Be More Entrepreneurial
Engaged Philanthropist Award
This award will honor an individual who has distinguished himself or herself in the nonprofit community by engaging entrepreneurial skills and expertise to build or support a successful nonprofit endeavor. Examples may include: Utilizing a keen business sense to build a new nonprofit serving our community; providing the driving force for a unique and successful fundraising campaign to support an existing nonprofit organization’s initiative. A short essay on the nominee’s impact was necessary at time of nomination. The top candidates that achieve the most votes via an online poll during the voting period will be further researched by an impartial judging panel to decide the ultimate winner.
Read the essays for each nominee, then cast your vote for this category below.
NOTE: The essays below have not been edited and are presented as originally shared by the author. They may contain grammatical or spelling errors.
The Red Apple School, Inc.
The founder of The Red Apple School, Inc., Mr. Neal, dreamed of a school that would serve adults with disabilities and accomplished that dream in 1995. The school had 10 students in one building within New Port Richey and one van to transport. In speaking to staff, you will hear of how they didn’t have money to buy a loaf of bread and staff often contributed their own money to ensure the students had what they needed. At the time, Mr. Giammichele was working as a behavior specialist and often would come to the school to work with his mutual clients. He would find himself staying beyond his time helping out in ways that were beyond the scope of his job, such as cleaning floors. With Mr. Giammichele’s skills, his creative ideas, his desire to see the school succeed, his big heart and genuine personality, he was asked to be the Executive Director in 2003. Mr. Giammichele learned of the financial concerns and instability of the school and he would give from his own pockets. As the years passed, Mr. Neal’s health declined and it was time for a new CEO. Mr. Giammichele became the CEO and in this position he was able to build up the school. He will tell you that it is his team that made the school. While this is true, it was certainly under the direction of Mr. Giammichele that has contributed to the success of the organization. With a positive reputation known to serve individuals with varying disabilities and now serving 165 people in two locations and a fleet of 18 vans to transport students, the school is a success. Mr. Giammichele will be the first to tell you that he did not set out for this dream, but it became his dream.
Diego Duran Medina
The Kind Mouse Productions
Diego is deeply connected to the St. Petersburg non-profit community, especially as a member of the Board of Directors at The Kind Mouse Productions and as the Director of Service Learning at Shorecrest Preparatory School. Diego also serves by example to the students on how to be an engaged community member. I believe Diego is quite talented in helping young people define and execute their civic mission. He is a passionate teacher, talking about the work done by his students constantly and showing his pride for their progress on community ventures. Diego serves on the Kind Mouse Board of Directors. At The Kind Mouse, he has worked with my daughter to help her develop her service impact, and think about her civic engagement and how best she can serve her community.
Diego is also a dedicated educator at Shorecrest Preparatory School, teaching a high school course called LeadServe, where our students can explore what it means to be a citizen and the different ways of leading from a civic engagement perspective. I am very grateful that Shorecrest offers this unique course and hope that my daughter chooses to enroll next year.
He also serves as a community liaison representing Shorecrest to the local community, and works with over 25 different non-profits. He is constantly working to develop new partnerships for our school. Additionally, Diego also manages our school’s Service Week, an annual event where he places every member of our Upper School, over 360 individuals, (students and faculty) in service sites locally, nationally and internationally.
Diego brings a special talent and energy to helping our children and young adults learn how to become citizens who will make a difference in the lives of others. I highly recommend him for the WEDU Be More Award.
Keli Mondello and Kim Kuruzovich
LiFT a/k/a Learning Independence For Tomorrow
With passion in their hearts, and a vision drawn on a dinner napkin, Keli Mondello and Kim Kuruzovich made a commitment to their daughters and our community.
Nearly 5 years later, LiFT Academy and LiFT University are far more than a sketch on a napkin; they are thriving educational programs for students with neurodiversities.
In 2012 these mothers and advocates recognized their daughters’ academic and social needs were not being met. Both women have degrees and experience in the education field, but more importantly – they have overwhelming compassion for those who are “wired differently.” Kim’s daughter has autism and Keli’s daughter has developmental delays. Their determination and passion gave birth to LiFT.
In 5 years the school has grown from 17 students and a volunteer staff of 5, to an enrollment of 125, 32 paid staff and two educational programs. LiFT Academy serves KDG through 12th grade and LiFT University is a post secondary transition program offering functional academics, life skills training, career readiness and social skills development. It’s a unique educational option for young adults who are not candidates for a typical college program. All of the university students are matched with an internship through LiFT’s community partners program. LiFT has successfully engaged over 18 businesses and non-profit organizations in the community to provide on-the-job training to these students.
The mission of LiFT is to provide challenging academics while building character and confidence, in an accepting and inclusive environment, so traditional students and those with neurodiversities can develop to their fullest potential. Some of the neurodiversities on LiFT’s campus include names like autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, ADD, ADHD, intellectual disabilities, developmental delays and more. However, these founders have a passion that each student comes to value and view their diversity as a gift to be celebrated.
Wheelchairs 4 Kids
Madeline Robinson incorporated Wheelchairs 4 Kids in April 2011 and they received their 501 (c) (3) status in July 2011. They provide wheelchairs for children with physical disabilities who have no other way to secure them. They decided that in order for these children to thrive, they needed to do much more than wheelchairs, and added assistive devices as well as home and vehicle modifications to the list of types of assistance they provide. They have since added an inclusion program which involves children in days of fun called “Wheely Fun Days”.
Many children faced with living with physical disabilities are in wheelchairs that are too small, in disrepair, or do not fit the needs of the child. Children outgrow their wheelchairs before government or insurance programs will allow for a replacement. Not only is it unsafe for a child to be in a chair that is inadequate for their needs, but it can impact their health in numerous ways including scoliosis, respiratory problems and pressure sores. In addition, families are faced with trying to care for their special needs children in homes that have not been modified to meet their specific circumstances.
It is quite impressive; the impact they have made in their first 6 years. They recognize the importance of building and maintaining the trust of their donors. 83.76% of every dollar raised goes directly to funding their programs. 10.33% goes to admin with 5.91% spent on fundraising costs. They have touched lives and changed them forever. They have seen children take their first steps using a gait trainer that they provided, get upstairs thanks to the stair lift they installed and get through bathroom doors that they remodeled. Over 300 children are in a chair that is both safe and size appropriate thanks to Wheelchairs 4 Kids.
Anita Treiser and Robin Warren
The Florida Holocaust Museum
The Florida Holocaust Museum (The FHM) is proud to nominate Anita Treiser and Robin Warren together for the Engaged Philanthropist Award. These two women provided the driving force for The FHM’s wildly successful 25th Anniversary gala at the Vinoy Renaissance Hotel in February 2017. They reimagined what a successful gala looked like for the Museum, engaging the Tampa Bay community in the process. Anita and Robin reinvigorated the To Life Committee, establishing subcommittees and leadership structure, while recruiting new members. The average attendance of the previous annual To Life events hovered between 400-500; Anita and Robin used their talents, ingenuity and relationships in the community to engage over 700 people for a completely sold out event! Moving the gala to a new location and highlighting the Museum’s programs and successes elevated the atmosphere, resulting in overwhelmingly positive reviews and support from attendees. The results of their collective efforts garnered almost $650,000 for the Museum.
Anita Treiser, retired marketing director for the city of St. Petersburg, has been a member of The FHM since its inception and actively involved with the To Life event for several years. In addition to her volunteer work for the Museum, she has donated her talent to Pinellas Opportunity Council/Retired & Senior Volunteer Program, YWCA Tampa Bay, and Planned Parenthood, among other organizations.
Robin Warren became involved with The FHM in 2004 as a docent, volunteering her time to educate touring students about the Holocaust and encouraging them to consider the choices they face daily. In addition to serving as the Vice-Chair of Governance on the board of The FHM, Robin is an attorney by profession, former head of the Florida Council on Economic Education, and co-founder of Project Prosper, a nonprofit that offers resources to assist recent immigrants and refugees in achieving financial stability.
Girl Scouts of West Central Florida
Vinnie’s Girl Scout history began in her childhood. As an adult, she’s served as a troop leader, consultant, cookie organizer and since 2012, a member of GSWCF’s Board of Directors, where she currently serves as Third Vice President. Recently, she volunteered her time and talents as chair of the Long Range Program and Properties Task Force. This endeavor allowed her to channel her passion for providing girls with life-changing outdoor experiences through the revitalization of Girl Scout camps and program opportunities.
Under Vinnie’s leadership, the Task Force, comprised of community experts and volunteers, completed an assessment of GSWCF’s more than 1,000-acre property portfolio through input from hundreds of girls and volunteers, statistical data, site visits, and consultations with market research and camp planning experts. Vinnie and the Task Force dedicated countless hours to:
• Develop a property vision that promotes Girl Scouts’ mission through engaging and vital program delivery and excellent customer service.
• Research and develop strategies for presentation to the board to meet the needs and interests of current and future girls.
• Develop cost-effective programs and property management recommendations that align with council program, financial, and fund development goals.
Vinnie’s devotion to multiple work sessions, independent analysis, meetings and webinars helped achieved these outcomes. The Task Force work required confidentiality, mission-focused vision, and a deep understanding and ability to be an advocate for our members. The 23-month process culminated in March 2017 with a long-term plan for enhancements to meet the program needs of current and future Girl Scouts.
Vinnie continues to provide pro bono legal work to GSWCF through her expertise in real estate legal matters and engages her law firm partners to share their expertise. Vinnie embodies the mission to build girls of courage, confidence and character, and she makes our world a better place.
Hands Across the Bay
Julie established Hands Across the Bay in 2010 as a means to assist hardworking families in need and advocate for survivors of Domestic Violence. She prides herself in keeping her promise that the donations from her supporters are going directly to assist families and other small organizations in the community. Gold & Diamond Source, the company Julie and her husband Steve own, donates the cost of their office space, most of their supplies and the majority of their staff’s salaries. Julie also personally guarantees that her time and efforts at Hands Across the Bay are 100% volunteered. Despite being a small organization, Julie and her team have worked miracles in the Tampa Bay Area.
The Kind Mouse
I HAVE BEEN A VOLUNTEER FOR THE KIND MOUSE FOR APPROXIMATELY A YEAR NOW. I HAVE A FULL TIME JOB BUT TRY TO GIVE THE KIND MOUSE A FEW HOURS A MONTH.
I CAN HONESTLY SAY I HAVE NEVER MET A MORE DEDICATED, KIND AND OVERALL UNSELFISH PERSON.
SHE HAS THE GIFT OF CARING AND YOU CAN SEE IT EVERYDAY IN THE AMOUNT OF TIME SHE DEVOTES TO THE KIND MOUSE. SHE HAS EVEN GIVEN UP HER OWN CAREER TO HELP PEOPLE IN NEED. HER PERSONALITY AND DRIVE ARE INFECTIOUS AND EVERYONE WORKING FOR AND WITH HER ARE DRIVEN TO THE SAME DREAM. TO HELP THOSE WHO ARE LESS FORTUNATE AND TO PUT OTHERS BEFORE HERSELF. SHE EPITOMIZES THE WORDS “ENGAGED PHILANTROPIST”.
THE SHINE FIRM
I am nominating this individual Miss Angel V. Williams MPA for this award because of her continuous participation and consistent community involvement which she is maintaining in a dedicated, committed and very positive way. Miss Williams developed, managed and stimulated the quality of opportunities to our youth and sport professionals. She implemented and strengthened the awareness of consistent involvement through the athletes in public schools and with community leaders, non-profit organizations and other professional club sponsors throughout America to embrace the Cause. She was the CEO for the past five years of Davin Joseph Events for Cause a Non-Profit Foundation. Miss Williams enhanced and upheld the Mission of the Foundation initiating The Triple P’s: Presented rewards through academics to students that show exceptional skills in the classroom and sports. Promoted freedom of expression creativity, self-discipline and determination in performing arts and The Foundation Provided nutritional pre-game meals, snacks and drinks to the Athletes of public schools and other Athletic Programs. It engaged participation, built and educated parents, coaches, community organizations, leaders, supporting sponsors and Professional Athletes to the reality of the Cause. Her ability to standout as a force to be recognize she continues to Shine through her Entrepreneurship, her Philanthropy, her Consulting, her Managing, her Event Planning and Fundraising, her graduating and continuous participation in The FBI, TBPD Community Service Programs, The TB Leadership Program, The Mayor University, several Non-Profit Organizations and receiving an Honorable Commander Appointment from the 927th Air Refueling Wing/927th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. She has embraced her mission with humble ambition and keeping her word to always give back and help others. She is an exceptional and prestige’s nominee to be honorably considered for this award. Thank you for this gracious opportunity and your time.
until the 2018 WEDU Be More Awards voting closes
Friday, December 8, 2017 at noon
The 2018 WEDU Be More Awards are made possible by: