Four years ago, shortly after moving from New York to Sarasota, Karen Van Lindonk and her husband read an article about the Gulf Coast Community Foundation, and they both were intrigued. Hoping to get involved in their new city as soon as possible, they reached out to learn more about volunteer opportunities.
“I thought it sounded like a dynamic organization,” she says. “Whatever you’re passionate about, you can find it here. I’m really passionate about education and the environment, but if you’re really into the arts, or you’re an animal lover, there’s so much variety. Whatever you’re interested in, there’s a way to get engaged.”
Since discovering the Gulf Coast Community Foundation, Van Lindonk says she’s found ways to use her interests to volunteer and connect with the people and organizations in Sarasota. She now serves on the Gulf Coast Community Foundation’s grant-closeout committee, but she also began volunteering for causes about which she’s passionate, including the All Faith Food Banks Cooking Matters program, which teaches children and adults the importance of healthy eating and cooking habits.
“As you get older, your health is really important,” says Van Lindonk. “I think a lot of children have a hard time conceptualizing how food gets to their plates, and learning about that as a child will make them inquisitive about other things. It might lead them down another path, so it’s great when kids get engaged with things outside of what they would normally need to learn.”
Another opportunity Van Lindonk says she’s enjoyed has been volunteering at the Westfield Southgate Mall kiosk during the hoiday season. Here, the Gulf Coast Community Foundation offers $25 give cards to shoppers who have spent $200 or more at the mall, and Van Lindonk says she enjoys being able to reward people with their own opportunity to give back.
“It’s satisfying knowing that I’m helping a little bit,” she says. “Certainly there are people who are more involved than me, who are devoted full time to philanthropic work, and that’s wonderful. But, it feels good helping people. I want to see our community thrive and do well, so it’s nice when you know you’re doing something locally to help.”
BY THE NUMBERS
4 — NUMBER OF YEARS VAN LINDONK HAS LIVED IN SARASOTA
$25 — AMOUNT OF MONEY LOADED ONTO GIVE CARDS
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