Generation Impact: How NextGen donors are revolutionizing giving

Hightower Emerging leaders gathered December 4, 2021 for their annual holiday celebration. Pictured are Amanda Bishop, Laura Phillips Edgecombe, Monica Hernandez, Diana Donovan, Lauren Braddock-Alcorn, Ashley Pratt and Gracie Simendinger. Photo courtesy of Prattify.
Hightower Emerging leaders gathered December 4, 2021 for their annual holiday celebration. Pictured are Amanda Bishop, Laura Phillips Edgecombe, Monica Hernandez, Diana Donovan, Lauren Braddock-Alcorn, Ashley Pratt and Gracie Simendinger. Photo courtesy of Prattify.

Jacksonville’s non-profits are realizing the value of young donors and activists, reaching out to them in new and unprecedented ways. A number of local organizations have established programs specifically geared toward younger philanthropists, and the philanthropic climate of our city is changing because of it.

JAX CHAMBER – Hightower Emerging Leaders Fellowship

Back in 2017, Betsy Lovett, Chris Warren and Mike Hightower came up with an exciting new idea for the JAX Chamber: to create a dynamic group of young professionals dedicated to philanthropy throughout the Jacksonville community. Betsy and Chris insisted on naming the group after Mike Hightower, an esteemed community leader and activist, who protested at first because he is generally a “behind the scenes” kind of guy. “I’m now so excited to be connected to this wonderful group of young trailblazers,” said Hightower. “It’s an honor.”

Committed to championing diversity and selecting the highest quality applicants, ages 26 to 40, the Hightower Emerging Leaders Fellowship annually selects just 17 fellows out of dozens of applicants. Once selected as a fellow, participants pay a membership fee of $750 ($600 for non-profits) and meet monthly – August through April – with a black-tie party at the end of the year.   

“Our end-of-year party was always held at Betsy’s home,” said Hightower, “as she was our greatest role model and cheerleader.” Sadly, Betsy Lovett died on October 26, 2021. Her legacy lives on in the Betsy Lovett Scholarship being established by the Hightower Emerging Leaders Fellowship. 

Currently, the fifth class of Emerging Leaders is underway, chaired by Ashley Pratt, Director of Community Development for Mayo Clinic Jacksonville. “Ashley is a strong leader who is helping our Fellowship move the needle in the community by identifying issues and addressing them,” said Warren. 

“We make the greatest impact when we do it together,” noted Pratt, “and we are passionate about elevating our fellows, helping them in their careers and their philanthropy. Betsy Lovett’s spirit lives on in us.”

For more information on the JAX Chamber and Hightower Emerging Leaders Fellowship, visit myjaxchamber.com.

CITY RESCUE MISSION – Young Donor Program

Many of those served by the City Rescue Mission (CRM) are youngsters of people down and out, or youth with nowhere else to turn, making it even more meaningful for our community’s young donors to help out. The base of young donors for this 75-year-old mission is generally garnered from the many church youth groups who volunteer. From sidewalk lemonade stands to church-wide fundraisers to Shoeboxes of Love for the needy, many young donors creatively support the City Rescue Mission. 

Shoeboxes of Love is a project created to spread a bit of warmth and God’s love to the homeless and needy residents of Jacksonville during the holiday season.  Each year, from the beginning of November to mid-December, CRM asks the community to donate shoeboxes filled with travel-sized hygiene products and wrapped in blankets. This year, Girl Scout Troop #62169 adopted CRM’s Shoeboxes of Love as their Thanksgiving Service Project. During their annual Friendsgiving celebration, Scouts created boxes for our neighbors in need. 

Youth are encouraged to reach out with Christian love and help others not only during the holidays but throughout the year.

For information about CRM, contact Angela Washington, Director of Resource Development, at 904-421-5147 or [email protected]

CUMMER MUSEUM OF ART & GARDENS – Free Family Fridays and More

“Part of our mission in celebrating our 60th Anniversary at the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens is to create an art community for all people of all ages,” said Wanda Willis, Director of Community Engagement and Inclusion. “We have a unique opportunity to heal, connect, educate and inspire through the arts, and attracting young families is a great way to attract young donors and supporters.”

Free Family Fridays at the Cummer from 4 to 9 p.m., sponsored by PNC Bank, feature fun both inside and outside the museum. Art Connections, an area in the museum specifically geared toward young children, has recently undergone an exciting redesign and is brighter and more cheerful than ever. With creative art projects in every direction and interactive activities that pique the imagination, children and their parents are drawn back to Art Connections throughout the evening. Outside in the midst of the breathtaking Cummer Gardens, families find games on the lawn, live music and excitement. 

In addition to Family Fridays, college students enjoy free admission Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and VyStar Credit Union sponsors free Tuesdays from 4 to 9 p.m. Free admission can often be found on weekends, as well. The first Saturday of every month from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. is sponsored by J. Wayne and Delores Barr Weaver; the third Saturday of each month from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. is provided by Florida Blue; and “Museums on Us,” sponsored by Bank of America and Merrill Lynch, offers free admission the first full weekend of each month. Through all of these opportunities, young families, and therefore young donors, are being drawn to the Cummer.

Ashley Stein Wotiz is a member of the Cummer’s Board of Directors and co-chair of the 60th Anniversary celebrations happening throughout 2021-2022.  She is excited about the opportunities afforded her young family by the Museum. “We returned to Jacksonville six years ago from New York,” said Ashley, “and immediately got involved with the Cummer. I grew up in Jacksonville, and it’s always been a special place. How could you not support the Cummer?” Ashley’s co-chairs for the 60th Anniversary are Yared and Kimberly Alula, also young parents and donors.

For more information about the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens and the many programs reaching younger donors, visit the website at cummermuseum.org.

THE WOMEN’S BOARD – Young Collectors

The Women’s Board has been on a trajectory of engaging its Young Collectors for a number of years. It created a new membership level specifically for younger donors, and has been systematically building this level of support. The organization holds events through the year specifically for Young Collectors, and younger women are more involved than ever, including producing its annual fund raisers for Wolfson Children’s Hospital.

Kymberly Wolfson, Kristina Powell and Heather Creel, the youngest ever Chairs of the Winter Design Show produced by The Women’s Board of Wolfson Children’s Hospital.
Kymberly Wolfson, Kristina Powell and Heather Creel, the youngest ever Chairs of the Winter Design Show produced by The Women’s Board of Wolfson Children’s Hospital.

Currently, the Young Collectors of The Women’s Board are dedicated to breathing new life into the time-honored tradition of the annual Art & Antiques Show. “The word ‘antique’ does not attract some of the younger people,” said Kymberly Wolfson, one of three event chairs, “so in an effort to bring in a new generation of supporters, we are reimagining our annual event by calling it the Winter Design Show.” 

The pandemic and the hesitation of donors and doctors to expose young Wolfson patients to Covid-19 at the annual Children’s Fashion Show, a key component of the four-day event, was a catalyst for the decision of The Women’s Board to hold the Winter Design Show in 2022 rather than 2021. 

“We’ve been fundraising all along, and the community has been extremely supportive of our decision to fundraise for two years with the one event coming up in 2022,” said Wolfson, who is co-chairing The Winter Design Show with Kristina Powell and Heather Creel – the youngest trio of chairs The Women’s Board has ever had. Kymberly, granddaughter of Wolfson Children’s Hospital Founder Morris Wolfson and daughter to Don and Karen Wolfson, has grown up with the mission firmly implanted in her heart.

 “Our goal is to support the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in the new Critical Care Tower at the hospital,” said Wolfson “It is time for the next generation to step up into leadership,” she said. “We all have young families, and we need to communicate the importance of our children’s hospital to our peers.” Obviously, that fact is being communicated quite well, as the Board has already raised $557,000, much of which has already gone to the hospital this year. The Women’s Board’s goal is to raise $1.2 million before the 2022 event. 

The Winter Design Show of 2022 is destined to be a productive and enjoyable “new old” event for donors of every age, especially Young Collectors.

For ways to connect with the Young Collectors of The Women’s Board of Wolfson Children’s Hospital, contact Sally Parsons, Director of the Women’s Board, at 904.202.2886 or [email protected], or visit womensboardwch.com.

BEACHES ROTARACT – Read USA

Rotaract is part of Rotary International and brings together young professionals with community leaders in leadership development, professional encouragement and service. The Rotaract Club of Jacksonville’s Beaches meets twice monthly and is active in hands-on service projects.

Beaches Rotaract, Read USA
Beaches Rotaract, Read USA

One of those projects is Read USA, an organization whose goal is to put books in the hands of every low-income child, employ teens as tutor leaders, promote the love of reading, encourage a culture of literacy for lifelong learning and social justice, and end the cycle of poverty. In 2020, when Read USA sponsored its second annual Peace in the Pages event at A. Philip Randolph Park, members of the Beaches Rotaract Club attended and were so impressed by the goals and accomplishments of the organization that they decided to focus their fundraising on it.

In supporting the mission of Read USA during the past year, Beaches Rotaract has raised nearly $20,000 for the organization. They sponsored a night at the Alhambra Theatre with Seussical the Musical, and Rotaract members have participated as volunteers, donning the iconic Read USA red apron at a Long Branch Elementary School Teddy Bear Picnic and Dinsmore Elementary Literacy Fair. In December, Beaches Rotaract partnered with Read USA and the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens to present a Read Aloud event that combined the magic of art and reading. Rotaract volunteers read to children from books that connected with works of art on the museum’s walls, encouraging students to learn about art visually and through the written word. The event was recorded and is featured on Read USA’s website for tutoring purposes, as well as shown in schools to encourage a love of books.

Beaches Rotaract, Read USA
Beaches Rotaract, Read USA

“It is exciting to be part of improving literacy in our city,” said Dr. Danielle Callegari, Community Service Chair for Beaches Rotaract. “Tying in the love of reading and art and celebrating diverse works of art with kids at the Cummer is another great opportunity for our members. We love the mission of Read USA!”

The young professionals of Beaches Rotaract are making a difference in our community. For more information about Beaches Rotaract, visit beachesrotaract.org, and to find out more about Read USA, log on to readusainc.com.

Wounded Warrior Project

Nationally, the Wounded Warrior Project has several categories of fundraisers that involve young donors. “Student Ambassadors” encourages students in schools to set up their own fundraisers to support veterans and their families. “Children Donor Stories” is an organic, grassroots movement by children themselves to raise money for veterans. “Carry Forward© 5K, presented by USAA,” is a sizable event held in multiple cities annually that engages the community, including youth, to come out and support veterans. Sadly, the Jacksonville 5K was cancelled in 2021 due to the pandemic, but hopefully will resume in 2022.

Public Relations Specialist Chris Obarski of the local Wounded Warrior Project put us in touch with Brittany Bigham, who recently headed up a project called “Honor Their Courage” at Sabal Palm Elementary in Jacksonville. Students wrote letters and created artwork for veterans, and raised funds for the Wounded Warrior Project. Encouraging school children to be donors now and in the future is just one way the Wounded Warrior Project raises both funds and awareness.

Wounded Warrior Project
Wounded Warrior Project

“We are still raising funds and don’t yet have a final count,” said Bigham, whose 10-year old daughter, Addison (a proud USAF military brat), participated in the drawing and fundraising at Sabal Palm.

For ways to engage, visit www.woundedwarriorproject.org.

The Carpenter’s Shop Center

The Carpenter’s Shop Center is a local organization “lighting the way for children, youth and families to realize their potential with futures filled with hope, stability and self-fulfillment.” It operates two programs geared toward young people during the school year. Out of School Time Services for Kindergarten through 6th grade and T.E.A. (Teen Expressive Arts) for 7th through 12th grade provide more than 120 students with academic, social and cultural opportunities Monday-Friday after school. The organization also runs the Mission Possible Summer Camp for six weeks every summer. 

A few avenues in which young donors are supporting the faith-based program are through The Kids Hope Alliance, Church of Eleven-22 youth groups, Generation (providing career training to youth), and Grounds of Grace (a ministry sharing the Gospel and launching young men and women in the coffee industry).

“We also groom our young donors by serving them as children,” said Dr. Cheryl Doro Wilder, Founding Director of The Carpenter’s Shop Center. Along with her husband, Pastor Clint Wilder, she is working with a second generation of students who have attended the after school and summer camp programs during the past two decades. 

The Carpenter's Shop Center
The Carpenter’s Shop Center

Gabrielle Cadet is one of those former students. She started in the program when she was seven years old, stayed through 5th grade and came back at the end of middle school. Now 20 years old and living in Riverside, “Gabby” teaches dance, art and music to first and second graders at The Carpenter’s Shop Center, while studying language pathology and working with a speech therapist in Jacksonville with the aim of facilitating communication between therapists, teachers and parents at The Carpenter’s Shop Center in the future.

For further information about The Carpenter’s Shop Center, visit the website at carpentersshop.org.