Life-Changing Philanthropy

What do the history of Gulf Coast Community Foundation (Gulf Coast), legacy planning, and life-changing philanthropy all have in common? Meet Steve and Redenta Picazio, Gulf Coast philanthropists who reside in south Sarasota County and are making a difference in the lives of others through bold and proactive philanthropy.

Steve and Redenta moved to Florida in February 1984 from Glastonbury, Connecticut. Steve worked for Hartford National Bank for 20 years in Connecticut and for 35 years as a financial planner for Merrill Lynch in Venice, while Redenta was a teacher with a Ph.D. in English Education who sat on the board of the State College of Florida and Catholic Charities of Venice. Together, the two have deep roots when it comes to the inception of Gulf Coast, and they have positively impacted the community for decades with their generosity.

The History

Steve was on the board of the Venice Hospital Foundation for over a decade and has been involved with Gulf Coast since the beginning, as a founding member of the Gulf Coast Board and our Venice Endowment. Gulf Coast was created in 1995 with proceeds from the sale of the Venice Hospital, a public community hospital founded by local citizens more than four decades earlier. We asked Steve if he could share any special memories from this time.

A man and a woman both in black jackets smile at camera with ocean view behind them.
Steve and Redenta Picazio

“The unique thing at that time was when we were looking at how we were going to distribute the funds. We decided there would be five areas of interest that those funds would be directed to and I believe Gulf Coast still has those five areas today. Then, back in those days, we sent out information to various charities to submit their request. Board members would get a high stack of papers and we’d discuss each submission, what we were selecting, and how much we would distribute. I was involved with the original choices for grantmaking. There was a small skeletal staff at Gulf Coast of probably four people and I was on two different boards, the Foundation Board and the Endowment Board. The Endowment Board had the responsibility for investing the money. Initially we did some local investing and then we branched out on a broader spectrum as to how the money should be invested. We came up with a policy that if we looked at a potential return on the investment and it had a baseline of 4% that we wanted to reserve, then anything that we earned above that was available for distribution, while preserving the principal. We were looking at a three-year rolling cycle of returns to see what the distribution amount would be,” shared Steve.

When asked how it feels to be part of Gulf Coast’s history and impact, Steve said, “It is very satisfying to see the result of Gulf Coast, that it has grown to the level it has, and that is has spread out to a wider community than when we began. What we started actually did work.” Redenta commented, “We expected the Foundation to grow, but we never expected it to grow to these numbers today.”

Decades ago, while Steve was reading a stack of grant applications on the Gulf Coast Board, Redenta was reading a stack of scholarship applications as part of the Gulf Coast Scholarship Committee. The connection to Gulf Coast’s history is embedded in the Picazios.

For Tomorrow Today

Photo of the front of Gulf Coast Community Foundation's Venice Headquarters with palm trees.
Gulf Coast's Venice Headquarters

While Steve and Redenta have a donor advised fund with Gulf Coast and have partnered with our initiatives many times over the years, they also created a legacy plan. This permanent endowment will support their favorite charities in perpetuity leaving a lasting impact. “We were looking at an organization that could distribute money to several charities that we had selected. We wanted it to be done at a reasonable cost so the charities could benefit as much as possible. We had confidence in Gulf Coast in their investment and distribution program that really hit what we were looking for,” said Steve. The Picazios want to encourage their family members to carry on their tradition of giving.

Steve and Redenta are very active in supporting Venice causes including Venice Symphony, Venice Theatre, Loveland Center, Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Suncoast, Our Mother’s House, Laurel Civic, and Family Promise of South Sarasota County. In 2021, the couple partnered with Family Promise of South Sarasota County on a bridge loan to acquire ten new housing units for families in Venice - an extraordinary feat. A bridge loan fills fundraising gaps and is a fundraising option that serves as a source of funding until permanent financing is obtained. The name of the units of housing is Parkside Cottages: Stephen and Redenta Picazio Family Homes. Steve shared, “We provided the funding for the purchase of the units at a discounted rate.” Redenta added, “We care about life-changing experiences for people.”

Speaking of life changers, Redenta shared, “The very first school I worked at in 1966 was a dichotomy between military officers’ and college professors' children and children from the very poorest part of New London, Connecticut. ...I saw how socioeconomic privilege made all the difference in school readiness. Having been an educator, I did some tutoring of Venice High School ESL students, who needed help adjusting to instruction in English.  I have also seen the Laurel Civic organization greatly impact the lives of the young people it guides and tutors. Very importantly, the Rotary Futures Resource Center at Venice High School is a great help to area students making decisions about continuing their education and applying for scholarships. Some things are life changers.

The Picazios’ philanthropic journey is unique and transformative and will continue to impact the lives of many for generations to come. The couple’s incredible connection to Gulf Coast’s history and their charitable journey makes them an inspiration to our community.


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