When Wayne and Mindy Rollins moved in 2008, to Sarasota, after living in Los Angeles for 10 years, the philanthropic couple wasted no time immersing themselves in the local community. They found Sarasota offered the small-town atmosphere in which they wanted to raise a family, and they wouldn’t have to sacrifice their love for the arts or the philanthropic opportunities of a big city.
“We saw that Sarasota had a pulse, and it was open for commerce and growth,” says Wayne Rollins. “We found a sense of place here.”
The couple opened Black Bird Home Gallery, an interior design shop on Main Street, and began supporting local organizations, such as Forty Carrots Family Center, Children First, the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast and the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens.
Through the relationships they formed in their store, and by volunteering their time, the couple found a sense of connection to their new home.
“It wasn’t hard for us to become a part of the town in every way,” says Wayne Rollins. “In bigger cities, it’s easy to become part of the faceless mass, but here, it feels like you can be involved. Sarasota makes philanthropy very ‘in,’ which is encouraging and welcoming.”
Over the years, the couple has found increasing opportunities to give back. This year, for the first time, the 38-year-olds will be at the helm of Selby Gardens’ annual Orchid Ball, which takes place Saturday, April 6.
“It’s one of my favorite events,” says Wayne Rollins. “It’s a very intimate setting, and I love the theme, ‘Midnight at the Oasis.’ That’s how we think of Selby — it’s our downtown oasis.”
The event will transform the Selby lawn into an elegant retreat, and its smaller size will allow the couple to tap into their creativity to keep the event fresh.
The decision to chair the Orchid Ball was fitting for the couple; the botanical gardens was one of the first places they discovered when they were new to town. Wayne Rollins says their connection to the gardens began when he and his wife took their son, Magnus, to roam the grounds.
“It’s odd to find a place that’s beautiful, but you can also walk on the grass,” says Wayne Rollins. “A lot of places like this have a very hands-off attitude, but there’s a great informality about Selby. You feel like it’s your own personal garden to explore.”
After a few return visits to the gardens, Wayne and Mindy Rollins found the staff was friendly and engaging, so they decided to get more involved. Wayne Rollins is now on the board of trustees, and he says the decision to chair the event will also help Selby invigorate the annual fundraiser.
“It’s an organization that’s run by very positive, forward-thinking people,” he says. “They know they have to continue to evolve, and I think they knew we’d be able to help add some youth to the crowd.”
Although the couple is young, they’ve cultivated a love for donating both their time and “treasure,” and they say it’s encouraging to see young people in Sarasota doing the same.
“A lot of people our age don’t think that giving is for them,” says Mindy Rollins. “They think it’s for older people or wealthier people, but you can start now. It’s a great feeling to make someone else’s life a little happier. It’s almost addictive.”
Wayne Rollins grew up in a prominent philanthropic family in Atlanta, which he says planted the seed for his future endeavors at a young age. He says his father supported a lot of institutions, and his mother gave from the heart.
“I grew up in that environment,” he says. “So, it wasn’t hard for me to put myself in that position.”
Mindy Rollins says her family wasn’t philanthropic, but that they are empathetic people who were always willing to donate their time. Together, they couple found they’re most fond of supporting organizations related to nature and children’s causes, and they say they’re privileged to be able to give back to the community they love.
“It feels good to be able to give back now, at this age,” says Mindy Rollins. “We’re in a position where it’s comfortable for us, and we’re happy to do whatever we can. It makes us feel great.”
+ How to contribute to Marie Selby Botanical Gardens
- Make an annual fund donation
- Leave a legacy gift or give a memorial bench or brick
- Membership to the gardens, which range from $60 to $500
- Stewards of the Earth, Selby Gardens’ premier membership program. Stewards share a common vision: to discover and preserve wild places, to cultivate a reverence for the living world, and to generously support the mission of the Gardens.
- The Chairman’s Circle — an opportunity for Selby Gardens’ most dedicated contributors to provide annual support for one or more Gardens activities about which they are especially passionate. The Chairman’s Circle supports the activities that are the bedrock of Selby Gardens’ mission.
- Children's Rainforest Garden — an extraordinary new interactive garden for children of all ages. The Children’s Rainforest Garden will inspire, empower, and impassion current and future leaders and voters to become stewards of our magnificent and imperiled rainforests.
- Orchid Ball ‘Midnight at the Oasis’ Saturday, April 6. Tickets $300. Sponsorships still available.
To contribute, or for more information, call 366-5731.
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