Philanthropic giving reaches new heights in Jacksonville

By Susanna P. Barton
Resident Community News

J. Wayne and Delores Barr Weaver, former Jaguars owners and philanthropists who have homes in the Riverside and San Jose areas of the city, have been on a philanthropic binge during the past several months that is changing our community for the better.
This summer, the Weavers presented a check for $750,000 to support the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra’s music education program. In September, the Weavers converted their Weaver Family Foundation into a $23.7 million advised fund at The Community Foundation in Jacksonville called the Weaver Family Foundation Fund. Their giving influence continued through the fall with an announcement of Women’s Giving Alliance grants to women and girls’ behavioral health programs at three local organizations, as well as a $1 million gift to HabiJax.
In November, their generosity took philanthropy to new heights at Baptist Health, where the hospital system announced a $10 million gift — the largest in the hospital’s 57-year history.
The hospital’s new 11-story building, set to receive patients this month, will be named the J. Wayne and Delores Barr Weaver Tower.
Their largess continued when The Community Foundation in Jacksonville announced on Nov. 28 the gift of $50 million by Mrs. Weaver to establish the Delores Barr Weaver Fund, the largest single fund at The Community Foundation, which ranks among the largest private foundations in Northeast Florida.
The new fund will invest in organizations and activities that help to improve a community’s quality of life and, more importantly, that of its people in need. “In the words of Teddy Roosevelt, ‘This country will not be a good place for any of us to live in unless we make it a good place for all of us to live in,’” said Mrs. Weaver at the press conference.
It is the largest gift to The Community Foundation in its 48-year history. The Delores Barr Weaver Fund’s first – and likely its largest – grant is a $6.6 million award, to be paid out over three year, to support the new Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center.
The center, which will be headed by Dr. Lawanda Ravoira, will provide research, training, education and advocacy in support of the needs of girls in the juvenile justice system.
The policy center is the next step in advancing the strategic goals adopted by the Justice for Girls: Duval County Initiative Leadership Council. The council received initial funding from the Women’s Giving Alliance. Weaver, and other citizen leaders in Jacksonville, has been a member of the Leadership Council since its 2007 inception.
While the Weavers’ giving stands out, they are not the only individuals in Jacksonville sharing the wealth. At the recent Philanthropy Day Luncheon in downtown Jacksonville, many local individuals and organizations were recognized for their generosity. Ortega residents J.F. and Peggy Bryan were honored as outstanding philanthropists and longtime community supporters, Linda and Vince Ferrigno also were local standouts.

Giving abounds throughout the community. That same week, HabiJax announced a $1 million donation from Ortega philanthropists Ann and David Hicks. In October, new Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Kahn announced that the Jaguars and the Boy Scouts of America-North Florida Council had launched the “Every Boy Deserves a Chance” Matching Gift Campaign. The Jaguars Foundation will match dollar-for-dollar for every donation made, up to $100,000. Kahn’s motivation? He was a Boy Scout, and one of his most memorable experiences was from an International Boy Scout Jamboree in Athens, Greece. The campaign is the North Florida Council’s first capital and endowment campaign.
And while it wasn’t a million-dollar campaign, residents gathered en masse last month for the 3rd Annual McKenzie’s Run to raise important funds for the McKenzie Noelle Wilson Foundation. Just before school started, 10-year-old Caroline Giddens asked her friends to bring new socks or underwear to her birthday party in lieu of a gift. Together the girls made a donation to the Foster Closet, a group providing clothing for local foster children.
Those who have worked on philanthropic initiatives with the Weavers say there is something all of us can learn from the Weavers about the importance of giving back.
Hugh Greene, president and CEO of Baptist Health, said there are three “takeaway” dimensions of the Weavers’ generosity that are applicable to all givers — no matter what the fiscal level.
“The first one is their model of generosity — how they’ve been willing to give in a special way in light of their resources and how they’ve focused their giving,” Greene said. “Whether it’s $100 or $10 million, the Weavers remind us to care for those who are on the fringes of our society.”
Secondly, Greene referenced the Weavers’ genuineness, who did not want or seek out recognition for their gift to Baptist Health.
“Putting their name on the building was our idea, not theirs. Clearly, we all need to get beyond ourselves and not be driven by recognition, but by genuinely caring for others and trying to make a better community in which we live,” he said.
The third lesson, Greene continued, is courage.
“The Weavers’ choices are not always what everyone else is doing,” Greene said. He referenced behavioral health. “It’s not something openly talked about and something that is pushed over into a taboo category. The Weavers are willing with their giving to go to places that others may not go.”
May we all be like Weavers in our own ways and make life better for those less fortunate in a way that exhibits generosity, humility and courage.

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