Doc Werlin’s Prescription for Happiness
Doc Werlin’s Prescription for Happiness fundraisers
By Steven J. Smith
Ernest “Doc” Werlin might be a familiar name because he’s been writing for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune since 2008. His now twice-a-month column, “Doc’s Prescriptions,” tackles financial-related topics such as “The Challenges of Bringing Back Coal” and “The Public’s Enchantment with Exchange Traded Funds.” He knows the financial world as well as anyone, thanks to a lifetime of work experience on Wall Street that began in 1969 and took him from Solomon Brothers to Donaldson Lufkin to being a managing director at Morgan Stanley.
Working on Wall Street provides you with a chance to meet high-powered people, he explains. “You’re going to run across some pretty terrific talent. If you meet the CEO, Chair of the Board, or CFO of Exxon, Procter & Gamble, or AT&T? Those people influence you. I had the benefit of experiences like those from early on.” fundraisers
If you’re successful on Wall Street, it also positions you to have the time and resources to be generous in your retirement, and that’s the situation Doc finds himself in. After retiring to Sarasota with his wife Eloise in 2007, Doc has shared his financial knowledge through his newspaper work and later through teaching classes in history and finance in Ringling College of Art and Design’s Lifelong Learning Academy. Then Eloise underwent a three-year cancer struggle that she lost in 2011. Near the end of that battle, she asked if he’d name a park bench after her. Other parks in the area have benches that serve as memorials, after all. Doc agreed, but kept thinking that his wife of 40 years deserved far, far more. So when he saw the Ringling Causeway park’s disarray— no playground equipment, broken sprinkler system, more weeds than grass—despite having such gorgeous scenery, an appropriate memorial opportunity emerged.
A self-described “person who wants to get things done yesterday,” Doc decided to take action and make the park something Eloise would’ve loved to visit. That’s when he partnered with Gulf Coast Community Foundation. “It’s one thing for me to go to the city manager and say Ernest Werlin is going to renovate and keep up the park. It’s another thing entirely when Gulf Coast is supporting Ernest Werlin and agrees with what he’s planning.”
Today, the Eloise Werlin Park is a beautiful place where people of all ages come to exercise, relax, and enjoy the updates Doc has made, including fabric shade structures, playground equipment, shell stone pavers, and updated lighting. He’s even renovated the bathrooms at Hart’s Landing, which isn’t part of the park, but is adjacent to it. For years the city had talked about fixing them. Doc decided to just get it done. Doc’s latest project to improve the park has been hiring an artist to create butterfly-themed benches and large figurines inspired by birds.
What Doc seems most proud of, though, is the success of the fundraisers he’s hosted right at the park. “Because people know that they’re not wasting money on fancy dinners and black-tie events,” he says, “they recognize by definition that they’re at a fundraiser. This means they’re more inclined to give.” So Doc pays for the valet services, has extra bathrooms installed, covers the catering costs, and sets up the staging areas or platforms, as needed. He handles it all, top to bottom, so the focus of the event can be on the nonprofit’s cause versus a high-priced ticket or anything else.
So far, he’s had great success with fundraisers for Children First, Child Protection Center, and Sarasota Police Foundation. And Doc’s planning two more. The first is for Jewish Family & Children’s Service, where he hopes to raise money to help the homeless in Sarasota. The second event is one that clearly means a lot to him—and with good reason. fundraisers
“By far, this will be the biggest fundraiser I’ve ever hosted,” Doc explains about the March 24, 2018 Coming Together Against Cancer Rally. “I have colon cancer. My wife died of cancer. My brother died of cancer. My brother-in-law died of cancer. My mother-in-law died of cancer. Nearly everyone I know has been personally impacted by cancer. It’s time to come together against it.” The most money his fundraisers have ever brought in was $600,000 for Children First. He hopes that this event far surpasses that. fundraisers
Doc’s commitment these days is to making efforts to improve our community. He says, “I believe strongly—and accept fully—that giving is better than receiving. I know that I’ve benefitted far more in my life from giving.” The creation and support of Eloise Werlin Park is just one of a number of examples of that life philosophy near in action. He knows Eloise would’ve been pleased that over 75,000 people visit it each year and enjoy the green space, which is increasingly important now that Sarasota continues to be more and more built up. The park is near where Doc lives, too, so he often heads there just to chat with people, hear their stories, and share a few of his own. fundraisers
“I’d love to hear other people’s ideas about how to make this park even more effective for our community,” Doc says. So reach out with your ideas to Gulf Coast Community Foundation, or contact Doc via the newspaper, or just keep an eye out for him at the park, which is where he spends more and more of this time. Where else would he feel more at home than at the Eloise Werlin Park, after all?
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