SRQ Magazine | IN CONVERSATION: Innovation in Philanthropy, July/August 2022

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SHARE WITH OUR READERS A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR ORGANIZATION AND TELL US WHAT BROUGHT YOU TO THIS ROLE–HOW HAS IT BEEN YOUR CALLING? CHERYL MENDELSON, CEO, VAN WEZEL FOUNDATION: The Van Wezel Foundation has been in existence for 35 years, and has been focused on helping to provide arts education integration in partnership with the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall. We serve over 58,000 students, families and educators across five counties, so we’ve really grown tremendously over the last 35 years. I would say we’ve had a Renaissance over the last three years I’ve been with the organization. The foundation is leading the vision to build the new performing arts center on the bay as part of a public private partnership with the city. We’re really thrilled to be able to extend our reach in such a meaningful way in how it impacts our mission driven work and what we’re doing has been really interesting. I spent 30 years in Chicago where I


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ABOUT THE PARTICIPANTS MASON AYRES, SARASOTA MEMORIAL HEALTHCARE FOUNDATION, PRESIDENT Since 2016, Ayres has been responsible for Sarasota Memorial Healthcare Foundation’s strategic direction, financial performance, and the expansion of its development program. Under his leadership, the Healthcare Foundation has achieved historic levels in fundraising, increased operational efficiencies and elevated the brand’s market position to one of the community’s most successful fundraising organizations. Prior to joining the Healthcare Foundation, Ayres held development positions at NCH Healthcare System, Ave Maria University in Naples, FL, and key marketing and management positions at Universal Studios Orlando. A graduate of Florida State University, he is also a Certified Financial Planner® and a Certified Fund Raising Executive. DEBBIE MASON, CFRE, APR, CPRC, FELLOW PRSA, TIDEWELL FOUNDATION, INC. PRESIDENT AND EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT OF TIDEWELL HOSPICE. Debbie Mason is responsible for providing leadership and management of Tidewell’s philanthropic services. She served as CEO of the Healthcare Foundation Northern Sonoma County and as CEO of United Way North Central Florida. She founded and sold a full-service public relations, marketing, and strategic planning agency and served as Vice President Office of the Chairman and VP Corporate Communications for JM Family Enterprises.


had the great honor to work in philanthropy, marketing communications and community work, both in academic medicine, as well as in the arts. But, I was drawn here to Sarasota because of this project. I was the Chief Operating Officer at the Harris Theater, Millennium Park which is the exact sort of model the Bay Park is envisioning—an active, vibrant park with the performing arts center at the heart of it. I like to think about it as a gateway where community and culture are able to meet together to serve the greater good. And, this kind of project is transformative and it’s a legacy project really, for generations to come. A community doesn’t get that opportunity very often. So, tremendous for me to be able to be here. RICK YOCUM, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, HUMANE SOCIETY OF MANATEE COUNTY: We celebrated our 50th anniversary as an organization this past year. We operate an adoption center called the Second Chance Adoption Center, where we adopt about 800 cats and dogs into new homes each and every year. Our shelter has no breed restrictions and we truly try to give those animals in the community, looking for a home, a second chance, older senior dogs, medically challenged dogs, behavioral challenged dogs, and cats. We also operate a veterinary clinic, it’s a 10,000 square foot state of the art veterinary clinic. Last year, we served 13,000 cats and dogs in our veterinary clinic. We are open to the public by appointment, and we also have a lot of programs to help the financially challenged residents in our area get the care that they need for their animals. We try not to turn anyone away and we’ve had tremendous support from the community. It’s growing over the last five years to the highest point it’s ever been. It’s allowing us to help so many more people, and it’s a very gratifying feeling. I have a very strong belief that

there’s nothing more rewarding in a career than loving what you do and believing in what you do. And, I’ve always tried to follow my heart when it came to that. I was very lucky, I had a great career up in Northwest New Jersey, I was in business. I was also an elected official for 23 and a half years, and I was a Humane Law Enforcement Officer, an animal cop for 15 years. And, my wife and I have had homes down in South Florida for about 15 years. My wife was a snowbird and I was an occasional visitor in the winter down here. And, when this door opened up, I walked through it and accepted this job as the Executive Director six years ago. And, I still love it as much today as I did my first day here. NELLE MILLER, INTERIM CEO, JFCS OF THE SUNCOAST: I am currently in my fourth month as Interim CEO, which is really a new proposition for me in this community because I have been a serial volunteer and board member for many, many years. I’ve been involved, not directly in the social services, but sort of from outside into JFCS for many years. I’ve also been involved in the Community Foundation, Jewish Federation, Glasser/Schoenbaum, and a bunch of others. I feel very strongly about contributing back to this community. It’s paradise, but there’s a lot of need here, and a lot of people just don’t see it. I began my life as a beneficiary and I owe a debt of gratitude for the kindness and goodness of people who gave me the start that I have in life. I feel really committed to giving that back. I’m really passionate about it. KATHLEEN SULLIVAN, HEAD STARTS AND EARLY HEAD START DIRECTOR, CHILDREN FIRST: Children First is the sole provider of Early Head Start and Head Start services for Sarasota County. The core of the work of Children First is serving the most vulnerable populations in our community. We serve low income families and

families who are at high risk of instability. We seek to create stability for our families and well being for the children that we serve. I am dedicated to the Children First program and the Head Start and Early Head Start mission because I was a Head Start parent. When my husband and I were in college, we started our family and we found the Head Start program through word of mouth, which is often the case. We’d found it to be the most supportive and effective program for us as young parents. We had some skills, some strategies, and a network of support. However, we became the best parents we could be as a result of our participation in the program. And that is what keeps me fully engaged and in my seat for this mission here in Sarasota, really until it’s time for me to relax in paradise. PHILIP TAVILL, CEO, CHILDREN FIRST: I would give you a twofold answer. Number one, as a young lad, I was greatly influenced by my father’s work as a physician in public health in setting up inner city health clinics, the work that he did overseas, helping vulnerable populations. His life has been committed to through medicine, helping those who are vulnerable, helping those who don’t have resources. That had a very significant influence that continues to today. The second piece goes back a long way. I realized my passion for working with folks in vulnerable positions, particularly people living in poverty with a specific focus of being able to help families with very young children long ago. So, it’s serendipitous that I landed at Children First because it was really my area of focus in graduate school and before. BRENA SLATER, CEO, SAFE CHILDREN COALITION: We are the contracted agency through the Department of Children and Families that provides all of the child welfare services in Sarasota, Manatee and DeSoto counties. But we also do a lot more work. We serve about 1600 children that

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CHERYL MENDELSON, THE VAN WEZEL FOUNDATION, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER Cheryl Mendelson became the CEO of the Van Wezel Foundation in 2019, bringing over twenty years of experience as a nonprofit executive at renowned organizations in education, healthcare, arts and culture. Mendelson played a vital leadership role in developing award-winning branding programs at the Harris Theater in Chicago’s Millennium Park, the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, and the Erikson Institute Graduate School. In 2016, Mendelson was featured as a “philanthropic powerhouse” in the inaugural publication of Chicago Woman Magazine. Mendelson was named to the Gulf Coast CEO Forum in 2020 and currently sits on the Arts Advocates Advisory Board in Sarasota. NELLE S. MILLER, JFCS OF THE SUNCOAST, INTERIM CEO Nelle S. Miller currently serves as the interim CEO at JFCS of the Suncoast. Hired three months ago, she anticipates working there for another four to six months. She also serves as the incoming Chair of the Board for the Education Foundation of Sarasota County, a member of the Boxser Diversity Initiative Advisory Board, Immediate Past Chair of the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, and a Trustee of the Canandaigua National Trust Company of Florida. Miller is the immediate past chair of the board at the Glasser/ Schoenbaum Human Services Center, All Faiths Food Bank, and former president of The SarasotaManatee Jewish Federation. While no longer serving on these boards, she continues to hold the position of Community Chair of the Grinspoon Life and Legacy Program, and current Chair of this year’s Campaign Against Summer Hunger at All Faiths Food Bank.


are under court jurisdiction. We do foster care adoptions and independent living. We serve children in extended foster care up to the age of 22 and ensure that after they graduate high school, that they’re going and doing post-secondary school or college or whatever their choice is. We also have several other programs. One is a diversion and prevention program where we serve about 3,000 children that have abuse reports called in. And we are basically trying to keep them out of our system. We have a HIPPY program, a home instruction for parents of preschool youngsters, which helps parents get their children ready for preschool. These are low income families and we help them really teach their children how to read. A lot of the parents don’t even know how to read. So really by teaching the parents to read, we are helping their children get prepared for preschool. We also have an Achievers program, which is for middle and high school children to get them career ready and we will give scholarships. They do community service work hours through us. And a lot of times these are first generation children that are going off to college. And then another program we have is our shelter. We have a youth shelter that holds children that are 10 to 17 years old that are having problems at home. They might have been suspended from school, they might be having issues with their parents and just need a timeout or they can be ordered by the court there for up to two weeks or 30 days if necessary. And then we do counseling through schools and multiple programs. I have been doing some sort of child welfare since probably 1989, which I think is when I started doing volunteer work at a shelter. I also worked at a youth shelter for many years as a counselor. Then in 1996, I started with the Department of Children and Families doing child welfare. I’ve done everything from adop-

tions to protective supervision and then supervised child abuse investigation. I’ve been with the Safe Children Coalition for nine years now. Seven as the Vice President and now two as the CEO. My parents will say that I started this work when I was three, because I would bring home any stray child that I saw, anyone that was being bullied at school. I was the one that always had the passion and the heart for children. MASON AYRES, PRESIDENT, SARASOTA MEMORIAL HEALTHCARE FOUNDATION: Our organization has been in Sarasota 46 years. Our mission is to provide philanthropic support to the Sarasota Memorial Healthcare system. We do that through being able to grant dollars that we receive over to the hospital and we focus on some key areas in the hospital to provide funding. Those areas are facilities, technology, patient care, education, and research. Right now it’s an amazing time to be in the role that I’m in with all the growth that is happening in Sarasota County overall, but specifically at the hospital. And we are so grateful for all of the support that we continue to receive from the community. It’s been amazing to watch how the community continues to respond to the needs at the hospital. This is, I would say, my second career. My first career was in the travel industry and I had the great fortune of working in Orlando for a bit of time with the theme parks. In 2003, I felt I was being drawn into nonprofit work. At that time, I really didn’t understand what it was or how you go about doing it but I knew it was what I wanted to do. I found my way into a role at Ave Maria University that was an organization that was being established down a little east of Naples, where I was living. And from there, I moved into a healthcare philanthropy role with the local community hospital in Naples. Back in 2016, I came to Sarasota and joined the healthcare founda-

tion as its President and I’ve been in this role for almost six years now. DEBBIE MASON, PRESIDENT, TIDEWELL FOUNDATION: Our foundation was established in 2020, during the pandemic, to provide perpetual support for Tidewell Hospice and our other not for profit affiliates. A lot of people know Tidewell because Tidewell has been in the community for more than 40 years. We’ve always had philanthropy, but it got lost because we’re such a big nonprofit healthcare organization in terms of the number of people we see. So starting a foundation made a lot of sense because it’s easy for people to see we raise 5 million or more a year and we grant it right back to Tidewell for each of these programs, for charity care and free care for the community. I’m a ninth generation Floridian. I was out in California for a while, running a healthcare foundation. I knew I wanted to come back to Florida. I also had a consulting practice that I’ve had for many years and I happened to be here working with a client and thought, well, I’ll just do some information interviews with fellow Leadership Florida members and say, “Hey, maybe next year I’d like to move home. If you see anything interesting come up let me know.” One of those was with Deborah Jacobs and she sent my resumé to Jonathan that night and Jonathan was down to a final search. So I literally landed in this job and six weeks later moved here. Kismet, serendipity. BILL SADLO, PRESIDENT AND CEO, BOYS & GIRLS CLUBS OF SARASOTA AND DESOTO COUNTIES: Our organization focuses on youth, six to 18 years old. We’ve been around for 52 years, and one unique thing is that for the first 50 years we were Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota County, and now we’re Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota and DeSoto Counties. For two years, we’ve been in two counties serving youth. We focus on academic

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BILL SADLO, PRESIDENT AND CEO, BOYS & GIRLS CLUBS OF SARASOTA AND DESOTO COUNTIES Before he became President/CEO, Bill Sadlo was a proud member of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota and DeSoto Counties as a child. Bill graduated from Sarasota High School and acquired his Bachelors of Science in Secondary Education from University of South Florida. Since then, Bill has devoted his career to the organization that enabled him to succeed. In 2017, Boys & Girls Clubs of America presented Bill with the National Professional Service Award to honor his thirty years of dedication to the movement. BRENA SLATER, SAFE CHILDREN COALITION, PRESIDENT AND CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER Nina (Brena) Slater, SCC President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), has a Bachelor’s degree and 25 years plus of hands-on experience in relationship building, community development, leadership in case management, diversion, and strategic initiatives with child welfare organizations. Before becoming the CEO in October 2019, Ms. Slater worked with the Safe Children Coalition (SCC) for six years as the Vice President (VP) of CBC, which proved her ability to successfully bring a community together to meet and exceed outcomes that benefit children and families.


success, good character and citizenship and healthy lifestyles. I was a club kid myself. I attended the boys and girls club here in Sarasota on Fruitville Road, where my office is right now. I started working here right out of high school, and I’ve been an employee for 35 years. More so than just the longevity of why I do it, it’s an organization that truly makes a difference in youth’s lives and it did for me as well. WE ARE A COMMUNITY THAT’S BURSTING AT THE SEAMS AT THE MOMENT. THERE ARE A TREMENDOUS NUMBER OF NEW RESIDENTS EVERY DAY. HOW DOES THAT AFFECT YOUR ORGANIZATIONS, BOTH IN THE PRESSURES INVOLVED AND THE BENEFITS TO THE SYSTEM FROM HAVING NEW PEOPLE? AYRES: I think the hospital definitely has seen and has anticipated to some extent the growth that’s going on in our community overall. And that’s what’s pushing them to continue to expand services for the community as it relates to how people can benefit. It’s kind of interesting in our role from the philanthropy side. It really gives the community an opportunity to step in and help the hospital continue to expand out its services. They can play a very important and critical role in that growth. And we have seen that from the healthcare foundation’s standpoint, that the community has continued to step in and help support the hospital as they expand their vision. So it’s really a unique time right now for those that are philanthropically minded and have healthcare as an interest that they can kind of work alongside the hospital as it grows. MENDELSON: We are obviously really excited. We’re building and being a part of such an incredible transformative project for the community, with the master plan for the Bay Park development of 53 acres with a world class performing arts center at the heart of it. As the

census and the population grows among the county, our mission driven work in arts integration becomes even more in demand. And so, there are more demands on us to take a look at multi-generational programming, multicultural programming, programming for people that live here full time, 12 months out of the year, not just in season. We surveyed and have heard from 18,000 people across the region about what their aspirations are for a new performing arts center and we’re excited to be able to move forward and continue to think about our responsibility to build a performing arts center for the next 50 years, and address the needs of today. But, we also have to really open our minds up into thinking about what the next generation is going to be looking for and what their needs are. So, it’s an exciting time, I think, for Sarasota and for our project. SLATER: As far as fundraising, probably 97% of our funding is from the government. We do have a director of philanthropy and our big fundraising will be for a capital campaign coming up soon for a building. We have our shelter that has been around for years on the campus where the YMCA is in Sarasota. And we will be vacating there next March. So we will have to start building a new shelter because government funding, while it’ll fund programs and operations, does not fund buildings. So while the government funds the majority of our budget, there are so many other things that philanthropy and the foundations in our area and individuals have really made up that gap for the difference. And our areas had one of the highest removal rates for about the past seven years in the state of Florida. At one point back in 2015 and 16, about 90 to 100 kids were coming in, being removed just from Sarasota, Manatee and DeSoto every single month. And while that’s dropped off a lot, because we do have a lot more diversion and prevention services, the counties

are helping fund that. We have some community foundations. We are really trying to put services in with the families before they’re removed. We are waiting for the Governor to sign the new budget and we will be receiving a significant amount of funding because they realized how underfunded we were and how much we were having to rely on our community to fund the difference so that we could provide services for the children and families we serve. One of the most satisfying things for me to see now is that the community has come together and really funded some of our frontend services. So historically where a family is living in their car or they’re living in a campground and the kids aren’t in school or they don’t have electricity or water, we now can go out to that family’s car and say, “Hey, look, we’re going to get you a hotel room. We now have counselors that can go and work on their mental health, substance abuse, whatever their issues are.” We can use funding to pay the first month’s rent so that people can get stable. We can help them apply for jobs so that they have an income. A lot of parents just need that little extra help.They just need someone there to hold their hand to help them out. But I will say with the explosion of newcomers and the increase in rent and housing, we’re having more homelessness issues. MASON: We have to find a way to engage all these thousands of newcomers. To not engage as volunteers or board leaders, to not engage philanthropically particularly if you’re working remotely, you lack a social network that typically would help you engage. I am a little worried about the tens of thousands of people moving here that don’t reach out themselves to engage in the community. I am trying to be really thoughtful about how we connect with those folks that move into all these gated residential communities and don’t even get to know their neighbors. What does that sense of community

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KATHLEEN SULLIVAN, CHILDREN FIRST, VICE PRESIDENT OF PROGRAMS Vice President of Programs Kathleen Sullivan has over 35 years of experience within the Head Start community. She holds a master’s degree in childhood development from Tu s University and a bachelor’s degree in Hispanic studies from the University of Southern Maine. Ms. Sullivan is also the author of three works on early childhood education and development and is a speaker at the local, state, and national level on child development. She is a UCLA Anderson School of Management Head Start Fellow and serves on the Florida Office of Early Learning Racial Equity Task Force and Early Learning Coalition of Sarasota County Board of Directors. PHILIP TAVILL, CHILDREN FIRST, PRESIDENT & CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER Philip Tavill has been President & CEO of Children First, Sarasota County’s exclusive Head Start provider, since 1996. A er obtaining a baccalaureate degree in psychology from the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee in 1989, Mr. Tavill has worked in the human services field both in direct service and management capacities. He returned to Sarasota in 1990 and was appointed Executive Director of the Loveland Center in 1991. At Case Western Reserve University, he earned a Master of Nonprofit Organizations from the Weatherhead School of Management and Master of Science in Social Administration from the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences.


shift to if we don’t walk our neighborhoods and volunteer and get involved? I am worried about that long-term. That changes the social fabric of our town and our region and our state. As for hospice, people make an assumption that all of our patients are elderly but many of our patients are pediatric patients, or they are 20-year-olds or 30-year-olds or 40-year-olds in the middle of careers and families. We try to engage with people from the foundation lens first to say, “Get to know our health system, we’re more than hospice. We’re home health, we’re physician services.” We have a lot of other not-for-profit affiliates that create what we call this continuum of full-life care. The foundation is out in front of that building relationships, raising money for charity care, so that when you need hospice or home health charity care, and Medicare, you’re too young for Medicare, and your insurance doesn’t cover it if you even have insurance, our donors are helping you. YOCUM: As the local human population grows at a faster rate than most of the country, and a faster rate than a good portion of Florida, the animal population is also increasing. So, the number of community members that are covered in fur is increasing as people arrive. And obviously, the work is always there to try to find neglected and homeless animals a home. But, one of the remarkable qualities about this area and the nonprofits around the country was that a lot of nonprofits were treading water and trying to stay afloat throughout the pandemic. What was happening here was almost every single organization was adding programs and adding services to be able to serve more people, and we were no different. Over the last two years, we’ve doubled the size of our dental surgical suite. We bought the property next to our veterinary clinic, and we’re moving our call center and some offices into that building to free up space in this building, the clinic

,to start offering dermatology services, which is a huge need in this area at low to moderate cost. Our nonprofits are stronger today than they were two years ago. This is indicative of this community, and it’s a pretty amazing transformation to see, but we’re going to continue to expand and provide those needs as it is required by our community’s animals. And again, as you look around, everybody’s doing the same thing with the same attitude, it’s pretty cool to watch. SADLO: I think the population growth in our community puts pressure on as people come down from different states and join us here in Florida. It also puts more pressure on the economy, meaning the families that we serve need places to live that are affordable. They need places to put their children after school that are affordable. So I think that just puts a squeeze on our families. With the Alice report, from our local United Way, what it takes for a family to sustain here in Sarasota is in the $60,000 range and our family’s income levels are just not there. So I just think the needs of our youth don’t change. It just might be exasperated more by people coming here and changing our housing market. But it does give an opportunity to introduce more people to our mission, meaning people that are coming down here and becoming residents of Florida, there’s that opportunity as well to show them what we’re doing and get them involved. So it’s double edged. HOW ARE YOU DEALING WITH THE RISE IN MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES THAT HAVE EMERGED FROM THE PANDEMIC? AYRES: If you’ve driven by the hospital recently on the corner of Osprey and Waldamere, you’ll see a big chunk of land that’s been cleared and there are cranes and construction equipment currently on it. That’s the site for the new behavioral health pavilion that the hospital is in the middle of building. It is go-

ing to be called the Cornell Family Behavioral Health Pavilion. The hospital is definitely stepping in a big way to address mental health services here in our community. Not only are they in the process of upgrading the facility, moving from the facility that’s across the street of Osprey over to this new state of the art building, but they’re looking at their services on a much wider view and really looking at a full continuum of care. So it’s not just the stabilization of someone that finds their way to the hospital that needs mental health services, it’s really being able to provide additional care after discharge so that those that need services have services. A step down program is being built to keep people from coming back and experiencing that same traumatic event again. It’s a testament to the hospital’s vision about stepping into projects and not only just addressing the near term need, but really looking at it more on a long term basis. And at the foundation, we have been so fortunate to be able to start raising money for this facility. We did get the naming gift from the Cornell family here in Sarasota, and we have received other gifts from other individuals as a result of the Cornell family kind of stepping in and saying, “Hey, we want to do something. We want to do something big. We want to be part of this project.” We have a focus here at the foundation in providing the hospital with resources they need to be able to provide not only the facility, but all of the programs that are in the facility, so that ultimately the mental health service care is transformed. SADLO: That’s an interesting question because right before the pandemic, we really saw the need for mental health support. That was one of the things that our program was missing. Of course, we could refer our youth to a local agency that dealt with mental health or had mental health professionals on their team. And we knew that we

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RICK YOCUM, HUMANE SOCIETY OF MANATEE COUNTY, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR Rick has served in his current position as Executive Director of the Humane Society of Manatee County since March 14, 2016. Rick comes to the position with extensive animal welfare, public and private experience. He served as President of the New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals for seven years. In addition, he was a Certified Humane Law Enforcement Officer who trained other officers and investigated animal cruelty cases. He was also the General Sales and Marketing Manager for Warren Distributing Company, one of New Jersey’s largest beer distributors, and was president of the Jefferson Township Board of Education and as an elected official served as the President of the Jefferson Township Council for 20 years. Humane Society of Manatee County has received a Four-Star Rating for five consecutive years from Charity Navigator and in 2018 was selected as the Manatee Chamber Small Business of the Year Non-Profit. Rick was the recipient of the Manatee County Tiger Bay Club Pat Glass Non Profit Leadership award in 2019. Rick and his wife, Susan have three grown children and two granddaughters. Their active outdoor lifestyle includes kayaking and hiking.


needed to have that embedded in our clubs. We started with the school social workers working with our youth. The pandemic just exacerbated that need, for our kids. So now we are doing another program where we have a mental health professional embedded at our club in Newtown. And we will continue to grow that program because the needs of the youth are different than they were two years ago. As you already stated in your question, our youth were hit very hard by this pandemic and the isolation, the stress of the online school, their parents not doing well during this time...It was just a tough, tough time for our kids. SLATER: We have seen a significant increase in removals in our area due to parents and ability to cope with their children. We have been having a lot of parents who just aren’t picking their children up actually, and I’m sure Mason knows from Baker Acts from the hospital–the hospital calls and says, “Your child’s being released.” And they say “No, I can’t deal with it anymore.” We’ve had several children come in and they’re coding it, basically ‘abandon’ it from the parents. Unfortunately, there are a lot of teens, so it’s very difficult. We can step them down into our shelter. But the thing that we don’t want to do is put them in foster care, but that’s been increasing more and more. Mental health has been a huge issue with our kids. MASON: Well, I’ll give you some examples from our Blue Butterfly program. For kids who lost a parent or a sibling during the pandemic, it’s hard when you go back to school because kids don’t understand. But it’s harder when you’re stuck at home in isolation and you have no friends that you can talk to or share that pain with, and you’re just in your family unit. We did continue to offer grief support and we would let families come to the grief center for help. We would also help them over Zoom. It’s not the same as our core program where we break kids in

age-appropriate groups and they can be together peer to peer for additional normalization and support. But at least it was something. Kids are really struggling with so many issues right now societally anyway. Then to layer COVID into it and then to layer a family death into it, those kids are having a tough time. There’s no way to be Pollyanna about that. WHAT DO YOU THINK IS UNIQUE ABOUT THE NONPROFITS IN OUR AREA? YOCUM: There are a couple of unique characteristics that exist in this area. One is that every one of the leaders in this area wants the other leaders to succeed. I’ve said the word collaboration more in the last six years than I’ve said my entire life, it is a very unique quality here, the collaborative effort. There is such a strong network of support amongst the nonprofits in this community, everybody supports everybody, and a lot of us are serving the same people, there’s a ton of crossover from all the different organizations. So, it’s not like I only have people at the Humane Society that we’re helping, those same people are getting help, and direction, and given opportunity in many different other areas in the community. So, as I travel around the country and talk to other nonprofit leaders, I can’t talk enough about those unique qualities that we have here that make this a great place to be an executive director or CEO of a nonprofit, it’s just amazing. MILLER: We just had the Giving Challenge in the community last week. That is the premier example of what the strength of this community is. There were 65,000 or so individual donors, and it raised 16 million. It happened, a hundred dollars, $25 piece by piece, it wasn’t major donors coming in and giving huge gifts to these organizations, there were 700 philanthropies involved. It is amazing what that does to gather this community and pay attention to the

need across the spectrum of need. So it’s all about collaboration, that wouldn’t have been successful without everybody participating. SADLO: I am proud to say we were only closed for two weeks during the pandemic. We immediately were working with All Faiths Food Bank, and setting up food distribution sites at our Boys & Girls Clubs in North County and South County to get food to our families and Girls Inc. and Children First was involved in that. So there you had four organizations coming together right away to make sure their families were fed. Girls Inc. would come over and help distribute and then pick up meals for their families because we were one of the main distribution sites. We had the large parking lots and so forth. So that was just one way immediately the nonprofit community came together that I saw that was just, as difficult as it was, it was heartwarming to see. MENDELSON: As a leader, I’ve had the fortunate benefit in my career to work in health, also in early child development. And, as I take those experiences, I think we all do as nonprofit leaders, you bring them to your next position, or to your next challenge, or to your next goal. And, I happen to have this unique experience of understanding and seeing in real time how the arts can empower, how the arts can heal, how the arts can be used as a tool. So, we don’t envision that we are just building a new performing arts center. We are a cultural asset, and as everyone has talked about here, the collaboration is so important that what we saw during the pandemic was we needed to have more teaching artists trained in social, emotional learning, and trained in areas that meet the needs of the community. And now, as one of the goals we’re looking at with the new performing arts center is perhaps we should be a model for certification for teaching artists around the country to be certified. And that, we create as part of our

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community collaboration, a curriculum that is a national model for others in terms of this collaboration in using the arts, not just academically, not just recreationally, but it creating measurement that also shows how the arts improve the quality of life and health and wellb-eing for those in the community. I think it’s really exciting times as we move forward, and as we think about collaboration in new and creative ways that maybe no one had thought of before. And so, we’re really excited to be able to work and collaborate with partners, such as those on the screen here today, to be able to explore these new ideas together. AS A RESULT OF SO MANY PEOPLE COMING TO SARASOTA THE HOUSING PRICES HAVE GONE THROUGH THE ROOF. WHAT IS THE IMMEDIATE CHALLENGE? AND WHAT KIND OF PRESSURE IS THAT PUTTING IN THE COMMUNITY? MILLER: We have a rapid rehousing program that’s funded by both HUD and the county. And so, with a very large grant, we have the ability to take in homeless people and find them places to live. In terms of people who are on the cusp of losing it, we have programs like the Season of Sharing that we have access to, where we can keep them in their homes for some period of time until they get back on their feet, because a lot of people are one flat tire away from disaster. But, in terms of people who have become homeless, and it could be newly homeless or chronically homeless, there’s just nowhere to put them. The price of rooms and homes and even hotel rooms is astronomical, and it decreases the amount of time you can put someone at home. You can house someone for 30 days and it’s not going to make a difference because they need a lot of other services to get them back on their feet, typically. Truthfully, we have the ability to put people into hotels or motels, but they’re


not typically welcomed in a lot of those places. So, it’s a very complex problem, the resources are actually here, but it’s almost impossible to do the work. That is overwhelming and frustrating. TAVILL: This impact is not only felt by our families that we serve, because they’re coming to us typically, if not below the federal poverty level, at 130% of the federal poverty level. And believe me, that extra 30% does not get you Napa Valley and caviar, it’s brutal. While folks may assume that many of our people live in the housing authority or have section eight vouchers, what many people don’t know, even though we have a phenomenal housing authority, is that the waiting lists for housing authority units and section eight vouchers at times over the years has been so long you can’t see the end of the line. So, it’s a mechanism that helps a certain number, but it’s brutal on our families, particularly when you have 70% single head of household, primarily women, many of them working two jobs. If they’re lucky enough to have one fulltime job, typically they have no benefits. So, rent consumes such a huge portion of what they make, and it’s one of the reasons we exist, so they can be with us free of charge. Their children are doing well in excelling, we’ve got family strengthening support systems, and they can make rent, hopefully. The second aspect is our staff, I’ve got a little thing in front of me here talking about a two bedroom in Sarasota. The average rent in April was $2,420, up 42% from last year. Now, when you’re talking about early childhood educators, and social workers, and cooks who put together a couple hundred thousand meals a year for our kids, what are they going to do? It’s an unbelievable challenge. The light at the end of the tunnel seems to be the freight train coming at us, as opposed to the ray of sunshine that says, this is how we’ll resolve it. YOCUM: Housing also has a

huge impact on the surrender of companion animals as people lose their home, or if they move into a home that is not animal friendly. That is the leading cause of families surrendering their companion animals, their pets to local shelters. I attend every seminar and every presentation on housing issues in Manatee and Sarasota county so I can hear the plans of what the county commissioners and the city of Bradenton are doing to work on being able to get homes here that people that work can afford. Because those service jobs, police, fire teachers, servers, the list is long, the cost here is very prohibitive. I’m really driven to make sure that the communities are going to work toward solving this because it creates a huge problem in the animal welfare world as well. SADLO: The biggest pressure we’re seeing right now is being able to get staff to work at our Boys & Girls Clubs. We call them youth development professionals. These are the frontline people that have the most impact with our kids. And right now it is the first time in my career that we had a waiting list for children because we didn’t have enough staff to watch them, meaning we’ve had waiting lists for children before, because we can only take so many kids at our clubs because the buildings are at capacity. The buildings weren’t at capacity, the staffing was at capacity. And of course we’re addressing that with increased wages, with all types of unique solutions, for signing bonuses, retention bonuses, offering benefits to part-time staff. So it’s been a real challenge. And that is really our biggest challenge that I’ve seen for people being able to afford to live here and work for a livable wage. THERE HAVE BEEN A LOT OF PHYSICAL CHANGES OVER THE YEARS, BUT I THINK PEOPLE ARE CONCERNED ABOUT CULTURAL CHANGE. DO ANY OF YOU HAVE THOUGHTS THAT

SPEAK TO THAT? MENDELSON: I think in some ways we can’t have it both ways, right? The economic development that comes along with some of the change, funds and helps underwrite the problems we’re also trying to solve. And so, I think having the right balance is really important. If we want to keep the next generation here, building their families and being a part of the ecosystem, we also have to take a look at the culture and the needs and the things that engage them to stay here. So, we’ve been a hospitality town for a very long time, I think that is a major change. I think the economic development community is very focused on the competition of Tampa, or what’s happening in Miami. It’s critically important that we take a look at the jobs that our youth are investing in, technology and other areas. How are we going to entice companies and organizations to come here and be a part of solving through social responsibility, the problems we have, but also investing in the future of Sarasota so that we can continue to grow and develop and not just be a migrated place that it’s about migration? That is how our population grows. Our school systems are fantastic, all of that requires the ability to continue to economically invest in the future. In this past year, we brought in our first artist and resident who was a Mexican hip-hop artist who worked in the school system for the entire year with administrators, teachers, and across Manatee. The Latino community has the largest growing population, we want to make sure that we’re serving the future of the community. MILLER: I think that there’s been a community wide effort to really do the hard work on diversity, equity, and inclusion in acknowledgement of exactly this, that first of all, this community is diverse, but it hasn’t necessarily melded the way it should. And secondly, as leadership in the community, I think a

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lot of us have acknowledged that we shouldn’t be so arrogant to assume that we understand what other people want and need. So, whether it’s the arts or the social services, or anything, we’ve, I think, begun to do a better job at bringing all voices to the table. So, I’ve seen a big change in that in the 20 years that I’ve been in Sarasota. I don’t think we’re there, I don’t think we’re even close to there, but I feel hopeful because I think a lot of us are doing the work. TAVILL: I think there’s a paradox that in the past, young people would flee for fill in the blank, because it was a better quality of life. Now, we have that quality of life that could be attractive to so many of them and they just can’t afford to be here. And, we’ve got to figure out how to keep that, it’s not the brain drain as much as the wallet drain, and we need them here. WHAT ARE THE GOALS YOU’D WANT TO SEE FULFILLED IN THE NEXT THREE YEARS? MILLER: The housing situation really is critical for me, and the thing that really pulls at me is food insecurity or hunger. I always say, if we’re not feeding people, it doesn’t matter how much housing we have, you need to eat. We’re always going to have social problems, but I think they’re exacerbated by the fact that so many people are insecure. So, I think that if you don’t know that you can live under a roof, in perpetuity, that’s got to cause incredible stress. My son lives in LA and he couldn’t come back here, because it’s actually less expensive for him to be in LA than it would be for him to rent an apartment in Sarasota. And, I don’t think he sees this as a viable place for him to come back to. So, he would love what’s going on at the Bay and in the arts here, because that’s what he’s engaged in. But, if we can’t remove the barriers to entry and take care of the people who are already here,


how do we expect to bring that talent back here? So, I would say a solution to the housing issue is really the biggest problem. And, it’s not home ownership, it’s just an affordable place to live. SULLIVAN: We have structured goals that we plan out, so for the Head Start and Early Head Start program, we plan for a five year project period, and we have objectives every year that we’re working on. So for us, looking ahead three years is a part of the process that we go through.There are really three key things that we continue to work on. The infrastructure, the systems and the social systems that impact the families we serve are not likely to change in the next three years. So, the housing crisis, maybe it will ameliorate over the next three years. If we see swings that you are speaking of historically that may ameliorate, however, poverty has only grown in the United States over time. And so, we anticipate the need for our program to continue to be at least at the level that it is. Our Early Head Start population has seen a wait list for our program for many years, and although we’ve been able to steadily convert our program or expand our program so that we can serve more families with very young children, there’s still a need that we are not addressing. And so, we really want to ensure that we are serving all children who are eligible for our program in the community. The other two pieces are intertwined and they are indicative of initiatives that we have taken on over the last seven years in a really amplified way, and that is mental health services to children and families, and our family strengthening services, especially for families who are in our program and moving towards exiting our program. We are seeking to continue to provide social services through our family advocates, after the families have left our program. And, if we can

expand that aspect of our program so that the families who need us most, maybe haven’t really taken full advantage of the services that we offer, and aren’t yet navigating through the resources in our community adeptly. If we can make connections with them and continue that service to them, say until their children are in the third grade, we will view that as success. That requires, the strategic plan, which it’s a part of, and then additional funding for these types of services, and then looking at our organizational structure. We have been expanding the level of service that we provide to children individually in small groups, within their classrooms, as well as dyadic work with the parents and the children, and finally support to the classrooms. We have been building a much more robust program to serve the great need that we have been seeing, again, over the last seven years in our program. As we continue to build that program and really refine these systems, we’ll feel as though we’re providing the services that are needed to the constituents we serve. And that, will be a measure of success for us, but those are our three main objectives, serving all children who are eligible, expanding, and really ensuring mental health services to children and families, and continuing our family strengthening both while families are with us and beyond through the third grade. MENDELSON: We’ve got three key goals, the first one is to continue our investment in serving the community in arts education and integration in deepening that work, but also adding an element of outcomes measurement in efficacy. It’s important that we understand the investment and the impact that it makes. And so, that will be a big focus for us over the next three years, is taking a look at measurement and identifying new partners in the community

who believe also that the arts can play a deepening role in the work they’re currently doing. The second one is continuing to engage the community and their feedback on the aspirations they have for the performing arts center. We’re calling our community engagement, a place for ideas, a place for the arts, a place for you. And we really, really want people to feel the element of where artists, learners, and audience all intersect, that’s really the secret sauce of Sarasota. And so, we’ll continue to grow and develop that communication over the next three years. And then, of course, the main big goal is in three years, we will have the shovels in the ground. SADLO: We actually have a list of goals that we’re going to continue to pursue, and that is, finish our club in Arcadia. We’ve done the first two phases of a large construction project, a five million dollar project in Arcadia. We are going to do a large project at our Roy McBean club in Newtown, which is right on public housing property. And it’ll be called the Irving and Marilyn Naiditch campus. And in addition to a remodeled refurbished boys and girls club with a beautiful teen center and a new teaching kitchen for the culinary arts, there’ll be other entities on that campus, meaning we will be doing early childhood. And there’ll also be a 10,000 square foot career resource center that will be able to teach kids careers in the trades, but also adults in the community right there on the same campus. So that’s an exciting project. With the growth that’s going on down in Northport, we need to expand our services there and we’re talking about what the best way to do that is. And then we’re also looking to, on our quest to be as inclusive as possible, want to do more with the special needs community. So we want to make our boys and girls clubs more accessible for that population. And then we’ll

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just continue to head where youth need us most. And that’s kind of our mission–we go where we are needed most in the community. WE STILL HAVE AN OPIATE EPIDEMIC BUT I BET THERE ARE A LOT OF PEOPLE WHO THINK IT’S OVER BECAUSE THEY HAVEN’T HEARD THOSE WORDS IN THREE YEARS. SLATER: Substance abuse is the number one issue for the reason why children are removed in both Sarasota and Manatee counties. We still have death cases.Parents have children who we have in care or children that were brought in care because their parents overdosed and passed away, we still have a parent pass away monthly, if not more than once a month. And this is just a small subset. These are just the kids who we have in our system of care. I think the reason you probably don’t hear about it as much is because Narcan is so available. So when parents are overdosing or even children, either EMS or law enforcement or the hospital Narcan them. So really they bring them back and then they unfortunately a lot of times don’t get the treatment they need and go out and use again. So I will say that substance abuse is still the number one issue why children are removed and more than half the children that are removed are zero to five. It’s these vulnerable children with substance abusing parents that are still the largest issue within our child welfare system of the community. SADLO: We were able as a state alliance to get some funding for opioid prevention and it was our first year getting money for that. So this year we hosted three opioid prevention events where we had parents and youth come and taught them about it and handed out some literature. And that was our first real entry into it, if that makes sense, but we will be getting deeper into it because through the successes that all of our clubs


had around the state by doing the events, we believe there’ll be more funding coming next year. Assuming the governor signs the budget. And then we can do deeper education on opioids. So no, we didn’t lose that in the shuffle and I’m glad you did ask it because that didn’t go away, and it was also exacerbated by the pandemic. WHAT ARE THE EXCITING, NEW THINGS THAT YOU GUYS ARE WORKING ON? AYERS: We’ve got a lot of areas of funding opportunity. As I mentioned earlier, the hospital is in their largest expansion I believe in their entire, almost a hundred year history right now and we’re alongside them getting the community to help support them. So in our world, our focus on some of the bigger projects that are happening. Back in November, we, or the hospital opened the oncology tower. And in addition to transforming behavioral health services, the hospital is also in the process of transforming cancer care services. There over the years has been a high outward migration of services. People that get diagnosed with cancer tend to leave the county. Over 50% have left the county for care. And there’s lots of reasons why. But the hospital is stepping in and really providing a comprehensive care model for the community so that people don’t have to feel like they have to go elsewhere to get cancer care. And the next piece of the puzzle that’s happening is that there is going to be a second tower built on the main campus at the hospital. The tower that opened in November, its focus is more on the inpatient side of cancer care. The tower that has been planned for and is going forward in development is an outpatient pavilion where all of the outpatient services for those battling cancer can come to radiation chemotherapy. There’ll be areas for physician offices and a breast health center. So it’s having great facilities, having wonderful

doctors, but also having programs that a cancer patient needs as well as coordinated care. Being able to connect with patient navigators that can help advocate and move the patient and their family along that cancer journey. It’s a big deal. And our foundation has been raising money for it through a campaign called the Leading With Care Campaign. Our goal is to raise $75 million. And right now we’re at $57 million which is amazing. And we’re so grateful for those in the community that have stepped forward to help support this. So with this new tower opening, we believe that we’re going to have that full continuum of care available to the community. We also are working down in Venice with the community there. A new hospital opened in Venice back in the fall. And we are starting from a philanthropic standpoint to receive support from the community for that hospital. That hospital sits on 65 acres, which is double the size of what is in Sarasota. So long term, there’s lots of ideas to be able to expand the services down in Venice as that community grows. And the healthcare foundation will be there helping do that. We’ve got behavioral health and we’re focused on that as well as a lot of other things. I mean, we work alongside the hospital and there’s numerous needs that they have, whether it’s in doing research or being able to take care of the indigent community, we are able to provide grants to the hospital to be able to do that. So it gives you a little bit of a snapshot of what we’re doing. I think our biggest challenge is just keeping up with the hospital. I mean, it’s moving fast and every day we’re, we’re working alongside them and our donor community to make the hospital even stronger. MASON: Many years ago we realized there were things we could do for patients to ease their pain and to just give them some peace. So we started Reiki and massage and

then we started pet therapy. We now have a pet therapy program where people go through us to get their pets trained as therapy dogs. We allow them to go into both our clinical and office settings on a regular basis. We also have pet therapy cats, so they aren’t all dogs. SADLO: We have a few exciting things to share. With the six through 12 year old kids, we have a program now called Great Futures Academy, which is an intense learning program. The last two summers we had 19 school teachers each summer working with our kids on intense learning. Our goal was to stop the summer slide and during a pandemic that was going to be even more challenging. But we partnered with our schools and hired these teachers and we had zero kids slide backwards during the summer, both summer programs, that was 1200 kids over two summers. 86% made gains and 14% stayed the same. Those types of numbers are pretty amazing. So we were very proud of that. So even post pandemic, we’re going to keep that program going where we’re more intentional about learning at our clubs. And then of course, the teen programs where you have the STAR Leadership Program, STAR stands for Students Taking Active Roles, where youth get engaged in their community. They do 60 hours of training and then at the end, they’re placed on non-profit or government boards as full voting members. So that’s really unique. We have a young person serving on our Boys & Girls Club board where they’re a teen and they’re a full voting member of our board. And then we have our Pearlman Price young entrepreneurs program where youth develop a business plan and learn about marketing a business. And then at the end of the program, they pitch a business Shark Tank style and get funding to start their own company. We have youth that are running their own companies right now, suc-

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cessful businesses. So it’s really a major shift in where we’ve come from and we’re going to continue to head in that direction and just continue to give the youth these opportunities. WHAT ARE SOME ACCOMPLISHMENTS YOU’VE BEEN MOST PROUD OF OVER THE LAST FEW YEARS? SLATER: I think for me, it was our staff that really had to step up. When the pandemic started two and a half years ago, we didn’t know anything. Our staff did not stop. They knew they still had kids at risk. They knew they still had families to go see. They knew they had all of these responsibilities to take care of. And foster parents that were scared. No one knew what the pandemic was all about. We saw the pictures from the hospital and what the nurses and

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the doctors and staff we’re going through. Our case managers still continue to go out in the homes, out in the fields and continue to take care of the children and families we serve. We had people that out of the blue reached out to us and said, “Oh my gosh, what do your foster parents need?” And of course we were saying toilet paper, but no one could find it anywhere. I think really just being proud of serving like 8,000 kids a year in the last three years even during the pandemic and continuing to provide services for all the children and families that needed them. AYERS: When the pandemic happened back in March of 2020, obviously no one knew what was going to transpire here. And it’s been a real privilege personally to watch how the hospital has really done an amazing job of taking care of our community through the

entire pandemic. We were blown away by the support of the community. As a foundation, we were really fortunate to be able to take the community support and put it into the hospital in these areas of need, whether it was more testing, PPE, infection control, you name it. Clinical research, we actually were able to provide dollars to help the hospital do some of these clinical trials that we all read about or saw in the news. They were happening here in Sarasota. It was a very inspiring time to see how everyone came together to help the hospital navigate through their challenges of taking care of us. MASON: Launching a brand new foundation, hiring an amazing team during a pandemic and surviving and thriving. We’ve launched a hugely competitive not for profit environment and been able to get our message out

very effectively and connect with donors who care about providing free charity hospice care, free grief services for everybody, and providing free services for hospice and home health patients in their time of need, and growing the philanthropic support to help Tidewell continue to grow. Because as our region grows, the number of patients are going to grow and the needs are going to grow. We can’t rest on our laurels. We have to continue to grow, grow, grow. If I’m looking back three years from now, I’m going to judge our success in the financial growth, the relationship growth, and the community partnerships that the Tidewell Foundation has been able to establish on behalf of Tidewell and our whole health system. SRQ

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