Jacksonville: Known as a city of givers

Philanthropy alive and well on First Coast

By Nancy Lee Bethea
Resident Community News

In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul reminds his readers Jesus said it is more blessed to give than to receive. The phrase is often repeated during the holidays as parents try to restrain toy-consumed kids, and pastors, priests and rabbis warn their congregations against materialism. In Jacksonville, people live it by practicing philanthropy.

Derived from the Greek, philanthropia, today’s word, philanthropy, means love for mankind. Jacksonville is chock full of people who love others through gifts of money, property, time and ideas.

Whether they volunteer to help battered women and runaways or collect fresh fruit for the homeless, the Jacksonville community is enriched because of philanthropic contributions.

• Generosity will come back •

“There’s a transformation that happens with philanthropy,” Jane Lanier, President & System Chief Development Officer, St. Vincent’s Foundation, said. “Giving transforms the receivers and the community, but also the giver.”

Lanier shares what she’s learned about philanthropy as she travels across the country. “Philanthropy is alive and well in Jacksonville, Florida,” Lanier said. “The people here are very giving.”

Foundation donors come from diverse religious backgrounds, according to Lanier, but they all believe giving back should be part of life. “It’s an absolute truth God will not be outdone!” Lanier said. “Generosity will come back.”

• Giving from the heart •

Carol Pitman, and her husband, Don, have lived in Empire Point just east of San Marco for 46 years. “I love living in Empire Point,” Pitman said. “We raised our children here, our closest friends live here.”

Like Lanier, Pitman sees Jacksonville as a generous place. “It’s a wonderful city because we have a very high, high percentage of giving to non-profits,” Pitman said. “It’s philanthropy, volunteering and the generosity of people that make any city great,” she added. “People give from their heart because it’s the right thing to do.”

As philanthropists themselves, the Pitmans have modeled giving back to their community for their family. Gifting St. Vincent’s with an endowed fund to award cash to three nurses annually who exemplify compassion at the bedside is one example.

“Nursing is a measure of the heart,” Pitman said, “and they never get bonuses. We wanted to recognize nurses and help them with education.”

A nurse herself, Pitman invests in people. “My husband and I have a mission to help people help themselves. He did it in his business, and it’s what we believe,” she said.
With 15 grandchildren, the Pitmans have created a legacy of giving in their family. “It makes me feel so good to see our children and grandchildren take strong roles in their churches and different organizations to help others,” she said.

• Promoting wellness •

Helping others feel better is something health care workers strive to accomplish every shift they work. The Baptist Health Foundation, part of Northeast Florida’s largest nonprofit healthcare provider, uses philanthropic gifts to provide scholarships for nurses, therapists and others to continue their education and move forward in their careers.

Currently, Baptist Foundation is supporting the Agewell Institute at Baptist Medical Center, expanding emergency care at Baptist Beaches, and promoting wellness in families lacking access to adequate health care, according to the Baptist Health web site.

Local philanthropists Wayne and Delores Barr Weaver last year made a $10 million endowment gift to Baptist Health to fund behavioral health programs for children and young adults. In addition, the new patient care tower at Baptist Medical Center Jacksonville and Wolfson Children’s Hospital was named in honor of the Weavers.

• Cathedral Arts Project •

Philanthropic giving benefits children creatively, too. The Cathedral Arts Project (CAP) is a non-profit organization exposing kids across the First Coast to instruction in the visual and performing arts. Founded in 1993 and incorporated as a non-profit in 2000, CAP’s mission is to improve life in the community by encouraging creativity in kids.
“I support the Cathedral Arts Project because I have seen firsthand the impact of an education that utilizes imagination and self-confidence and the success that follows,” San Marco resident Steve Williams said.

In addition to earning better grades in reading and math, students involved in CAP’s after school curricula also improved their behavior and scored higher on standardized tests, according to the organization’s website.

Several kids have used their exposure to the arts to become more disciplined students or find their life’s calling. With many CAP participants living close to the poverty line, their exposure to dance, music and art changes their lives. “Not everyone will grow up to be a professional artist,” Williams said, “but everyone can learn the creativity and problem solving skills through art that will make them incredibly successful in any path they pursue.

“The arts are important for each of us to fully engage and thrive in our lives. Everyone, regardless of circumstances, deserves that opportunity,” he added.

• Sports philanthropy •

Philanthropy is thriving in other fields, too. Thanks to owner Shad Khan, the Jaguars Foundation has provided more than $1 million in grants this year. The Foundation also supports the military and veterans, college scholarships and numerous youth programs.

Play 60, an anti-obesity program, awards grants to non-profit organizations serving economically and socially disadvantaged youth. Funded by the Jaguars Foundation and Wolfson Children’s Hospital, grants are either school-based or community-based. The goals of the initiative are to increase kids’ physical activity and teach them better nutrition. Grant monies are used to purchase pedometers, heart rate monitors and equipment, among other things.

Honor Rows, an incentive program for youth, is another philanthropic outreach of the Jaguars Foundation. The nationally recognized program offers home-game Jaguars seats to kids between the ages of 9 and 17 who set and attain academic, behavioral and public service goals. Nonprofit organizations across the First Coast can apply to take part in the Honor Rows
program.

• Season of giving •

It’s the season of giving thanks, and many Jacksonville residents find joy in giving through philanthropy. By sharing their wealth, they improve many aspects of the community, including health care, the arts and sports.

“It doesn’t take an awful lot to help people help themselves,” Pitman said.

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