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Paul Welch stands in First Step's newest addition, the Welch Family Foundation Community Room.
Sarasota Thursday, Jun. 12, 2014 8 years ago

First Step Sarasota honors longtime anonymous donor

by: Harriet Sokmensuer Community Editor

Upon meeting him, you’d never know Paul Welch has been a secret Santa for families of First Step Sarasota. However, for the past three decades the humble Bird Key resident has been giving back to his community without any hesitation.

For the last 15 years, Welch has been anonymously funding presents for First Step’s Secret Santa program, which he began with board member Lynne Ross. Every year, First Step clients’ holiday wish lists are collected and, with Welch’s financial support, are granted.

“I never really gave it any thought,” he says of his community service. “I’m so happy that I can do it.”
Welch has been donating to charities for more than 40 years. He began giving back in the ’70s in his hometown of Detroit through Spaulding for Children, a national adoption agency for handicapped children.

In Sarasota, Welch makes donations through his foundation, the Welch Family Foundation. The foundation donates to community organizations such as the YMCA Teen Theatre and the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe.

“I came from nothing and I’ve been very blessed,” he says. “I just want to give back wherever I go.”

Welch started the foundation in 2004 to help his family carry on his efforts. The father of five says the foundation is a platform for his children to see firsthand what a difference one person can make.

“It’s to let the kids know how much the foundation is capable of,” he says, “and to let them know what they can do.”

Although Welch has donated to First Step and other Sarasota charities for three decades, he has never been a fan of recognition. He says leading by example for his children and helping them see what is possible, as well as helping families, is his reward.

In 2012, when Welch heard First Step was planning to renovate its campus, the entrepreneur knew he wanted to help.

“No one was biting, so I thought I would help out,” he says.

Through his foundation, Welch donated $100,000 to support the new addition to First Step. The addition, named the Welch Family Foundation Community Room in honor of its benefactor, is the center’s multipurpose room used for meetings, meals and group activities. Asked how he feels of the recognition, Welch redirects the attention to the community.

“I’m so happy I can do it,” he says, “but there is so much more work to do.”

Contact Harriet Somensuer at [email protected].

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