From her college days providing phone support for domestic abuse hotlines to her work on the island of Haiti amid natural and political disaster, Carol Butera has dedicated her efforts to those in need. As the new executive director of the William G. and Marie Selby Foundation, she continues her nonprofit work at a Sarasota institution. We spoke with Butera about the greatest times and treasures in her own life. 

Photo by Wyatt Kostygan.


Karen Gustafson   

Karen was my boss at the YMCA Foundation of Sarasota. She taught me about relationship-building. She had a beautiful way of caring about people. She would make soup for people, and, even though she lived in Bradenton, would make sure it got to a house even in Sarasota. She just did those little things that say ‘I care.’

i-Ride Sarasota   

We love to go around downtown and to stop and listen to different music playing in the restaurants. This gives us a wonderful ability to be able to go from place to place. I take it at least once a week. It’s a way to get my whole family to a destination downtown. I don’t need to park and I can go directly in front of where I want to go. And in five minutes I can have it at my front door. Sometimes you have other people on the i-Ride and you get to meet your neighbors.

Debra Jacobs   

Executive director of The Patterson Foundation. I first met her on projects and then got to know her and her husband personally. She is just a big thinker and always has a framework from which she makes decisions. She’s a quick thinker who can process and put parts together and make a full plan. She has been so visionary and accomplished so many things.

Beach Cruisers   

My husband and I love to ride our beach cruisers and adventure. We love to get on our bikes and go out to breakfast. We will find a new community and explore the downtown area and ride around to see what else exists in the community. We also love riding in Sarasota; we live six miles from Lido Beach and three miles from Siesta Key.


Dancing the Night Away  
I’m addicted to watching Dancing
With The Stars
. I just love dancing.
I love the movement. When we walk around downtown we can go past Mattison’s and they will have a wonderful dance band there, and we love to just go and dance for a minute. My one claim to fame is that in my 30s, when I lived in Mansfield, Ohio, for the holidays I did a duet modern dance piece on a stage for seven nights. We had 2,000 people a night.  We all have these alter egos.
I always wanted to be a dancer, so I
lived out a part of that fantasy.

Carl Weinrich   

He was the head of the Sarasota Family YMCA and grew it to a $90-million corporation from bankruptcy. Carl could hear of human suffering and figure out what to do about it to make change happen, and then bring together the people to make that change, from the foster care system he put in place in Sarasota County to the continuum of care for children. He had halfway houses for girls and for boys and ran one of the only facilities in the state for pregnant teens. Before, when the mother was incarcerated, the baby would be taken away by the state. Instead, he built a facility where the baby would stay with the mom and the mom would take parenting classes to get a GED, and
then, when done, would move forward with the child.

City of Thorns

It’s an historical piece by author Ben Rawlence on the refugee camps in Africa, that’s been fascinating but can get pretty dark. What I like about it is it makes me more aware of the world. This book talks about the lives of nine people living in the camps. One of them is new but most are people who were born and raised there and may be second or third-generation refugees. I never realized we had whole populations that have never been out of a refugee camp in their lives.

Sheet Music  

I want to be a jazz pianist sometime. I have some sheet music I love, some Scott Joplin, that couldn’t
be replaced. I like a piece like “NOLA” and few of those old, old songs.


I worked for the United States in Haiti and went back and forth there from Sarasota for three years. It was very affirmative. I learned about the importance of democracy and the ability to have a vote and to make sure you vote. But also, when we lived in Haiti, we actually lived a wealthy life compared to others. We had a floor and a flushing toilet, but the people I worked with didn’t have those luxuries. You learn about the simplicity of life. There wasn’t electricity, so people would sit outside and tell jokes. People really came together. It’s one of the ugliest and most beautiful places. The art is incredible. The music, the culture, the passion for living—those things are just so intense there.