Helping One Neighbor at a Time

Guest Correspondence

BY CHRISTINE ROBINSON SRQ DAILY SATURDAY PERSPECTIVES EDITION SATURDAY JUL 16, 2016

Thankfully, we live in a community that believes that with freedom and success comes responsibility; responsibilities to our less fortunate neighbors and to do our small part to help everyone experience an enhanced quality of life. We are fortunate to have many companies and business owners who take this to heart.

Argus Foundation former president and current board member Mike Quillen co-owns Gecko's Hospitality Group with business partner Mike Gowan. Gecko’s community support starts at the company’s roots and with a corporate culture that holds among its essential tenets a teaching from Mother Teresa: “Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.”

From community schools and Operation Second Chance to the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office Charitable Foundation, Gecko’s has supported charities, philanthropies, nonprofits and local causes—through monetary donations and for Mike Quillen, the greatest gift of all—his time.

In our Sarasota County and Manatee County schools, Gecko’s provides free meals for students. This year alone, over 20,000 elementary students received the Super Student award. These cards provide a free meal to Gecko’s Restaurants as incentive for exemplary scholastic achievement, school attendance, good citizenship and other exemplary performance. Gecko’s has participated in this program for over a decade. These award cards and other requests for fundraising donations, staff appreciation and pre-game meals for dozens of athletic teams represent over $100,000 of in-kind donations.

Mike Quillen also spearheaded a partnership with Operation Second Chance, which provides help to American combat veterans through housing assistance and organized events. Last fall, Mike helped alongside others to form the nonprofit Keeping the Faith, whose mission is to promote the resurrection of the tradition of wearing of blood-red memorial poppies in November in exchange for suggested donation to Operation Second Chance. 

Gecko’s Hospitality Group restaurants placed hundreds of poppies and gifted them to guests for the whole month of November. Any donations from guests benefited Operation Second Chance. All over Gecko’s, S’macks and Dry Dock restaurants, the blood-red poppy made a comeback, and it is because Mike led the way. To walk in to any of Gecko’s Hospitality restaurants and see the staff wearing the memorial poppy is a moving testimonial to Mike’s commitment, leadership and vision. 

In 2015, Mike joined other concerned community leaders, including Argus board member Kelly Caldwell of Caldwell Trust, to launch the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office Charitable Foundation, a not-for-profit organization. The mission of the organization is to assist individual employees of the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office who are experiencing catastrophe. The complete focus is on those employees of the Sheriff's Office who are going through individual or family crises.

Like Mike Quillen, Argus Foundation members have a huge impact on the community in so many different ways and collaborate together to make our quality of life better through their philanthropy, volunteering and expertise. As our community continues to grow, we will keep the compass tilted in the direction of being good community partners, dependable business partners and citizens who contribute to the wellbeing of our community and to helping others. #ArgusImpact

Christine Robinson is executive director of the Argus Foundation.

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