A Year of Inspiration

Guest Correspondence

Photo courtesy Gulf Coast Community Foundation.

Anniversaries are a time for reflection. One year ago, I shared how excited I was to be joining your community. Today, it brings me great joy to reflect on the past year in my home—our community. The impact we have had together with our donors during this year has been transformational for the greater good of our region.  

Over the past year, I have had the pleasure of building meaningful relationships with many of you. One of the first things I learned about this region was the inspirational sense of togetherness and generosity. We reside in a place filled with compassionate individuals who make this community the best place to live, work, and play. 

Our philanthropic partners serve as a force for good with their generous investment in projects and opportunities that will leave a lasting impact on our region. This past year, our donors have invested over $30 million in philanthropic resources into the community. 

For example, Gulf Coast’s Project HEAL: Helping Everyone Align with Love is funded by an anonymous donor and is offering training for four homeless-services providers to become trauma-informed organizations - Family Promise of South Sarasota County, Suncoast Partnership to End Homelessness, Community Assisted and Supported Living (CASL), and Harvest House. Trauma-informed care aims to create safe environments that promote healing and recovery. Organizations that are trauma-informed realize the widespread impact of trauma and understand potential paths to recovery.

Through Gulf Coast’s Heroes’ Village, ten rental units are well underway in construction in the city of Sarasota to offer transitional, life-changing housing for veterans. Working with nonprofit St. Vincent de Paul CARES, Heroes’ Village will provide housing to veterans and their families, while also offering complete support services. With the support of the City of Sarasota, Office of Housing and Community Development, donors, and our Board, the complex is expected to be move-in ready by the fall of 2024. Additionally, we support the expansion of The Bay Park where all programming is free and accessible to everyone, truly “One Park for All.” The Foundation, along with anonymous Gulf Coast philanthropists, have provided a $2 million community challenge match that will double any gift to The Bay dollar-for-dollar for the rest of the year. This significant milestone funding will be used to support the design and development of a new resilient shoreline, as well as the continuation of free park programming. The living shoreline will provide critical wildlife habitat and enable nature to handle the flooding and storm surges that are inherent parts of Florida’s hurricane season. 

The incredible work of our nonprofits never ceases to amaze me. The support from foundations, government, and donors like you make their impact possible. While my past year was filled with celebrations, there were also moments of sadness for our community. Just recently, a budget vote impacted 300 families who will lose childcare subsidies, ending 20 years of funding for the Early Learning Coalition of Sarasota County and adding to the ripple effect of no access to childcare.

As we navigate through these challenges, we stand strong in investing in the future of our region through bold and proactive philanthropy. Our Board and staff have created a roadmap for the future, Transforming, Together Strategic Plan 2024-2027, that will put us on a path for deeper connection, staff alignment, and increased impact. I am energized by many more years of collaboration, partnership, inspiration, and impact— together. I am optimistic about the future and the importance of continuing to advocate for unity at the community and government level. 

Phillip P. Lanham, CAP, is President and CEO of Gulf Coast Community Foundation.

Photo courtesy Gulf Coast Community Foundation.

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