Through his philanthropic lifestyle, Brian Mariash strives to educate, connect and contribute in Sarasota.
Local philanthropist Brian Mariash traces the roots of his passion for giving to Hurricane Charley.
In 2004, the people of Tampa Bay were rejoicing after the hurricane narrowly missed the northern Suncoast, while Punta Gorda and other neighboring cities to the south were feeling the full force of the blow.
Mariash was living in Punta Gorda at the time. He and other businessmen in the area weren’t satisfied with the progress being made to rebuild the town, so they decided to do something about it.
“Nothing was happening,” Mariash says. “The town was in shambles, and the local government wasn’t really able to mobilize the rebuilding effort.”
The men started Team Punta Gorda. As a nonprofit, they began several fundraising efforts, including direct asks, an annual golf tournament and brick naming project. Through these efforts, Team Punta Gorda raised $50,000 to hire a city master planner, and the city’s rebuilding process moved forward.
Team Punta Gorda is what kick-started Mariash’s philanthropic efforts. Now the senior vice president of wealth management at Merrill Lynch’s Sarasota office, Mariash says his workload has philanthropy built into it. He attends philanthropic events, acts as co-chairman for certain fundraisers and donates his time to serve on various nonprofit boards and committees.
“When I moved here, that was always the part I enjoyed most of my workday — the philanthropy part — so I spend a third of my time doing philanthropy,” Mariash says.
Between Mariash and his team, Merrill Lynch attends close to 100 events per year. The causes closest to Mariash’s heart are children, special needs, animals and the elderly.
“It’s groups that can’t fend for themselves,” Mariash says. “I think you have a responsibility to give time, energy and resources to take care of them.”
Mariash started his career as a teacher. He studied music education at Castleton State College (now Castleton University) in Vermont before making a career change into finance and getting his Certified Investment Management Analyst certification at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. His teaching background and love for kids (especially his own three children) go hand in hand with his passion for nonprofits.
While raising his kids, Mariash wanted to pass on the same love of giving. He says one of the most amazing experiences he’s had in Sarasota is watching his daughter giving back. With the stupport of Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium, Lexi Mariash started her own nonprofit called Turtle Inc.
“It’s one thing to see other people doing it (philanthropy), but it’s another to experience it,” Mariash says. “So for me, it’s not just about them watching me participating in the things that I do as much as getting them to actually volunteer.”
He lives by three words: educate, connect and contribute. This mantra guides Mariash throughout his work, personal and philanthropic life. The education part comes from his background in teaching. Connection, he says, is necessary to build relationships with others and the end result, contribution, is to give back.
“Giving back — what it feels like to do something for another person — we are truly wired to do that,” Mariash says. “I think when you’re giving back, that’s when your heart sings and feels most full. I enjoy that more than anything else.”
Mariash has been widely involved with nonprofits throughout his six years in Sarasota. But as he moves forward, he plans to work on saying “no” when needed, and maximizing his contributions and time by supporting organizations that help multiple nonprofits.
“I want to have more impact but be very mindful of time management,” Mariash says. “It’s very easy to get spread too thin, so I’ve been trying to find ways to maximize the amount of impact I give.”
Mariash likes to have fun, but he says his favorite events are the ones that remind guests why they’re actually there — for more than a glamorous dinner.
“I like events that are really about the mission,” Mariash says.