30 a.m. Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Sun Coast

Charlotte High School

1250 Cooper Street

Punta Gorda, FL 33950

Received $30,500 to launch the Decisions to Win Dropout Prevention Mentoring Program in Lee County high schools and to expand the program in Charlotte County high schools


12:45 p.m. Grace Community Center

4151 Hancock Bridge Pkwy.

North Fort Myers, FL 33903

Received $30,000 to expand Grace Creative Solutions for Exceptional Entrepreneurs, which provides job training to special needs students by teaching all aspects of worm farming from production to marketing and sales


Thursday, Nov. 7

3:30 p.m. Pine Manor Improvement Association

5547 10th Ave.

Fort Myers, FL  33906

Received $41,258 to support the continued implementation of the Institute for Culinary Awareness, Research, and Education (ICARE) at Pine Manor, which includes a commercial culinary training kitchen and community garden to provide training in the culinary arts and create job opportunities for residents


Founded in 1976, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation supports the communities of Lee, Charlotte, Collier, Glades and Hendry counties by connecting donors and their philanthropic aspirations with evolving community needs. With assets of more than $70 million, the SWFLCF has provided more than $56 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves. During its 2013 fiscal year, the SWFLCF granted more than $4 million to more than 100 different organizations supporting education, animal welfare, arts, healthcare and human services.

For more information about SWFLCF, call 239-274-5900 or visit