After years of working in theater and arts, Trimble has found her passion for working with at-risk youth at the Sarasota YMCA.
Debbie Trimble’s philanthropic journey has taken her from theaters to parks, to youth centers, and even across the country.
As of Nov. 6, Trimble is the senior vice president of major gifts and planned giving with the Sarasota YMCA. Since starting, Trimble has already seen the rewards of working with this organization.
“One of the things I find remarkable here is that before every meeting there’s what we call a ‘mission moment,’” Trimble says. “To think that somebody who maybe felt like they were at the depths of despair and now they are thriving, you think, ‘Wow, we really made a difference.’”
Her past work experience is slightly different from what Trimble is working on now. When Trimble first started college, she pursued journalism, although she quickly realized that wasn’t her calling. Later, she graduated with an MBA in arts administration from State University of New York, Buffalo. Her first job after college was for a small nonprofit dance studio. From there, she moved into an executive director role with Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy.
While working with the park conservancy, Trimble and her husband, Tom, found a love for a city that would eventually become home — even more so than their hometown of Buffalo.
The Trimbles were at a restaurant called Cole’s for a party. The raffle prize was a weekend vacation to an unknown warm location, with the flight leaving that night after the event.
That night, Trimble and her husband were on a flight to Sarasota.
“It was Valentine’s weekend and we just fell in love with Sarasota,” Trimble says. “So we started to come back year after year on vacation and I finally said to my husband, ‘At some point we are going to want to go on vacation someplace else and that will never happen unless we move to Sarasota.’”
After visiting Sarasota on multiple occasions, they took the plunge and moved. Trimble became the development director with Asolo Repertory Theatre. For 10 years, the Trimbles lived and worked in Sarasota, while also getting to know the people and philanthropy scene.
In 2010, eight years after moving to Sarasota, Trimble received a job offer she couldn’t pass up, the development director position at La Jolla Playhouse, a well-known theater located in Lahoya, Calif. However, California didn’t feel like home to them.
“The playhouse was amazing, and I loved the work that they did, but we just didn’t feel really feel we fit in in California,” Trimble says. “The people are lovely, but they are just different, they aren’t like the East Coast people.”
An ache to be back home with her grandchildren and family brought Trimble back to New York after two years.
“It was hard because we didn’t see them that much, the grandkids,” Trimble says. “It’s hard to get them out to California with little ones. Their other set of grandparents were in New York spending all their time with them and we would see pictures and say, ‘We are missing out on all the fun!’”
In Manhattan, Trimble was a vice president of development with the New 42nd Street, an organization committed to reinventing 42nd Street and the theaters and other cultural institutions that call it home. There, Trimble was in charge of fundraising for a children’s theater. Through this theater, Trimble found a new passion for working with at-risk youth.
“I always loved theater and I had been working with it for years,” Trimble says. “I just fell in love with introducing kids to theater and giving opportunities to at-risk youth and seeing how their lives could change through new experiences and people caring for them.”
Her newfound love for helping kids and a desire to be in Sarasota brought the Trimbles back to Florida in November. At the Sarasota YMCA, Trimble is now working in service, which has given her a new perspective on the city she has loved since her first visit.
“My time here before, at the Asolo, I didn’t really know how segmented the population was,” Trimble says. “I didn’t really know that Sarasota really is a tale of two cities. I live in Lakewood Ranch, I drive down University Parkway, I’d go to the Asolo and donors homes and it was the Sarasota that you see on the tourist network. I never really understood that there was a whole lot of need and hurt in Sarasota just a few blocks away.”
Her day-to-day life at the YMCA can get busy, but Trimble says she’s working on putting herself first. Each morning, she gives herself 30 minutes on the treadmill and 15 minutes of meditation.
“It (meditating) keeps me focused, it keeps me calm,” Trimble says. “Always remembering that we are here for service and keeping me focused on what the ultimate goal is and that is having an equalized community.”
Trimble’s main focus at work is talking with the community and potential donors. After her morning routine, Trimble has breakfast with a donor, returns back to the office for paperwork and then leaves the office again for a lunch date with another donor. Her afternoon is reserved for research, paperwork and furthering her knowledge about different programs at the YMCA.
Then in the evenings, philanthropic events fill up her schedule. Trimble tries to keep the evening events at three per week, because she doesn’t want to overwhelm herself with work as she has done in the past.
“I tend to work a lot, so I’m trying to deal with a life and work balance that keeps me fit and healthy,” Trimble says. “And at the same time doing all I can for the Y, so that tends to be a little bit of an achilles heel for me.”
For Trimble, this position is giving her the ability to build awareness with potential donors and those in the community on what changes can be made for Sarasota as a whole.
Trimble says her new position at the YMCA has given her a new perspective on philanthropy. She’s come to understand the importance of the work she does to better the place so many children and their families call home.
“There really is another side of Sarasota that we can change,” Trimble says. “We can lose a little and give a lot.”