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Community Fund distributes $71,000 to 21 organizations

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  • | 4:00 a.m. October 24, 2012
Joy Mahler, CEO for Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Sun Coast, accepts a check from Lakewood Ranch Community Fund Board Member Garrett Shinn, during a ceremony Oct. 19.
Joy Mahler, CEO for Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Sun Coast, accepts a check from Lakewood Ranch Community Fund Board Member Garrett Shinn, during a ceremony Oct. 19.
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LAKEWOOD RANCH — Every dollar counts.

As local not-for-profits continue to hunt for funding, the Lakewood Ranch Community Fund is fulfilling its mission to connect philanthropic-minded individuals with worthwhile causes, helping to ensure local charitable organizations have the funding they need to serve the community.

The Community Fund Oct. 19 granted $71,000 to 21 charitable organizations, including Meals on Wheels PLUS of Manatee, Easter Seals of Southwest Florida, B.D. Gullett Elementary School, the Center for Building Hope, Manasota SOLVE, Project Light of Manatee and more.

“If it weren’t for the (support of this organization and others), we wouldn’t be in existence,” said Nick Drizos, board president of Sarasota-Manatee Association for Riding Therapy (SMART), as he accepted a check for $2,500 to pay for 100 riding lessons.

SMART, now in its 25th year, provides horseback-riding lessons to children and adults with physical and mental impairments. Drizos said the organization charged $25 per lesson to 300 clients last year, although lessons cost SMART $80 each. Plus, he said, 61% of riders can’t afford to pay for services.

“The scholarships mean the world to us,” he said. “The community has been wonderful.”

Joy Mahler, president and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Sun Coast, agreed.

“We wouldn’t be able to reach as many children (without this grant),” she said, noting the organization will use its grant dollars for a program, called Gateway to Success, to help middle-school students transition to high school and prevent dropouts.

This year, the Community Fund received 42 applications, with requests totaling $180,000, Community Fund President Diane Brune said. Grant priority was given to organizations that focus on: arts and humanities, community development, education and health-and-human services.

Since 2002, the Lakewood Ranch Community Fund has awarded more than $750,000 in grants to local charitable organizations, with 227 grants now awarded. Throughout the years, 77 different organizations have received grants, she said.

The Lakewood Ranch Community Fund is a charitable fund under the umbrella of the Manatee Community Foundation. Its mission is to enhance the quality of life in and near Lakewood Ranch by promoting philanthropy and granting funds to deserving organizations.

For more information about the fund, visit

Contact Pam Eubanks at p[email protected].

Marinaccios ‘Humanitarian of the Year’
MGA Insurance owners Lou and Anne Marie Marinaccio moved their business from Chicago to Lakewood Ranch in 1999, in the early years of the community’s growth.

Now, more than a decade later, their company has more than 50 employees and has been a driving force in supporting the community.

The couple was honored Oct. 19 with the eighth annual C. John A. Clarke Humanitarian of the Year, from the Lakewood Ranch Community Fund.

“They have been instrumental (in supporting) the community through their time and financial support,” said Bob Borkowski, who headed up the Community Fund’s Humanitarian of the Year Committee.

Lou Marinaccio helped create the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance and is a past president of the organization, while his wife previously served as a board member for the Community Fund. Both have supported organizations such as the Peyton Wright Foundation, Best Buddies, American Cancer Society, Honor Animal Rescue and the Lakewood Ranch Community Fund, among others.

“This is a community that gives back to the people, and that’s why we’re here,” Lou Marinaccio said. “We are humbled by the award. We will continue to do what we can. You people make a difference. We will try to help you make that difference, as well.”

Grant recipients:

Grant recipient | Amount
B.D. Gullett Elementary School |  $3,380
Big Brothers Big Sister of the SunCoast | $5,000
Center for Building Hope | $5,000
Community Haven for Adults and Children with Disabilities | $3,500
Easter Seals of Southwest Florida | $5,000
Family Resources | $3,000
Foundation for Dreams | $5,000
Goodwill Foundation | $4,065
InStride Therapy | $2,500
Junior Achievement of West Central Florida/Manatee Chapter | $2,350
Manasota B.U.D.S. | $2,929
Manasota SOLVE | $2,800
Manatee Community Action Agency | $3,006
Meals on Wheels PLUS of Manatee | $5,000
Miracle League of Manasota | $2,500
Payton Wright Foundation | $1,000
Project Light of Manatee | $970
Sarasota Manatee Association for Riding Therapy | $2,500
Stillpoint House of Prayer | $5,000
Tidewell Hospice | $3,000
We Care Manatee | $3,500



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