The Plymouth Harbor Foundation
A Legacy of Benevolence, Fellowship and a Zest for Life
By Steven J. Smith
Cade Sibley, chair of The Plymouth Harbor Foundation, said although the 5-year-old foundation provides support for compassionate care to residents of its retirement community who at some point may outlive their assets, it also goes a lot further than that — including seeing to the well being of its own employees.
“Our family consists of both the employees and the residents,” Sibley said. “And it’s important to support them both equally. We provided ten scholarships for our employees in 2016 totaling $15,500. Also, last year one of our employees had a house fire and the foundation, along with the generosity of residents and staff, provided her and her family with housing assistance, living essentials, and clothing.”
Located at 700 John Ringling Blvd. on Sarasota Bay, Plymouth Harbor started out in 1966 as a vision of The Rev. Dr. John Whitney MacNeil, who saw it as a progressive, interfaith residential community for retired clergy and teachers. Today, its campus attracts national and international residents who have made significant contributions to Sarasota’s arts, culture and education. In 2016 alone, gifts to the foundation topped $4 million — $2.525 million in current gifts and pledges and $1.546 million in deferred giving. According to its website, members of the resident population, their families, employees and philanthropists in the broader community have donated over $12 million to perpetuate Plymouth Harbor’s mission of providing the most positive aging experience possible.
Sibley said The Plymouth Harbor Foundation’s culture of philanthropy is built on three pillars of value: benevolence, fellowship and a zest for life — and three funds were established for these purposes. One is the employee assistance fund, which also supports a new wellness program called OnBoard, that offers programs and benefits to help educate, motivate and reduce stress among employees. The others focus on resident assistance and a program that provides innovations and enhancements to preserve Plymouth Harbor’s quality of life. Recent improvements include the construction of a new wellness center, the rejuvenation of a 105-seat auditorium called Pilgrim Hall, the installation of portable massage chairs and engaging musicians to perform during Sunday brunches. In addition, an array of classes is offered in art, woodworking, computer proficiency and the latest medical strides in diseases afflicting the elderly such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
“We can always build a structure out of bricks and mortar,” Sibley said. “But we also need programs and classes to help our residents and the outside public, whom we invite in to benefit from them as well.”
She added another service provided by the foundation is a little-known volunteer effort that serves the greater Sarasota community.
“We have staff, residents, and board members who provide over 11,000 hours of service annually in our community with nearly 90 different groups such as the All Faiths Food Bank, Meals On Wheels, and Resurrection House,” Sibley said. “Not many people know about that.”
Sibley spent her career in financial planning, running her own practice for 35 years. She and her husband, Whit, moved to Sarasota from Denver seven years ago. Now retired, she said her main job as chair of the Plymouth Harbor Foundation is to raise funds to support its programs, funds and initiatives. As the daughter of a resident who has lived in Plymouth Harbor for the last 22 years, she also is a member of the Harbor Club Wait List — a registry of souls aiming to one day live there.
“It’s a pretty long list of folks like me,” she said. “Baby Boomers who know eventually they may need assisted care. My father will soon be 97 and I’ve seen what Plymouth Harbor’s philanthropy has done to not only stabilize his life, but stabilize our family’s life, too. That’s why it was so natural for me to get involved with Plymouth Harbor, as a thank you to them for taking care of my parents.”
Sibley added The Plymouth Harbor Foundation’s future is “limitless” in terms of the good it can accomplish for generations to come.
“With the influx of people coming to Florida, people need the services of continued wellbeing and living,” she said. “We need to be able to provide those and I’m finding that people are very generous in this area. They are interested in providing themselves — and their neighbors — with a long, fruitful life, continuing on in all the pursuits they have. I see a bright future for Plymouth Harbor, but it’s not just for the residents. It’s for the employees, too, whose own families have served the place for generations.”
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