Samantha Gholar inspires both her son and local multicultural young people to become philanthropic in Sarasota.
Samantha Gholar is a 32-year-old mom, entrepreneur and philanthropist.
Since moving to Sarasota in 2014, she has made an impact on the young multicutural communities by starting her nonprofit, Emerge Sarasota, and sharing with her son a love of helping others.
What organizations are you involved with?
"The one I’ve been with the longest is Alzheimer’s Association. I started with that almost 12 years ago, since my son was born. My grandfather died of Alzheimer’s, so I started doing that back home in New Orleans. Since I’ve been in Sarasota, I’ve been on the planning committee and logistic committee for almost five years. It’s my most passionate cause in town, because there are a lot of people that suffer from that and not a lot (who) understand that it touches a lot of people and it can affect people that are still young. It’s near and dear to my heart."
How did your grandfather’s death encourage you to become involved?
"He was old, in his 80s. In the African-American community, people don’t speak about medical and mental health as much as other cultures do, so I remember seeing him kind of being shoved away in a corner. I knew as an 8- or 9-year-old that wasn’t right or a normal situation for an older person. As I got older and understood more about what it was, I wanted to make sure that didn’t happen to my mother or father. I have been taking my son to all the walks each year since he was probably 4. It’s something we do every fall, and it keeps my grandfather’s memory alive."
What do you enjoy most about seeing your son involved with philanthropy?
"My parents did very well, so growing up we didn’t have to worry. But for my son, living with me and being so far away from my family, he saw me not eat so he could eat. It is important for him to understand that happens to more people than he thinks — maybe even friends at school. For him to be 10, 11, 12 years old and feeding kids, working at All Faiths, going to the Salvation Army and feeding homeless people, he has a big heart. He can’t walk past a homeless person without asking me, ‘Mom can we help them?’ It’s something he’s so passionate about even at his young age."
Do you have a favorite story about your son and his generosity?
"Right when we moved here, we found out you had to be 12 in Sarasota County to help at the Salvation Army. When we went there to sign him up, they said we couldn’t do it. In the county we lived in before I think the age was 10, a little younger, so he had been doing it before. So he said, ‘Well I can’t feed them, but I have clothes.’ So he went home, packed all his clothes. I was bawling. He saw kids at The Salvation Army on 10th Street and took bags of clothes and toys up there to them on his own."
How did you start Emerge Sarasota?
"I had been going to other young professional groups in town and just never felt welcome — nothing outright disrespectful or anything, I just felt like I wasn’t the type of person they were trying to reach. A friend of mine and I were talking in 2016 and we thought, ‘Hey, we know a lot of people who are in different backgrounds and work industries, why don’t we pool these people together?’"
How has it grown since then?
"We have between 60-80 people that come and go regularly. Then there’s about 15-20 that are at meetings, volunteering, showing up for things. So we have a solid group there of men and women between (the ages of) 25 and 40 that really understand the importance of keeping minorities of all kinds — black, Latino, Asian, all multicultural young people — in town."
How does Emerge Sarasota keep you inspired?
"For me it’s more of a conquering of my fear of starting out in entrepreneurship. (My family) all run successful companies and are self-employed, so for me to start this in my 30s was kind of a light bulb moment of ‘Why didn’t I do this earlier?’ It also opened me up to other avenues of communicating and learning from other people and being more creative. (I’m inspired mostly by) young people who are doing what they love and are called to do it because I was always talented in certain things but I didn’t always do what I was called to do. But I am now."