School of Thought

The Hershorin Schiff Community Day School Evolves Education

by Steven J. Smith

It’s fair to say the relationship Dr. Laura Hershorin has with the Hershorin Schiff Community Day School is very much a family affair, as the two people for whom the school is named — Irving Hershorin and Herbert Schiff — are her paternal and maternal grandfathers. education

Hershorin chairs the school’s board of trustees and her father, Richard, is also a board member and serves on the facility committee. According to Richard, his father, Irving, and father-in-law, Herbert,  “were the pillars of the school, bringing the values of philanthropy and a quest for knowledge to its current foundation.”

“Make the world one grain of sand better than what you found.” – Herbert Schiff

Hershorin was a catalyst for the family’s $1 million gift to the school in keeping with her grandfather Schiff’s mantra “to just make the world one grain of sand better than what you found.”


Formerly the Goldie Feldman Academy, the school is located at 1050 S. Tuttle Ave. and was renamed last August. It developed locally out of a strong desire for an inclusive, progressive, pluralistic Jewish day school that meets the needs of today’s young families.

“The family fund for philanthropy that my grandfather (Schiff) envisioned was coming to fruition last year,” Hershorin said. “The timing was right and we stepped forward to help take the school into the future. And it just so happened that the philosophy and strengths of the school were exactly what my grandfathers represented and loved.”

All-encompassing education

Today, head of school Dan Ceaser oversees 50 teachers instructing 225 students ranging from early childhood to grade 8. Tuition costs range from $5,000 to $16,000 a year, depending on the grade level. The preschool student/teacher ratio is 4 to 1, elementary school ratio is 8 to 1 and the middle school ratio is 12 to 1.

Hershorin said the school embraces two important tenets espoused by her grandfathers. First, it provides a unique educational model that combines a global vision, religious and cultural diversity, project-based learning, small class sizes, service learning and community partnership. Second, by exposing young non-Jews to Judaism, it demystifies the religion and discourages the spread of anti-Semitism.

“My grandfather Hershorin was self-taught,” she said. “He was self-made. He loved learning, took responsibility for his education and was a very well read man. He represents that aspect of the school. My other grandfather Schiff represents philanthropy. He believed in supporting the community at large. Not just the Jewish community, but other religious and even secular institutions as well.”

Hershorin added what sets the Hershorin Schiff Community Day School apart from others of its kind is the absence of hierarchy.

“Every teacher knows every student,” she said. “The older students know, love and embrace all of the younger students. Their day starts out with Advisory, which is a social and emotional learning curriculum that is specifically put together to teach the values. As they break out into classes, it’s not uncommon to see mixed grades learning together at an appropriate level.”

Level playing field

Hershorin maintains no one is labeled as “gifted” or “needing remediation.” Kids are simply placed where they need to be in terms of their learning and socialization capabilities. education

“For example, Math is held at pretty much the same time for every grade in the school,” she said. “So kids can go where it is that they should be learning. And as they’re exploring a particular concept, it’s done in a project-based way.”

That starts with a driving question of interest to the students, who are divided into groups where the question is researched and developed into a project, which can be on any subject from climate change and historic world figures to recycling or battling disease. The goal is not just to learn about what surrounds a driving question, but how to apply that knowledge to solve it. education

“Kids can go where it is that they should be learning.”

“They put together a project that can be presented as a group, so they’re teaching themselves under the teacher’s watchful guidance,” Hershorin said. “They’re taking ownership of what’s happening. This process encourages them to collaborate, which is a very important skill as you go into the work force. When they make their presentation to the other students, everyone is learning together.”

This activity culminates in Learning On Display nights, which occur throughout the year to provide an opportunity for students to showcase the process of learning for parents and the larger community.

Hershorin hopes the school will become a model for other schools.

tikkun olam

“We are living in a world right now that is extremely divisive,” she said. “We want to be a force for change, for people to get along and to collaborate and figure out their problems. The Hebrew expression is ‘tikkun olam,’ which translates into ‘repair the world.’ That’s what we’re here for.”


For more information about the school, visit its website at or call 941-552-2770.

Giving Powers

by Steven J. Smith

Although Peter and Joanne Powers have lived in Sarasota for only a short time, they fully embrace the concept that charity begins at home. Wanting to contribute in a meaningful way to their new community, the couple recently turned to the Gulf Coast Community Foundation at the behest of a contact they met during a local social event.

“We were told they would help us make a good entrée into philanthropic options in town,” Peter said. “Before we knew it, we had (senior vice president for philanthropy) Veronica Brady introducing us to Sarasota.”

Close to the heart

That introduction led them to financially support local organizations with which they felt a special connection — Asolo Rep, Children First, Reading Recovery, Big Brothers & Big Sisters, Boys & Girls Clubs and All Faiths Food Bank, among others.

“Before we knew it, we had Veronica Brady introducing us to Sarasota.”

“Veronica exposed us to probably dozens of deserving organizations, arranging day visits, tours and talks with the people running things,” Peter said. “The organizations we chose made a good impression on us. We thought they were accomplishing things.”

A wise decision

Peter was born and raised in upstate New York, while Joanne grew up in Orlando. The two met in Atlanta in 2000 and have been married almost 13 years. She’s a former elementary school teacher and he headed a plastic bottle and jar manufacturing company called Clearplass Containers, which he later sold to a competitor. Now retired, they moved to Sarasota two years ago after deciding they needed a change of scenery.

“We were looking at various places in Florida and concluded we were never going to make the decision if we didn’t just pick somewhere and move,” Peter said. “Sarasota turned out to be a great choice for us.”

The Powers obviously turned out to be a great philanthropic choice for Sarasota as well. Joanne said an important goal of the couple’s patronage is keeping updated on the success they bring to organizations they support.

“Sarasota turned out to be a great choice for us.”

“For example, with All Faiths Food Bank, we stay in touch with them and know the kinds of programs they offer to help the community,” she said. “The Campaign Against Summer Hunger is one we particularly contribute to.”

That program was necessitated in part by the fact that food donations for Sarasota County’s tens of thousands of needy kids dwindle in the summer, due to the fact that many donors — who spend just the winter here — head back up north. Thanks to donations from benefactors like Peter and Joanne, almost 50 distribution sites remain open around the county each summer.

Literacy Matters

Another effort near and dear to the Powers is the Reading Recovery program, which brings struggling elementary school kids up to speed with their reading skills through short term, intensive one-on-one lessons with trained literacy teachers.

“I was a first grade teacher in a Title I school,” Joanne said. “Some of the children in my class went through the Reading Recovery program every day and I know it helped them.”

“We pick organizations and programs in which specific results can be achieved,” Peter added. “For example, with Children First we made a donation to them that funded a crib to help a family with a newborn. It’s more satisfying when we see results coming from our philanthropy.”

Looking ahead

The couple’s donations to the Boys & Girls Club have helped create a vocational training center that aids kids in selecting a profession, he said.

“For the most part, the organizations we pick are about children and families,” Joanne said. “That’s really important to us, along with the arts, which so often suffer budget cuts. Asolo Rep also brings children in at times during its season to see plays, as does the Van Wezel.”

“It’s more satisfying when we see results coming from our philanthropy.”

The Powers recommend Gulf Coast Community Foundation as an ideal resource for anyone moving into the Sarasota area with a desire to give back to the community.

“One of the most important things about GCCF is their initiatives,” Joanne said. “Veronica Brady in particular has been amazing in giving us information so we can select the causes that are most meaningful to us. They have a wealth of information.”

“If you’re like us, you don’t know the neighborhood,” Peter added. “GCCF had the ability over a very short time to expose us to Sarasota and get us acclimated into the community. They’re about researching and identifying problems even more than giving money away. They’re out there doing their homework to help people like us determine what’s worthwhile.”

To learn more about the Gulf Coast Community Foundation, visit

The Gift of Charity

Joe Bornstein and Camp Mariposa

Joe Bornstein believes in mentoring kids who have been impacted by substance abuse in their families, which is why he and his wife, Lynn, through the KBR Foundation, have generously supported Camp Mariposa, a national addiction prevention program under the umbrella of Jewish Family & Children’s Service of the Suncoast (JFCS), aimed at helping children between the ages of 9 and 13.

Bornstein was born in Petersburg, Va., then moved to the Norfolk area when he was eight. After high school graduation, he attended the University of Virginia, then went on to law school at George Washington University. As an attorney and CPA, he successfully practiced both professions in the D.C., Maryland and Virginia areas until he “semi-retired” and the couple moved to Lakewood Ranch in 2002. “It’s warm here,” he said. “My mother, Lynn’s parents, and other family members were here too, so it was a natural decision for us to come to Florida.”

“KBR Foundation has sponsored Camp Mariposa since I became involved with JFCS about four years ago. I was so impressed with the kids and their stories that I just had to find a way to help them,” Bornstein said.

“Many of the children share emotional hardships that arise out of a loved one’s addiction or substance misuse,” he said. “When parents are not able to care for their children, many live with a grandparent or other family members or are placed in foster care. But what got to me was that, despite their struggle, these kids seem happy and engaged when they are at Camp. The Camp is a way for these kids to escape the problems they face at home and, to some extent, even at school, and they learn coping skills. So, I decided this was something I wanted to be more actively involved with.”

The youth who attend Camp Mariposa participate in educational activities that are based on the 7 C’s: I didn’t Cause it, I can’t Control it, I can’t Cure it, but I can take Care of myself by Communicating my feelings, making good Choices, and Celebrating myself.

Bornstein added that the kids attend these transformational weekend camps just outside of Sarasota six times a year. Each session can accommodate 30 children with a staff-to-child ratio of 1:3. While campers participate in fun, traditional camp experiences, they are also learning necessary coping skills in sessions led by mental health professionals, trained mentors and therapeutic counselors. Additional programs are offered to campers and their families throughout the year. These activities include teen mentoring programs, caregiver education, and family fun days. The purpose is to create ongoing support and most importantly, to provide a continued connection. Bornstein said the Camp provides a safe, fun and supportive environment critical to helping to break the cycle of addiction, and he enjoys taking part in it beyond the monetary contributions his Foundation makes.

“For the past four years, I’ve gone up on Fridays, have dinner with the campers and then participate with them in their various learning programs,” Bornstein said. They often have outside volunteers to share interesting and unusual programs. The staff also spends a lot of time dealing with issues the kids face at home. “I do what I can as a volunteer to be there to help them in any way I can. One way is sharing personal experiences during my life. We reassure the kids that we know the kinds of situations that trouble them and let them know we’re here to make their lives better.”

Many campers have expressed to Joe how the camp has impacted their lives, “The Camp is a safe place from everything, our parents, bullies, anything. At Camp, we learn to deal with our situation, we can talk about our lives to others and have them understand what’s going on. Everything about this Camp is awesome and wonderful and I wouldn’t change a thing about it. For me this Camp lets me make the best friends I’ve ever had and it’s let me understand that what’s happening isn’t my fault.”

Bornstein added that Camp Mariposa, initially funded by The Moyer Foundation, has experienced a reduction in funding from that foundation and must identify alternative sources of funding. “The annual cost to operate the program is $150,000. KBR Foundation is committed to this program and encourages others in the community to join us and support these kids.” stated Bornstein.

“Kids who came the first time who were shy and introverted from the struggles they faced in their home life really opened up after a few sessions at Camp Mariposa,” he said. “They realized they’re not alone. They see other kids facing similar challenges and they really blossom. It’s amazing to see the transformation.”

Weddings With A Purpose

Local wedding planner Jennifer Matteo brings together philanthropy and weddings

We all know that our community is a very philanthropic one, with so many giving and caring people who give so generously to the area’s arts and human service organizations. But what does philanthropy have to do with weddings? Well, for Sarasota event planner Jennifer Matteo, philanthropy is quickly becoming a trend in wedding planning for both young and older couples alike.

The “party with a purpose” theme is nothing new around this town. But Jennifer is encouraging couples to add the “purpose” theme not just to events and galas, but to weddings as well. In order to show couples how much fun “weddings with a purpose” can be, Jennifer came up with the idea to photograph a simulated philanthropic wedding in order to better market the concept.

“I really wanted to showcase how you can do something quite unique that is special to Sarasota and that has not yet been done,” said Jennifer. “Picking a nonprofit organization at which to hold your wedding is the first way to start. People don’t think about hosting a wedding at The Big Top, but why not? I think a circus-style wedding is perfect! Maybe you were a kid who grew up here loving the circus? Not only has the circus been a rich part of Sarasota’s history, giving us the best of circus for over 100 years, but The Circus Arts Conservatory’s Sailor Circus program, America’s oldest youth circus, has helped children develop life managements skills, gain self-discipline and bolster confidence. This organization gives so much back to the community; what better place to host a fun event like a wedding?”

Another way to incorporate philanthropy into your special day is to donate the florals to a local nursing home, a support facility or any other organization that would benefit from such an uplifting gift. Jennifer says to assign that duty to your wedding planner.

Another way, Jennifer shared, is to choose like-minded vendors who give back to the community, keeping the philanthropy theme local. Jennifer can share a list of these vendors with you.

Instead of wedding favors, make a donation to your favorite charity. Place a card at each seat that lets guests know a donation has been made in their name as a thank-you for sharing your special day.

Feed the hungry with the leftovers, donate your dress, and if this is not your first wedding and you don’t need gifts to start your life together, select your favorite charities and ask your guests to make a donation as your gift instead of giving you another toaster oven.

Jennifer has always had a passion for entertaining, hosting events and thinking outside of the box to create not just a party, but also a special experience for all guests.

“I began planning private parties and events in Pennsylvania, where I am originally from. My husband and I moved to Sarasota in 2011 seeking a warmer climate.  It didn’t take long for me to miss planning private events and weddings, so I started searching for something that would allow me to get back into the industry. I managed an events company for three years, opened a new venue, and learned a lot about the wedding industry here,” said Jennifer.

Last May, she decided it was time to launch her own company – Jennifer Matteo Event Planning (941-315-8212 | She specializes in weddings, but loves to work on private and charity events, galas and other events.

“I love to explore the diversity each client and event brings. No two events are alike, and each should be treated as a unique experience. I love to play with color and layer my events to keep the guests guessing and talking about it for years to come!” Jacqueline Miller


Photography: Katelyn Prisco, Beauty: Brides by Kelly Anne, Location: The Circus Arts Conservatory, Gown: Blush Bridal Sarasota, Designer: Ines Di Santo, Florals: Oh Darling Events
Sarasota Architectural Salvage, Write On Sarasota, Gigi’s Cupcakes Sarasota, Florida – St. Armands Circle, La Dona Donuts, Diamond Vault, US Tent Rental, So Staged Event Design + Rentals, Ever After, JustaBasketcase Events Stephanie Lynn

Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation Awards $3.4 Million in Grants

Investments to Improve Math and Reading Education, Foster-Care Services, and More

More than $3.4 million in grants and initiatives were approved recently by the Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation board of directors, bringing its 2017 grants approved to more than $6 million.

“These grants reflect the values of the Barancik family and their commitment to investing in the work of our amazing partners.” – Teri A Hansen, president and CEO of the Barancik Foundation

The funding includes nearly $1 million to improve reading proficiency and math instruction in Sarasota County elementary schools. In addition, more than $1 million will fund innovative work to create a new medical model for treating children with trauma. Several of the grants also support diverse programs serving preschoolers, children, teens and families in Sarasota’s Newtown community.

“Our Board is focused on strengthening the capacity of our public school educators and nonprofit organizations.”

The grants approved this month by the Barancik Foundation include:

Child-abuse prevention and anti-bullying educationChild Protection Center – $50,000 to hire an additional prevention educator for its Personal Safety and Community Awareness Program team, which will enable the organization to reach an estimated 27,000 children and adults annually with child-abuse prevention and anti-bullying education.
Science education outreach programFlorida State University College of Medicine – $498,379 over five years to deliver Students Together Reaching Instructional Diversity and Excellence (SSTRIDE), a science education outreach program targeting minority and low-income students, at McIntosh Middle School and Sarasota High School.
Elementary math teacher trainingSarasota County Schools – $480,000 to build professional capacity in math instruction across the school district. The grant provides 800 elementary school teachers with specialized training and resources for lesson-plan development, changing the face of professional development and deepening the teachers’ understanding of math concepts in order to help every child learn, and not fear, math.
Elementary school literacy experts – Sarasota County Schools – $511,000 to employ literacy teachers trained through the Reading Recovery program at seven elementary schools, allowing the district to expand the program so that every school has a literacy expert. Reading Recovery teaches the bottom 20 percent of first grade students to read with an 85 percent success rate.
Closing the 30 million-word gap – Talking Is Teaching Campaign – up to $10,000 to implement a pilot awareness campaign this summer to encourage parents to talk, read, and sing with their young children in an effort to improve early learning and close the word-gap experienced by children from low-income families.

Humanitarian Causes

New medical model for treating childhood traumaAll Star Children’s Foundation – $1 million over four years to provide trauma-informed foster care services in Sarasota. This grant will fund the position of Director of Pediatric Psychological Trauma and Intervention at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital for four years; train four trauma-certified licensed therapists at All Star Children’s Foundation; and support development, implementation, and evaluation of trauma-based therapeutic interventions for abused children.
Academic and social enrichment for youth in NewtownBoys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota County – $435,170 over five years to ensure the long-term sustainability of the Newtown Estates Park Club, which was created in 2015 with funding from the Foundation to serve unattended youth in the Newtown Estates neighborhood.
Club At Night safe evening alternative for teens – Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota County – $65,620 to provide teens in the Newtown community with summertime academic and social enrichment programs in a safe environment and include an evening meal. Club At Night is a pilot program that will run daily from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. during evening hours when teens are most vulnerable to violence, drug and sex.
Early Childhood Court services – Manatee Community Foundation – $125,000 to support the Manatee County Foster Care Initiative, a collaboration of nearly 30 public and nonprofit agencies working together to create a system of care for children being displaced by the heroin/opioid addiction epidemic in the region. Funds will specifically pay for an Early Childhood Court Community Coordinator for 12th Judicial Circuit Court and a marketing campaign to fill a gap of more than 100 foster care homes in the county.
Miss Susie’s LunchroomGreater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce Foundation – $50,000 in start-up funds for a redevelopment project to create a full-service restaurant in the Newtown neighborhood, providing workforce and economic development in the area. Restaurant revenue would be reinvested in restaurant workforce and economic development projects in the community.
Connecting seniors and preschoolersPines of Sarasota – $96,000 to offer professional intergenerational programming for residents of the Pines senior living facility and children in the preschool run by the organization in the Newtown community.
Tax preparation for low income familiesUnited Way Suncoast – $60,000 to support the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, which provides free tax-return preparation and filing for low-income families in Sarasota and DeSoto counties.
Revitalizing Sarasota’s BayfrontSarasota Bayfront Planning Organization – $100,000 over two years to create a master redevelopment plan for 42 acres of Sarasota Bay-front property owned by the City of Sarasota.

About Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation

The Charles and Margery Barancik family has long believed in the power of philanthropy to shape our world and enrich the lives of all people. It was the expression of this belief that led them in 2014 to establish the Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation—a private, family foundation located in Sarasota, Florida. The Barancik Foundation creates initiatives and awards grants in Sarasota and beyond in the areas of education, humanitarian causes, arts and culture, the environment, and medical (research/resources). For further information, please contact Kelly Romanoff at

The Barancik Foundation

Saving Land For Today & Tomorrow

Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast
by Ryan G. Van Cleave

It’s the biggest success story in the recent history of Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast — the $3 million acquisition of a conservation easement protecting Triangle Ranch, a 1,143-acre property in the upper part of the Myakka River in Manatee County. It took three years for this to come to fruition and the last piece of the financial challenge in making this purchase happen came from Bradenton conservationist, Elizabeth Moore, in October 2016 when she provided over $3 million to acquire the property and contribute toward the conservation easement. Along with funding by the William G. and Marie Selby Foundation, the Morton Spapperi Family Foundation, and SWFWMD (the Southwest Florida Water Management District), this support by Elizabeth Moore took Conservation Foundation to the financial finish line. Conservation Foundation’s hope is that creating a permanent conservation easement on Triangle Ranch is the first action in a domino chain of environmental goodness that’s to come.

Originally, this Old Florida property was known as the Carlton Triangle Ranch because it was owned by the Carltons, a prominent 1800s farming family in Myakka who used it primarily as a cattle ranch. The triangle name came from their distinctive cattle brand. During the 1950s, dikes were built along the 3 miles of the Myakka River that flows through the property, separating it from its surrounding floodplains and wetlands. Unfortunately, this has created significant problems with the natural timing and amount of water flowing between the river and the Tatum Sawgrass marsh. The Myakka River in Manatee County is not designated as a state Wild and Scenic River as it is in Sarasota County because so much of the land — like what has happened at Triangle Ranch over the decades — has been altered from its natural habitat to ranchland.

Now that Triangle Ranch is owned by Elizabeth Moore, there will still be ranching and compatible recreation that provides economic opportunities for the area. The land, though, will no longer be developed. Moore will manage the land subject to the perpetual restrictions of the SWFWMD-held conservation easement. One of the motivations for Moore to partner in this deal was the opportunity to magnify her charitable dollars. Thanks to partnerships and matching grants, she hopes to further leverage her funds to continue making a difference in protecting and restoring this part of the upper Myakka River.

The conservation easement on Triangle Ranch provides the chance to restore the connection between the Myakka River and Tatum Sawgrass marsh, which is one of four depression marshes — and the least protected — in the Myakka River valley. Along with Flatford Swamp, and Upper and Lower Myakka Lakes, these marshes greatly contribute to flood protection and biodiversity. Many people don’t realize it, but the tower at the Crowley Nature Center looks right down on the Tatum Sawgrass marsh at Triangle Ranch.

The 1,143 acres of Triangle Ranch that are now protected, link and adjoin over 110,000 acres of already protected land creating a sanctuary for wildlife. Well over 120 species of birds and an array of animals call this area home or use it on their migration path, including Florida panthers and the threatened crested caracara, as well as numerous wading birds, song birds, migratory birds, and raptors. There are fewer than 100 Florida panthers left in the wild so preserving and linking more of their habitat is a huge coup for Conservation Foundation.

Another reason the Triangle Ranch acquisition is so important — beyond simply adding 1,000+ acres to the 8,000 acres they’ve already protected — has to do with water quality. Three miles of the Myakka River winds through Triangle Ranch, and this area is upstream, so the water quality there impacts everything downstream.
Conservation Foundation’s Director of Land Protection Debi Osborne explains that “it’s important not just to look at the Myakka River, but also at all the tributaries that flow into it. Taking care of the entire watershed, from its headwaters in Flatford Swamp to where it enters the Charlotte Harbor estuary and into the Gulf of Mexico is a top priority for Conservation Foundation.” Indeed, it’s a priority for many local and regional organizations and agencies.

Osborne explains that “using that [the acquisition of Triangle Ranch] as our initial foothold into the upper part of the Myakka is really a leveraging opportunity.” That opportunity comes from bringing in additional outside funding sources to help conserve additional properties, such as SWFWMD’s assistance in this purchase. Local, regional, and federal land acquisition dollars are limited so it typically takes multiple funding sources, public and private dollars, to protect high priority properties. Osborne admits that “getting public dollars to get the job done is our constant struggle.” Conservation Foundation is using the success of the Triangle Ranch conservation easement to apply for new federal grants to continue to acquire key adjoining properties.

Conservation Foundation is not resting on the laurels of their recent success, though. They are quite interested in Murphy Marsh, a cattle ranch and hunt club that links Triangle Ranch and 1,200 acres of protected property to the north. It’s the last remaining unprotected portion of Tatum Sawgrass marsh — a unique area that needs help now. In the 1950s and 60s, much of that marsh was drained, ditched, and diked to create areas for row cropping. And it didn’t work. Those actions ultimately cut the Myakka River off and the water stopped feeding it. “There are landowners in that area who are willing to help by protecting their land and allowing restoration,” says Osborne,” but we need additional dollars to get this done, and we’re working with time limits. The environmental clock is ticking.” To that end, Conservation Foundation is always looking to put together creative partnerships to help conserve more land.

There are other locations on their wish list too, well beyond those in upper Myakka. There’s a critical 5,774-acre property in North Port called Orange Hammock Ranch that Osborne notes is “the largest undeveloped block of land in Sarasota County that remains in its native habitat. It has imperiled dry prairie — very rare!” Protecting Orange Hammock Ranch will also help protect the City of North Port’s drinking water. Plus Conservation Foundation is looking at opportunities in the Charlotte Harbor estuary itself, including a 58-acre peninsula at the confluence of East and West Coral Creek.

With so many worthy projects before them, a recent three-year Healthy Watershed Consortium Grant (funded by the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities and EPA) received by Conservation Foundation is making a difference. This grant is designed to accelerate the protection of healthy watersheds, and the Myakka River Watershed is 1 of only 9 watersheds nationwide selected for this funding.
Instead of needing to chase small grants and opportunities to fund their day-to-day operations, Conservation Foundation can use staff resources more wisely. Big land acquisition grants are very competitive and difficult to get, Osborne notes. But the odds of landing one are much higher when Conservation Foundation land protection staff can focus on facilitating collaborative partnerships, and use the success of Triangle as a match to get additional funding for other properties along the river.

Osborne says that one of her greatest joys is working with landowners who love their land and simply want to find a way to protect it and keep it for future generations. With a bit of financial luck and community backing, Conservation Foundation will create more success stories that enrich our communities, assist landowners, and create future opportunities for more much-needed environmental work to come.

on Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast, please visit call 941.918.2100.

An Ambassador for Freedom, Courage & Confidence

Bob Meade & Southeastern Guide Dog

Bob Meade’s first paying job was digging ditches for the Kentucky/West Virginia Gas Company. Soon after, he attended to the University of Kentucky, becoming the first person in his family to attend college. Along the way, he developed a sincere interest in being part of the medical profession. Today, he’s the CEO of Doctors Hospital, a position he’s held for the past 11 years. One of the things he’s most proud of about his workplace is ITS deep commitment to Southeastern Guide Dogs.

Southeastern Guide Dogs was founded in 1982 in Palmetto, and since then, they’ve created nearly 3,000 transformational partnerships with visually-impaired people and veterans. They currently have more than 450 canine graduates across the U.S., and they continue to place more than 100 dogs each year with people in need. All of Southeastern Guide Dogs’ guide and service dogs are provided for free, despite the tens of thousands of dollars and countless hours of training each Labrador retriever, golden retriever, or a blend of the two called goldador, requires.

Because they don’t use government funding, Southeastern Guide Dogs relies on other avenues of support. A primary source is their Philanthropic Partners program, which includes such entities as Doctors Hospital, JCI Jones Chemicals Inc., IHeartMedia, Publix, and Subaru, among other companies. These community-conscious companies feel the partnerships are win-win. Southeastern Guide Dogs receives financial and volunteer support, and in return, the partners are recognized for their support of Southeastern’s mission, while building their brand through exposure, recognition, and general goodwill.

Doctors Hospital’s partnership with this 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization “fits in nicely with what we try to do here, which is to improve lives,” explains Meade. While he’s been a dog lover all of his life — he had Labs as a kid, and currently has two Labs, including one that’s an ambassador dog from Southeastern Guide Dogs — he became interested in this organization when he looked out the hospital window one day and saw a volunteer driving a patient across the parking lot in a golf cart. The other passenger? A Lab.

This particular volunteer also served as a puppy raiser for Southeastern Guide Dogs, a job that entails fostering prospective guide dogs at home for 12 to 16 months. Taking them everywhere enables the animals to become socialized and acclimated to a wide variety of experiences prior to beginning the rigorous harness training every guide dog undertakes. Soon after this, Meade took the tour at Southeastern Guide Dogs and from then on, he’s gotten more and more involved. “I witness the number of individuals and see the absolute difference in their lives. Prior to getting a dog, so many had lost confidence. They didn’t want to go out. But with a dog? They’re entirely different people.”

Meade points out that many of his employees support Southeastern Guide Dogs. Many participate in the organization’s nine 3K Walkathon fundraisers. Others supported the Superheroes on Parade campaign. They all love the whimsical, prize-winning Superhero dog sculpture Doc, sponsored by and on display at Doctors Hospital. There are also Southeastern Guide Dogs four-legged visitors on the fourth floor that lend their soothing, warm personalities to patients. And Meade attends the organization’s meaningful fundraisers. He particularly appreciated the Dining in the Dark event, where, like all the other diners, he donned a blindfold and ate dinner without being able to see. “It gave us the perspective of what it’s like for a blind person to do something as seemingly simple as have a meal. Food was everywhere!” He points out that if just having a meal without one’s sight is hard, then think about trying to navigate going outside on your own. Having a guide dog often makes the difference between choosing to go out and engage with the world or just sitting home alone.

Despite all the nonprofit has done, Meade says that “up until the last few years, they’ve been one of the best-kept secrets in the area. There was always national attention because of the good work they do.” But thanks to quality leadership and people like Meade — who now serves on their board — spreading the word, more and more locals know about Southeastern Guide Dogs and the growing needs they fulfill. Considering that 300,000 to 400,000 U.S. veterans are diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder each year, being matched with a highly-trained service dog can be a godsend. They can create a physical buffer for the person when out in public. They can wake a veteran from a nightmare. Plus, caring for a dog can reduce a PTSD sufferer’s need for anti-anxiety medicine.

Taya Kyle, widow of Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle — whose story was made famous by Clint Eastwood’s movie American Sniper — was at her breaking point after her husband’s death. What got her through it was Norman, an emotional support dog provided free of charge by Southeastern Guide Dogs this past June. And it has done wonders for the well-being of her family. “If anyone ever doubts the value that Southeastern Guide Dogs brings to people,” she said when visiting our area in November, “remind them of my story.”

Southeastern Guide Dogs relies on fundraising events and the gifts of thousands of philanthropic individuals and businesses such as Bob Meade and Doctors Hospital. They have become some of the most powerful ambassadors one can ask for. They demonstrate their giving hearts and love for community, and make it possible to provide life-changing services to those who need them. “We are grateful for the example that Bob Meade and Doctors Hospital set for the community in the way they are participating in our Philanthropic Partners program and more,” says CEO Titus Herman. “By sponsoring Southeastern Guide Dogs’ key fundraising activities over the course of the year, they demonstrate their commitment to improving the lives of those who cannot see, and those who have seen too much. All while letting patients, doctors, staff members, vendors and community leaders know that good things come from being consistently charitable.”

“There are so many worthwhile organizations in our community,” admits Meade, “but this one is special. It fits with our culture here at Doctors Hospital as well as with our culture in Sarasota. It’s something we should all be proud to support.”

For more information on Southeastern Guide Dogs or their Philanthropic Partners program, please visit or call 941.729.5665.