St Joe Community Foundation - Impact Report

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The St. Joe Community Foundation

Enriching lives, supporting communities

The St. Joe Community Foundation’s (SJCF) mission is to enrich the quality of life of the people who live, work and play in Northwest Florida. Created in 1999, the Foundation provides grants to other 501(C)(3) entities for the areas of education, environmental stewardship, building healthier communities and programs that honor the cultural arts.


The SJCF was born from the desire to enrich the quality of life for the people of Northwest Florida. Established as a 501(C)(3) private foundation, we are dedicated to creating a legacy of value for each of the many special communities in this wonderful area that we all call “home.” We consider the land and landscape of Northwest Florida to be a treasure that deserves thoughtful stewardship.


The SJCF provides grants to organizations recognized as tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code that are focused on helping Northwest Florida move forward in the areas of education, environmental stewardship, improving health care and honoring the cultural arts. We consider our grants investments, not charity or obligations. As such, we look for projects in Northwest Florida with a focus on Bay and Walton counties that promise longterm returns on the quality of life in our region.

We look for programs that: Make Northwest Florida an even better place to call home; work toward fundamental improvements in quality of life; include a plan for measuring success and financial accountability; are structured for sustainable impact; demonstrate a track record of success, or reasonable


probability for success and economic sustainability; and leverage support in concert with others to better address the area’s greatest challenges.


• SUPPORTING CULTURAL ARTS Projects and initiatives essential to cultivating, developing, educating and improving cultural experiences in the community.

• STRENGTHENING EDUCATION Projects and initiatives that improve the educational process or access to education for children and/or adults in the community.

• IMPROVING HEALTH CARE Projects and initiatives that positively impact physical and/or mental health and wellness in the community.

• PROTECTING THE ENVIRONMENT Projects and initiatives that protect, preserve and restore the communities’ natural resources.


The Foundation is funded exclusively by a transfer fee of one half of 1 percent on the sale price of real estate in certain residential communities The St. Joe Company develops. The St. Joe Company contributes this fee the first time a property is sold, and buyers remit payment with each resale.


The SJCF is a separate entity from The St. Joe Company and has a separate Board of Directors.

April Wilkes has served as the executive director of the Foundation since 2018. Wilkes has lived in Bay County since 1999 and has worked for The St. Joe Company in various positions since 2001. She takes great pride in representing the Foundation’s mission and daily operations.

Employees of The St. Joe Company take an active role in the business of the Foundation. Each member is involved in various local civic, educational and charitable organizations, bringing vastly broad knowledge of the community, its needs and where to invest the Foundation funds to ensure its mission is carried out. The Board of Trustees oversees the management of the Foundation and is comprised of The St. Joe Company’s president and CEO, Jorge Gonzalez; senior vice president and chief administrative officer, Rhea Goff; and senior vice president and general counsel, Lisa Walters — none of whom receive compensation from the Foundation.


Applications for funding can be found on the website and submitted online. Funding requests are reviewed according to the SJCF guidelines, and then reviewed for approval by the SJCF Board of Trustees at pre-scheduled meetings. Grants generally range from $1,000 to $50,000, although larger grants may be available based on determination of need and availability of funds.

Learn more at


A Letter from the Executive Director

A rising tide lifts all boats

This is a sentiment often expressed at The St. Joe Company, and it’s a truth that inspired the creation of The St. Joe Community Foundation in 1999. It speaks to the importance of making sure that we focus our attention on home — the communities of Bay and Walton counties.

By helping to improve the quality of life for individuals who make up those communities, we better life for everyone and brighten the future of our region.

Since its formation, the Foundation has blossomed while adhering to its mission of lifting up people through grants and assistance provided to local nonprofit organizations. The impact of that effort has been felt throughout the region. To date, the Foundation has provided more than $38 million in grants for causes related to education, health care, cultural and community improvement and environmental stewardship. Those four areas form the pillars of the Foundation’s work.

Employees of The St. Joe Company take an active role in the business of the Foundation. Each member is involved in various local civic, educational and charitable organizations, bringing vastly broad knowledge of the community, its needs and where to invest the Foundation funds to ensure its mission is carried out. In 2022 alone, our biggest year to date, we distributed more than $5.3 million in grants.

We spend a lot of time reviewing grant applications, vetting nonprofits and studying spreadsheets related to the Foundation’s activities. Those reports can be dazzling at times, reflecting as they do the ever-growing list of services, initiatives and nonprofit partnerships we support.

We hope that as you read the personal stories shared in our 2022 Impact Report, you’ll gain an appreciation for the love that underlies the good work being done throughout Bay and Walton counties. Those stories, much more

than numbers, describe how much our grants can mean to people, what a difference they can make.

In the following pages, you’ll meet children inspired by the opportunity to go to college and professionals who are supported as they care for the most vulnerable people in our community. You’ll learn how our grants are fostering appreciation for our environment and enabling conservation-minded people and artists to protect and celebrate this special place where we live, work and play.

These stories make us proud. And we hope that you, too, will take pride in knowing that, through your purchase of a home in select properties developed by St. Joe in Bay and Walton counties, you are contributing to causing that universally beneficial tide to rise.


A special thank you to Steve Bornhoft for his writing contributions and Mike Fender for his photography contributions to this Impact Report.

Investing in Community

The members of a community can be united by far more than a shared location. Relationships among them grow stronger when all invest in that place and discover that their contributions have the capacity to lift up people in need, enhance quality of life, safeguard the natural world and provide for a future of promise. The St. Joe Community Foundation is helping to foster such connectedness and to see to it that a sense of place is superseded by a sense of home. It is demonstrating that a great area in which to live, one that is rich in potential, assets

and resources, can be made an even better place to live. The Foundation’s work is undergirded by four pillars that serve it as guideposts, add up to a philosophy of giving and ensure that its grant awards benefit organizations whose work is impactful and lasting. Education, health care, environment and cultural arts are foundational to all communities and to civilization, and it is there that the Foundation focuses its attention. The leaders, employees and volunteers who make up the organizations that have received Foundation grants share important qualities and sensibilities. They are spirited optimists and generous givers,

the kind of people who delight in the look on a child’s face as she watches a rehabilitated raptor fly about a lecture hall; believe in the combined healing powers of faith and medicine; rejoice in the ways that the arts relax and exhilarate audiences; and beam with pride as a scholarship recipient announces to his peers on Senior Day that he will be attending Northwest Florida State College or Florida State University Panama City. All of these activities and many more make for a strengthening of the human fabric that extends throughout Bay and Walton counties — the region that we call home.

EDUCATION, HEALTH CARE, ENVIRONMENT and CULTURAL ARTS are foundational to all communities and to civilization, and it is there that the Foundation focuses its attention. MORE THAN $38 MILLION Granted in Northwest Florida Since 1999 MORE THAN $5.3 MILLION Granted in 2022 to Local Nonprofits
St. Joe
Foundation forges connections across the Bay-Walton region

Ascension Sacred Heart Foundation

Providing for health care that is accessible by all

People who have undergone CT scans can relate to the difficulty associated with having to hold your breath and remain stock still for what seems like minutes in a confined space that amps up anxiety. New equipment — the 4D CT scanner — makes for a much more comfortable patient experience.

“This advanced imaging method makes CT scans much faster and more accurate than ever before,” said Janet Piepul, the major gifts/planned giving director for the Ascension Sacred Heart Foundation. “It helps people who may have difficulty lying on the table or a child who is squirmy. It will increase, by 15% to 20%, the number of patients we can assess with a CT scan.”

The Ascension Sacred Heart Foundation’s mission is to generate and steward financial donations in an effort to ensure people have access to the best care possible, close to home and without regard for their means to pay.

Piepul, in her role, helps fund three Ascension Sacred Heart hospitals — Emerald Coast in Miramar Beach, Bay in Panama City and Gulf in Port St. Joe — by working with donors who make contributions of $10,000 or more. She is

spearheading a $2.3 million fundraising campaign to make possible the acquisition and installation of a 4D CT scanner at Emerald Coast Hospital.

Piepul is aiming toward reaching that fundraising goal by June 2023. To that end, her progress has been aided by a large gift from the St. Joe Community Foundation, an organization that Piepul knows very well. For eight years, she was SJCF’s executive director.

“Ascension Sacred Heart’s relationship with St. Joe dates to the year 2000 when they donated the 34 acres that the Emerald Coast hospital sits on,” Piepul noted. “Since that time, SJCF has demonstrated a commitment to ensuring that people in our area are healthy, happy and thriving. That not only helps individuals; it makes entire communities stronger. They are a great partner to work with because they understand the needs of the community so well.”

St. Joe Community Foundation grants to the Ascension Sacred Heart Foundation have totaled more than $6.6 million.

Piepul stressed that 100% of the contributions received goes to state-of-the-art technology, equipment and programmatic needs.

Piepul noted that SJCF support helped bring about a Regional Clinical Education Center, which is located on the campus of award-winning Bay Hospital in Panama City. The center provides Ascension Sacred Heart nurses with training on the latest available technologies, giving them the skills they need to extend the highest level of care to patients. A SJCF grant was used to purchase $450,000 in training equipment. A large SJCF grant made possible the creation of a children’s waiting area at Emerald Coast Hospital.

“The Studer Family Children’s Hospital (headquartered in Pensacola) opened up services at Emerald Coast, and the separate waiting room lets parents feel more secure because their kids are not out in the open with other people who may be sick,” Piepul said.

A pediatrician is assigned to emergency rooms equipped with specialized equipment for children.

The Studer Family Children’s Hospital is the region’s only hospital dedicated solely to the care of sick and injured babies and children.

“In the past, if a child came to Emerald Coast for any kind of medical condition, there was a good chance they


would be sent to Pensacola,” Piepul said. “The St. Joe Community Foundation’s help was huge in enabling us to better serve local families in their community.”

SJCF grants have also provided protective gear made necessary by the COVID-19 pandemic and a table used for multiple operations in a spine center. “Donors give to the Ascension Sacred Heart Foundation because their life or the life of a family member was saved at the hospital,” Piepul said. “Or they think the world of their doctor. Maybe cancer has struck their family. Everybody has something that is close to their heart.”

About the St. Joe Community Foundation, Piepul said, “They have a big heart. They have the community at heart.”


Studer Family Children’s Hospital at Ascension Sacred Heart Emerald Coast delivers 24/7 pediatric emergency care for kids with serious and life-threatening injuries and illnesses. Pediatric services include treatment rooms, observation rooms and advanced equipment specially designed for diagnosing and treating medical emergencies in kids. The facility is staffed by emergency room physicians and nurses who have received additional training from pediatric critical care specialists and other pediatrics specialists at the Studer Family Children’s Hospital.


St. Andrew Community Medical Center

Supplying primary care to Bay County’s uninsured

Aman who appeared to be in his 50s arrives at the St. Andrew Community Medical Center (SACMC) in obvious pain, an arm hanging loose by his side.

He is met by Christina Maynard, an advanced practice registered nurse and the center’s wound care specialist. After a few minutes, Maynard displays a phone photo of the man’s injury and the associated discoloration and swelling to Dr. Jimmie McCready, the center’s medical director who, for 31 years, worked as an emergency room physician.

Maynard reports that the man had visited a local hospital, but was not admitted or treated. Instead, he was referred to an orthopedist whose services, McCready said, he likely would be unable to afford.

“I kind of set it,” Maynard said. “I got him in a shoulder brace and sling. I told him not to move his arm, and he is coming back tomorrow.”

“Chrissy is awesome,” McCready said. “With Jesus’ help, she can heal anything.”

At SACMC Maynard engages in her healing ministry free of charge. She is among some 45 licensed medical professionals — nurses, nurse practitioners, pharmacists and doctors — most of whom volunteer their services at the community-supported facility. In exchange, the state guarantees them sovereign immunity. Another 30 volunteers handle duties ranging from filing to grant writing.

SACMC was established in 2004 in a house in Panama City’s St. Andrew neighborhood. Eight years later, it moved into a building that had been acquired by St. Andrew Baptist Church.

The St. Joe Community Foundation has supported SACMC with contributions since 2013. Its first contribution of $20,900 enabled the nonprofit to acquire an electrocardiogram machine. In contributing a total of $132,000, the Foundation has also supplied funds for medications, diagnostic testing and medical procedures,

and has supported SACMC’s annual fundraising golf tournament, which is played at St. Joe’s Shark’s Tooth course.

“We’re a clinic that provides support to the working poor, the people who fall through the cracks,” said Delbert Summey, Ph.D., who is SACMC’s board president. “Our patients have no medical insurance, and their income has to be at or below 200% of the federal poverty level. Plus, you must be residing in Bay County.”

SACMC acts as a primary care physician for people who would otherwise be without one.

“We keep people out of the ERs,” Summey said. “The reason that people of means don’t go to the ER much is because they have primary care physicians who are monitoring their health. Some of our patients have never seen a doctor in their lifetimes.”

He estimated that Bay County is home to 25,000 to 30,000 people who would qualify to be seen at SACMC. Currently, the facility has some 2,000 patients on file.


“We treat hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes and cholesterol levels before things get so bad that people require emergency treatment,” McCready said. In addition, SACMC may detect cancers in their early stages.

“It may be that a patient has never eaten well or received medical care, and he may have smoked or used drugs,” McCready said. “If we don’t treat underlying health conditions, the implications are kidney failure,

heart attack, stroke and throat, lung and pancreatic cancer” — that is, conditions requiring highly expensive treatment the costs for which would be absorbed by hospitals.

McCready noted a hepatitis C protocol developed by Carole Summey, RN, the SACMC clinic director, a clinic co-founder and the board president’s wife. SACMC’s screening program and its efforts to help qualifying

patients receive free medication have resulted in 150 people being cured of hepatitis C, eliminating the chance that they would spread the disease to others.

“We provide a way for people with great needs to get help from people with great talents,” Delbert Summey said. “The patients, providers and donors are all blessed, and this unites the community. It’s a self-licking ice cream cone; it’s a great story.”


Bay Arts Alliance

Enriching the community with public art and events

Standing upright, he is more than 15 feet tall. Perhaps coincidentally, he is cloaked in yellow and blue, the team colors of the UCLA Bruins. He wears sashes, one about his waist, and the other, tied behind his head, is worn bandit style, with holes for his eyes.

His gaze is not that of a vicious carnivore, but a benevolent protector. Gathered on a forearm above a massive paw are a series of wrist bands that combine to form a cuff. The natural curvature of his mouth suggests a smile, but he looks formidable, even if one dimensional.

Ninja Bear, as his creator, Jason Kretzer calls him, is in good company in downtown Panama City. He is one among a growing number of murals — depicting a hammerhead shark, a sea turtle, monarch butterflies, a vintage postcard, a Black woman among magnolia blossoms, a massive whitetail buck among roses, and more — that are adding dramatically to the presence of public art in an area that is enjoying a rebirth following the Hurricane Michael-COVID-19 double whammy.

Muralist and cartoonist, Kretzer is also the executive director of the Bay Arts Alliance and in that role is dedicated to bringing art to people of all stripes, free of charge. That quest is one in which the St. Joe Community Foundation has been an indispensable partner. The foundation was an early supporter of the Panama City Mural Trail.

“When I first hit on the idea of doing murals, most businesses didn’t have the money to do what we wanted,” Kretzer said. “We wanted to have quality art by quality artists and not just say, ‘Hey I’ve got 500 bucks, come paint a flower on my


wall,’ because then you don’t know what you’re getting. The St. Joe Community Foundation was one of the first supporters who signed on to our mural project, and I am really grateful. The Foundation and the Bay Arts Alliance have similar visions for Panama City.”

The Bay Arts Alliance’s purpose is two-fold. It is a venue manager, which currently oversees the Panama City Center for the Arts. Historically, it ran the Marina Civic Center that was idled by Michael and is now due to be replaced. The Bay Arts Alliance also provides artsrelated programs, exhibits and activities, and that is where the St. Joe Community Foundation has been especially important, Kretzer said.

The Foundation has been instrumental in helping the Bay Arts Alliance build upon Panama City’s one-time street painting festival, Madonnaro. Now, the event, called FLLUXE (for Florida luxe), encompasses mural creation, projection art, light installations and music.

“We did a small version of FLLUXE in 2021 due to COVID, and still it blew up pretty big,” Kretzer said. “In 2022, we went harder after sponsorship money because there was less uncertainty about the feasibility of holding a big event. The St. Joe Community Foundation stepped up and enabled us to make sure that we were able to keep the event completely free.”

For Kretzer, providing ready access to the arts enriches community life.

“We brought in out-of-town artists and highlighted our local artists at the same time,”

Kretzer said. “I think it’s important to have that balance. You don’t want to live in a vacuum. Exposure to other artists makes our artists better.”

The Bay Arts Alliance does not intend that people only witness art. By hosting classes, it creates opportunities for people to create art. It engages the public with photography and skateboard design contests. While in the midst of an interview, Kretzer was surrounded by activity.

The Center for the Arts was abuzz with summer campers.

“We have a lot of new things we want to try,” Kretzer said. “Versus 20 years ago, there is a lot more diverse range of folks here. We don’t want to forget who we have been historically, but due to the influence of The St. Joe Company and others, we’re seeing a posthurricane building boom and different types of folks are coming to our town to live.”

In 2020, the St. Joe Community Foundation approved a



to the Bay Arts Alliance for the purchase of a pottery kiln to be housed at the Panama City Center for the Arts. “Since then, we have held at least 60 pottery classes at the Center,” said Bay Arts Alliance executive director Jason Kretzer. “We have fired kids’ pottery, we have adult pottery classes, we have studio artists. The grant has been a real blessing because before that, we had an old kiln that was dying. Now we are able to do so much more.”

2,000 ˚ F

Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County

Spearheading efforts to expand presence of public art

With its Flutterby Festival, the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County, since 1992, has celebrated the monarch butterfly and focused attention on the miracle that is its annual migration.

For an arts organization, the monarch might be a fitting mascot. It is beautiful, inspirational — one might even say awe-spirational — timeless, universal in its appeal, durable and vulnerable. The arts, too, are all of those things, as Jennifer Steele, the executive director of the Cultural Arts Alliance (CAA), knows very well. They require nurturance, support and attention. They are, perennially, children and will expire if left to their own devices. Great artists, it has been said, require great audiences.

The CAA is dedicated to fostering creativity in Walton County through the advancement of

the arts and is committed to making the county a creative place for all. That is a mission that itself requires a lot of creativity and time spent at the easel doing visioning work.

At this writing, the CAA is undergoing an intentional brand evolution as it prepares itself, Steele said, for growth over the next three to five years. That planning will serve to perpetuate existing programs and will provide for the expansion of the organization’s Art in Public Spaces program.

“We work to achieve our mission through leadership, advocacy, funding, programs and events, and education,” Steele said. To that list might be added partnerships.

“Our relationship with the St. Joe Community Foundation has been multi-faceted,” Steele noted. “They have supported the Flutterby Festival and the 30A Songwriters Festival, and


The Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County works to ensure that all of its programs comply with the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Its Accessibility Committee employs ADA guidelines in making CAA programs open and accessible to anyone who would like to participate.


they have sponsored sculptures in the Underwater Museum of Art.”

To date, the SJCF’s contributions to the CAA have totaled $378,000.

A Watersound Monarch Art Trail has been added as a year-round complement to the Flutterby Festival. The SJCF funded the project, which is located along Watersound Parkway.

“We issued a nationwide call to artists to submit designs for pieces that would speak to the natural monarch phenomenon,” Steele said. “We commissioned the creation of eight pieces from all over the country. The CAA managed the project, but we worked closely with the St. Joe Community Foundation to ensure alignment with goals and brand standards. The sculptures had to be strong enough to withstand the environment, and they had to be beautiful and meaningful.”

Steele anticipates that the trail will be extended in the future.

“We plan to make some improvements and add sculptures to the trail, and I hope that it will continue further north someday,” she said. “It would be great to see it go all the way through Watersound. That would be amazing and a big impact. We are committed to arts education and public art, and the Monarch Art Trail checked all of those boxes. Having the work on a busy highway has enhanced the beauty of the road, and we may even be slowing people down a little bit.”

Fittingly (not flittingly), the CAA, with funding supplied by the SJCF, has surrounded the sculptures with artfully arranged, butterfly-attracting native flora from Sandhills Nursery. Nursery and CAA personnel were set to discuss the plantings and sculptures as part of guided tours built into the 2022 Flutterby Festival.

Steele believes that the arts and artists have roles to play in all aspects of Walton County’s life, including the drawing up of its future.

“We believe that the arts should not just be a charity, but an industry, and a partner and a business,” she said. “We have always encouraged leadership in artists and within our organization. The arts can help guide civic issues and growth issues and turn negatives into positives.”

Arts tourism, she said, benefits the community by attracting people with lots of discretionary income. Meanwhile, county residents benefit from arts programming and public art in the same way visitors do.

“I think our programming and the work of other organizations like the Emerald Coast Theatre Company and the REP Theatre in Seaside have made Walton County a destination for the arts,” Steele said. “The 30A Songwriters Festival is a big regional draw and Digital Graffiti attracts international attention. Those events and others have put Walton County on the map. We have a fabulous opportunity to build on that.”


Bay Education Foundation

Supporting schools and setting students up to succeed

Devin Burnett had never thought about going to college until a teacher at Jinks Middle School suggested he apply to the Bay Education Foundation for a Take Stock in Children scholarship.

He was 13, and his energies as an adolescent had been devoted largely to the business of survival. Two years earlier, he and his mother, grandmother and siblings had arrived in Bay County with few belongings and a shaky promise of a place to live. Soon homeless, they resided for four months at the Panama City Rescue Mission until Burnett’s mother found a job.

Burnett didn’t give his scholarship application much of a chance, but it succeeded. The Take Stock in Children

program was established specifically to benefit low-income, high-potential students like him.

The Foundation assigned Burnett a mentor, civil engineer York Thorpe, who met regularly with him for five years leading up to his graduation from the Advanced International Certificate Education program at Bay High School.

“Devin is an absolutely amazing person,” Thorpe said. “So much determination. So much focus. There are people who can turn adversity into a positive. That was the case with him.”

Burnett was a student at Florida State University Panama City when Hurricane Michael destroyed his family’s residence. They were on the move again, this time to North Carolina, but he stayed behind. He was


committed to earning his bachelor’s degree, and an art professor took him in at her home.

Today, he is a third-year student at the Florida A&M University College of Law in Orlando. He is the first member of his family to earn a four-year college degree and is among 115 Bay Education Foundation scholars who have done so. Most remain in Northwest Florida and are working professionals.

“We are now seeing the fruition of the early years of our scholarship program,” said Janet Kessler, who served 14 years as the Bay Education Foundation’s executive director before retiring in June. “We have always been committed to breaking the cycle of poverty, one student at a time.”

The Bay Education Foundation awards two-year college scholarships to students who maintain good grades, exhibit responsible behavior and stay drug- and crime-free throughout their high school years. As high-schoolers, they meet regularly with both community-based mentors and the foundation’s college success coach.

“Take Stock in Children is a mentoring program more than a scholarship program,” Kessler stressed. “The scholarship is a carrot, and we set students up for success. We are always recruiting mentors.”

In addition to the Take Stock in Children program, the Bay Education Foundation awards classroom grants (129 of them in 2021–22); furnishes degree-seeking school district employees with tuition assistance; provides scholarships to graduating seniors; and participates in recognition programs that highlight the achievements of students, teachers and support personnel.

“The St. Joe Community Foundation has been a very valuable partner in the progress of the Bay Education Foundation and Bay District Schools,” Kessler said.

She said that the SJCF’s support of the district was critical in the wake of 2018’s Hurricane Michael, noting, in particular, the contributions it made for the restoration of athletic facilities.

The Bay Education Foundation serves as a fiscal agent for the school district, accepting and administering donations earmarked for specific aspects of district operations and collecting a fee for providing that service. That income, in turn, is used to support Bay Education Foundation programs.

Since 1999, SJCF has funded over 165 grants totaling more than $3.3 million to benefit Take Stock in Children and Bay District Schools.

“In our foundation’s early days, we couldn’t have done Take Stock without them. They continue to support Take Stock, our mentoring initiative and other activities. They are critical to the mission of the Bay Education Foundation, and they inspire others to donate to us.”

Effective July 1, Kelly Langenberg, a one-time music professor, succeeded Kessler as the Bay Education Foundation’s executive director.

“I am excited about being in a position to, every day, improve lives for students,” she said. “Anything I can do to provide education for all students is a winning cause.”


The Bay Education Foundation is always on the lookout for adults willing to mentor students who are awarded scholarship contracts as part of its Take Stock in Children program. Mentors meet with students during the school day twice each month for 30 minutes. They lead children to commit to values, establish goals, improve their academic and life skills and develop confidence. Their role is one that appeals to people who want to have a lasting, profound impact on their community. To learn more about Take Stock in Children mentoring opportunities, contact the Bay Education Foundation at (850) 767-4111.


Awobble stool resembles a spool that might be used for electrical cable, but is smaller, may be brightly colored and serves as a sometimes coveted place to sit.

The stools are designed to promote good posture, resulting in increased blood flow to the brain, making it more receptive to learning.

Turns out, wobble stools also work as an incentive and reward for classroom students. They figured in a classroom grant application written by Sara Caudill, a teacher at Emerald Coast Middle School, and funded by the St. Joe Community Foundation. The $980.92 grant award benefitted 93 students.

“With this grant, I was able to purchase five wobble stools, visual math vocabulary cards and a document camera,” Caudill reported. “All of these resources have made an impact

EDUCATION The St. Joe Community Foundation supports Walton Education Foundation initiatives including its CLASSROOM GRANTS PROGRAM Of 57 GRANTS AWARDED in 2021–22, a total of 20 impacted LITERACY ; eight targeted LOW-PERFORMING STUDENTS ; two related to CAREER-TECHNICAL education; 15 had ties to STEM ACTIVITIES ; and 12 aimed at enhancing TEACHING QUALITY .
Walton Education Foundation
of teachers’
Making realities

in my classroom. The document camera makes it easy to share student work with the class, which is crucial in math. Students are able to explain their thinking to the class while showing a visual for the class to follow. The visual vocabulary cards have made it easier for students to remember math terms. The wobble stools are definitely a student favorite. The students beg for a chance to use them each day.”

The classroom grant program is among several administered by the Walton Education Foundation. In the 2021–22 school year, the foundation received 90 applications and awarded 57 classroom grants, ranging from very modest amounts of money to $1,500.They are paid for with contributions made by private investors including, prominently, the SJCF, and matching funds from the Consortium of Florida Education Foundations.

“The classroom grants are readily implemented and have an immediate impact on students and learning,” said Lindsey Harp, the Walton Education Foundation’s executive director. “Last year, the grants touched 9,300 students or about 80% of the students in the district.”

The titles of many of those grants — “Building Conceptual Understanding of Mathematics” and “Saving Instructional Time in Literacy Groups,” to name two — wouldn’t be out of place atop research papers or doctoral theses. We’re not talking pizza parties here.

Harp first got involved with the Walton Education Foundation when, for two years, she served as race chair for the Apple Classic fundraising 5K run held at Hammock Bay. As executive director, she has quickly learned the value of the SJCF to public education in Walton County. Historically, when support for education foundation programs and funds delivered to the school district via the foundation are considered, the SJCF’s contributions have totaled more than $2.7 million. That amount includes

funding that was used to establish the county’s first STEAM high school, the Magnet Innovation Center.

The SJCF supports the education foundation’s Take Stock in Children scholarship and mentorship program and funds large, school-wide grants. A grant of $10,322 to Freeport Middle School was used to purchase equipment and supplies to grow their Forensic Science and Biomedical program. Grants of $20,000 to $25,000 provided for new and reconditioned band instruments at Emerald Coast Middle School and extended “Capturing Kids’ Hearts” training to teachers at Dune Lakes and Butler elementary schools. That training helps teachers keep students on task.

With its Take Stock in Children program, the Walton Education Foundation buys 60-credit-hour scholarships from the Florida Prepaid Scholarship Program for awarding to students, most of whom stand to become the first college graduates ever in their families and often, Harp said, are the first high school graduates.

Scholarship awards are generally made when students are in middle school. As soon as the awards are made, students are assigned mentors who meet with them monthly until they graduate from high school. At any given time, about 35 students participate in the program in Walton County.

“We have a back-to-school Take Stock kickoff where we welcome new mentors and students to the program,” Harp said. “We have a college-prep workshop in the fall or winter and in the spring, we have an event where we congratulate our graduating seniors and announce where they will be attending college. That can serve as a real inspiration to younger students.”

Harp said the Walton Education Foundation continuously seeks to tap into the creativity of teachers, staff members and administrators in the school district. Given the assistance of the SJCF, she said, “Many of their ideas are made realities.”


No Ordinary Joe

Scholarship program celebrates community service

Some years ago, The St. Joe Company presented quarterly No Ordinary Joe awards to employees who had distinguished themselves by going above and beyond their job descriptions.

Today, the St. Joe Community Foundation has applied that same name, No Ordinary Joe — it is about perfect, isn’t it? — to a college scholarship program in Bay and Walton counties.

“It is something the Foundation’s Board of Trustees has wanted to do for a long time,” said April Wilkes, the executive director of the SJCF. She explained that the No Ordinary Joe Scholarship Program, whose first-ever winning students were announced in May 2021, is modeled after similar programs in Florida.

Wilkes said the No Ordinary Joe initiative is unusual given the number of students receiving scholarships and the total amount of money awarded. In Year No. 1, scholarships totaling $78,500 were extended to 42 students with qualifying GPAs and a record of community service.

The recipient selection process gets started when public schools submit the names of three seniors to the SJCF.

“Those students automatically receive a $500 scholarship,” Wilkes said. “They are all great kids who are doing great things, and they are then invited to apply for the next round of scholarships.”

As part of that application, students compose an essay on community service. One student from each participating high school is selected to receive a $2,500 scholarship in addition to the initial award of $500.

Finally, the school-level winners sit for an interview with a selection committee made up of Bay-Walton residents. That committee chooses two county-level winners, each of whom receives another $10,000 scholarship. The funding is provided to Bay County Education Foundation and Walton Education Foundation pursuant to agreements with The St. Joe Foundation.

The county-level winners for 2022 were Wes Corbin of Walton High School and Kira Nguyen of Rutherford High School in Bay County.

Corbin played varsity baseball at Walton High and was active in student organizations including the Key Club, Anchor Club and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. He joined in several community service projects at school and in the community.

He plans to become a builder like his father, a general contractor for whom he has worked. He will be pursuing a college degree in building construction. While he comes from a Florida State University household, he will be attending Auburn University.

“I’m striking out on my own,” he said.

Nguyen served as senior class president at Rutherford, where she was captain of both volleyball and weightlifting teams. She established her school’s first Black History Month Showcase and participated in several fundraisers and community service projects. She plans to attend Gulf Coast State College and to move on to the University of Central Florida with the goal of becoming a pediatric dentist.

Her father, for many years, has been a cook at Capt. Anderson’s Restaurant in Panama City Beach.

“The No Ordinary Joe program is designed to encourage students to become involved in community service work, which is a big part of the basis for our scholarship awards,”Wilkes said. “We want them to go to college, come back here, and apply all of that in their hometown.”

Wilkes said she was impressed by the amount of communityservice work listed in scholarship applications.

“We had a lot of kids who did things to show their support for the community after Hurricane Michael,” Wilkes said. “Our firstyear winners are kids who were freshmen when the hurricane came through. And then came the pandemic. They grew up a lot faster than they probably should have.”

Similar programs culminate in a large, fancy celebratory dinner.

“We may have a big event one day,” Wilkes said. “We’ll see.”

Don’t put it past her.










North Bay Haven LILLIAN GAY




Rutherford KIRA NGUYEN







Walton High WES CORBIN


Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance

Pursuing avenues to safeguard waterways

The Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance, a program of Northwest Florida State College, comprises a small group working to unite large numbers of people in efforts to maintain water quality throughout much of Northwest Florida.

“We are eight people building a community of stewardship,” said Alison McDowell, the CBA’s executive director. “We want to provide the members of that community with knowledge and a desire to take care of our waterways.”

To do so, it casts a wide net. With its Grasses and Classes program, the CBA, established in 1996, reaches out to third graders and turns them into habitat restorers. Alliance members, along with AmeriCorps volunteers, teach grade schoolers lessons about saltwater bay ecology and involves them in growing

salt-marsh grasses at their schools. At the end of the school year, students enjoy a working field trip and plant what they’ve grown at restoration sites.

“What we do is aligned with Florida state science standards and helps teachers illustrate concepts,” McDowell said.

With a program for middle-schoolers, the CBA shifts the focus to coastal dune lakes. Students grow sea oats for planting at restoration sites. High school students who participate in the Students Helping Oysters and Living Shorelines (SHOALS) program learn about oyster biology and the role played by the bivalves as water filterers. They grow submergent seagrasses in large aquaculture tanks.

“It’s a long game, but it’s also a short game,” McDowell said of the CBA’s educational programs. “We want students to learn about, love and care



for our waterways for a lifetime, but we also put them to work to immediately benefit the environment.”

In addition to education, the CBA’s initiatives include water and wildlife monitoring, restoration and research. But, said McDowell, the St. Joe Community Foundation connects most strongly to the education piece. The SJCF, for example, is helping to underwrite efforts to expand SHOALS curriculum to encompass freshwater environments.

“We have such a wonderful relationship with the St. Joe Community Foundation because they are local,” McDowell said. “They are here with us. They live in the area that we care about. And they are responsive to our immediate needs as well as our long-term strategic needs.”

McDowell provided an example of that responsiveness.

The CBA arranges for housing for the AmeriCorps volunteers who help out in classrooms. On one occasion, such an arrangement fell through and, with housing in the area tight, McDowell, et al., were scrambling to find a new landlord willing to accept reasonable rents. They found a landlord, but the houses he was building would not be ready for occupancy for two months.

What was the CBA to do in the interim?

McDowell emailed April Wilkes, SJCF’s executive director and, seemingly without hesitation, the SJCF agreed to fund bridge housing for the volunteers.

“Over the years, we’ve found that our educational programs are a great fit for what the St. Joe Community Foundation wants to fund,” McDowell said.

Total contributions made by the SJCF to the CBA have exceeded $114,000.

“We present them with our latest idea when we want to grow a program, and they get excited about it with us,” McDowell said. “They are eager to see what we are going to do next and how many people we are going to reach.”

It was the SJCF that covered the cost for two EnviroScapes, tabletop models that depict watershed concepts including non-point source pollution. (If you are not as smart as a Walton County third-grader, you might call that stormwater runoff.)

In all that the CBA does, there is an outreach component, sometimes to the general public and at other times to partners including the University of Florida Lake

Watch Program or the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Since 2001, the CBA, relying on the efforts of adult volunteer water samplers, has added gobs of water quality data to a statewide database and made it available to graduate students and the scientific community.

With its Living Shorelines initiative, the CBA builds oyster reefs that serve as breakwaters and encourages waterfront owners to find alternatives to hardening shorelines.

The CBA’s monitoring work focuses on species including the Gulf sturgeon, manatees and diamondback terrapins.

“It’s the only brackish water turtle in America,” McDowell said of the diamondback, adding, “It’s a really special little critter.”

She was not inclined to try, but even if she did, McDowell would be unable to disguise her fondness for the natural world that surrounds us.


Diamondback terrapins face a variety of threats, including:


Loss of important nesting and foraging habitat is a major concern for population stability.


Predators such as wild hogs, raccoons and rats prey on terrapins at all life stages; eggs and young terrapins are most vulnerable to predation.


Females often cross roads in search of suitable nesting areas and can be struck by cars.


Collisions with boats can injure and kill terrapins.


Accidental drownings in blue crab traps occur when adults enter the traps in search of food and cannot escape.


Due to their colorful appearance and friendly disposition, terrapins are susceptible to unsustainable wild takings for the pet trade.


Grasses in Classes and

Source: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission


E.O. Wilson Biophilia Center

Nurturing understanding of the natural world

Bobcats were part of their day. And foxes. Many even engaged in snake handling.

But for most, if not all, the Birds of Prey Show, conducted by environmental educators “Armadillo” Ashlyn Stanford and “Mushroom” Matt Hamilton, highlighted the children’s time spent at the E.O. Wilson Biophilia Center near Freeport in Walton County.

It’s captivating to share even a large lecture room with raptors flying about after a handler describes their talons and advises, “They can squeeze harder than you.”

The hawks were impressive, but the owls were endearing. People young and old relate more closely to birds with forward-facing eyes.

Many of the children didn’t have to be told how to distinguish a red-shouldered hawk from a red-tailed one. But they learned something when Stanford demonstrated that owl feathers make no sound as the bird cuts through the air and informed them that owl eyes are so large

that there is room in their heads left over for only a tiny brain.

The Biophilia Center, opened in 2009, was developed by gambler turned commodities dealer M.C. Davis, who, according to the center’s director, Dalton Allen, was passing through Central Florida when he saw a sign: BEAR COUNCIL MEETING.

“He attended that meeting, and he listened to the talk about land and wildlife conservation, and he decided he could do better at that than they were,” Allen said.

The late Davis established Nokuse Plantation, the largest privately owned nature preserve in the Southeast, with the goals of creating an uninterrupted wildlife corridor from U.S. Highway 331 to the Choctawhatchee River and restoring the area as a longleaf pine forest. Today, the preserve totals some 55,000 acres; the Biophilia Center is surrounded by conservation lands.


Turning a vast acreage back into a longleaf forest requires plantings, controlled burns and time.

“It takes about 200 years,” said Allen, noting that fire-resistant longleaf pine grow twice as slowly as slash pine. “Mr. Davis recognized that he needed to teach people about that ecosystem and trust that they would pass along what they learned to succeeding generations. That’s what led to the Biophilia Center.”

On school days, about 120 fourth and seventh graders from within a five-county area visit the center. They go for two or four days and receive science instruction consistent with state standards. At their schools, classroom teachers furnish the students with preparatory and follow-up instruction.

The center is also open to all on “public days,” of which the Birds of Prey Show is a part.

Wilson, who died in 2021 at age 92, was recognized as the world’s foremost authority on ants and discovered the first colony of fire ants in North America in his hometown of Mobile, Alabama. For many years, he was a professor at Harvard University.

The St. Joe Community Foundation has made $464,000 in contributions to the Nokuse Foundation, benefitting Biophilia Center programs including Talking Trash, which discusses recycling and composting, and Camp Longleaf, which targets high school students. The Foundation made possible the construction of a terrace that will serve as an event space and has covered costs for student transportation to the Center.

In 2014, Environmental Education Research published a study by professors from Columbus State and Georgia Southern universities who assessed the effectiveness of the fourth-grade program at the Center in promoting understanding of the highly diverse longleaf pine ecosystem. The researchers asked students to make a drawing of a longleaf forest prior to and after completing the program.

One student’s “before” drawing was limited to trees and a pond. The “after” drawing included lichens, a fox squirrel, a tree-climbing snake, a gopher tortoise and — Wilson would have liked this — two types of ants.

If students are not exposed to foundational knowledge of animal diversity during their elementary school years, they will not learn and understand this knowledge.”



The St. Joe Community Foundation serves to benefit more than 150 programs and organizations in communities across the Emerald Coast. With a mission to enrich the quality of life of the people who live, work and play in Northwest Florida, the SJCF has provided more than $38 million in grants for causes related to education, health care, cultural and community improvement and environmental stewardship.

Visit for more information or to apply for grants through the Foundation.

A Bed 4 Me Foundation

Advocates for Children (Guardian Ad Litem)

Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders Association

American Cancer Society

American Heart Association

American Red Cross

AMIKids Panama City Marine Institute

Anchorage Children’s Home

Angel House Bereavement Center

Appleseed Kids

Ascension Sacred Heart Foundation

Atlanta Botanical Garden — Southeast Center for Conservation

Avicenna Free Clinic

Bacot Academy

BASIC NWFL Bay 4-H Association Bay Arts Alliance

Bay Cares

Bay County Chamber Foundation

Bay County Audubon Society

Bay County Council on Aging

Bay County Public Library Foundation

Bay Education Foundation (All School District Grants)

Bay Haven Charter Academy

Bay Law Enforcement Assistance Foundation

Bay Youth Music Association

Beach Care Services

BeGenerous Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Florida

Boys & Girls Clubs of Bay County

Boys & Girls Clubs of the Emerald Coast

Bunkers Point Education Foundation

Caring & Sharing of Walton County


Chautauqua Hall of Brotherhood Foundation

Children In Crisis

Children’s Home Society of Florida — Western Division

Children’s Volunteer Health Network

Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance

Coastal Stages (Seaside REP)

Covenant Hospice Foundation

Cultivate Community Gardens

Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County Dementia Family Pathways Dog-Harmony

Embrace Florida Kids

Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Center

Emerald Coast First Responders Association
Emerald Coast Theatre Company Every Child Home Feeding the Gulf Coast First Christian Academy Florida Hunters for the Hungry Florida State Parks Foundation Floriopolis Folds of Honor Foundation Food for Thought
Friends of the Bay County Public Libraries
Friends of Camp Helen State Park Friends of the Florida State Forests
Bay Education Foundation Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County

Friends of Freeport Library

Friends of St. Andrews State Park

Friends of Topsail Hill Preserve State Park

Florida State University Foundation

Florida State University Research Foundation

Girl Scouts of Gateway Council

Girls, Inc. Grand Rising Community Garden

Gulf Coast Children’s Advocacy Center

Gulf Coast Council — Boy Scouts of America

Gulf Jazz Society

Gulf Coast School for Autism

Gulf Coast State College Foundation

Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation

Habitat for Humanity of Bay County

Habitat for Humanity of Walton County

Harvest Christian Academy

Healthy Start Coalition

Historic St. Andrews Waterfront Partnership

Holy Nativity Episcopal School

Hope Medical Clinic

HSU Education Foundation

Junior League of Panama City

Junior League of the Emerald Coast

Keep PCB Beautiful

LEAD Coalition of Bay County

Learning Lifeline

LGBTQ Center of Bay County

Life Management of Northwest Florida

Longleaf Educational Services

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD)

Main Street DeFuniak

Martin Theatre

Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation

Mercy Chefs

Mexico Beach Artificial Reef Association

Nemours Foundation

Nokuse Education Foundation

North Bay Haven Charter Academy

Northwest Florida Health Network

Northwest Florida Guardian Ad Litem Association

Okaloosa Aids Support & Information Services

One Positive Place

Panama City Music Association

Panama City Symphony

PanCare of Bay County Parkinson’s Pathways

Panam City Beach Turtle Watch

Point Washington Medical Clinic

Public Eye Soar

Pyramid Panama City Rebuild Bay County

Resources for Human Development Revolt Ministries

Ronald McDonald House of Charities of Northwest Florida

Rosemary Beach Foundation

Rotary District 6940 Foundation

Rotary Youth Camp of North Florida

Salvation Army — Panama City

SBP (St. Bernard Project)

Scenic Walton Foundation

Science & Discovery Center

Scottish Rite Foundation of Florida

Seaside School Foundation

Second Chance of Northwest Florida

Sight Savers America

Sinfonia Gulf Coast

South Walton Academy

South Walton Artificial Reef Association

South Walton Community Council

South Walton First Baptist Church

Southern Scholarship Foundation


E.O. Wilson Biophilia Center

Special Olympics Florida — Bay County

Special Olympics Florida — Walton County

Special Programs for Special Kids

St. Andrew Christian Care Center

St. Andrew Bay Area Resource Management Association

St. Andrew Bay Center (ARC of the Bay)

St. Andrew Community Medical Center

St. Bernadette Child Development Academy

St. John Catholic Academy

St. Rita Preschool

Taylor Haugen Foundation

The Hope Project

The Institute of Diving (Man in the Sea Museum)

St. Andrew Community Medical Center

The Matrix Community Outreach Center

The Orchard Center

The Preschool at Point Washington

Tivoli Historical Society

Tom P. Haney Education Foundation

Town Planters Society of Freeport

Tri-County Community Council

Tri-State Christian Fellowship (Camp)

Walton Academy Charter School

Walton Education Foundation (All School District Grants)

Westonwood Ranch

Witches of St. Andrews

Women’s Civic Club of PCB

Wreaths Across America of Bay County




130 Richard Jackson Blvd., Suite 200 Panama City Beach, Florida 32407

Contact April Wilkes, Executive Director

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