This month you probably spent some time watching the Olympics.
The London Games provided plenty of the human interest, drama and spectacle that make this quadrennial event so compelling. If you’re like me, you followed favorite athletes and storylines, appreciated both patriotism and diplomacy amid the competition and humbly learned all over again why medals aren’t the only measure of a champion (think South Africa’s Oscar Pistorius).
We had local talent to cheer too: a pole vaulter and a swimming coach both from Sarasota County, for example. All of their stories can remind us just how much hard work and support (much of it from others, mostly far from the public eye) go into positioning these athletes to shine. For many winners, the hands that helped lift them to the medal stand were countless.
They also remind me of the selfless collective help freely given in our community every day. One place I see it, but you might not, is at your community foundation. Through Gulf Coast Community Foundation, donors make charitable gifts that will prepare our next generation to compete and excel — in nearly every walk of life. During the two weeks of the Olympics alone, dozens of grants were made to support all areas of our community.
The Venice Yacht Club Charitable Foundation is a group of generous VYC members who pool their charitable giving in a fund at Gulf Coast for greater ease and impact. A grant they made to the nonprofit Venice Youth Boating Association will help teach more local youngsters how to sail. Perhaps there’s a future Olympian among them. Even if not, the life lessons like perseverance and patience that those youth will learn out on Roberts Bay can help them succeed in whatever course they chart.
The VYC Charitable Foundation also directed a grant to the Rotary Futures Program. That support will help link local students of all ages to education, career and life opportunities.
Gulf Coast’s endowed funds enable our board to direct money to worthy and pressing causes too. With students back in school this week, Gulf Coast has invested more than $1.5 million from The Venice Endowment Fund to create new science and math opportunities for them.
This STEMsmart initiative aims to make our children more competitive with their peers — not just around the state or even the country, but around the globe. It’s a cause that local donors and businesses alike are joining, as they see the lift that we can give students when we team up to leverage philanthropy.
For most of us, the Olympics come and go. But the chance to build a better community through philanthropy—that’s a goal we can pursue together every day. Our region sadly lost a champion of community the other week with the passing of Ruby Sims. As many have said already, Miss Ruby’s legacy will live on in Laurel, Venice and beyond.
Many Gulf Coast donors support the inspiring work of the Laurel Civic Association, led by Ruby’s youngest daughter, Sandra Sims Terry. It’s just one visible sign — and one I urge you to learn more about — of the joy of effort, value of example and respect for others that Ruby Sims helped instill in her community.
Teri A Hansen is president and CEO of Gulf Coast Community Foundation.