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Lakewood Ranch-area nonprofits have high hopes for the Giving Challenge

East County nonprofits hope Giving Challenge allows them to make a greater impact.

Lisa Burns, the owner of Farmhouse Animal and Nature Sanctuary, spends time with Valentine, one of the horses at the sanctuary. Burns says every donation makes a difference at the sanctuary. Photo by Liz Ramos.
Lisa Burns, the owner of Farmhouse Animal and Nature Sanctuary, spends time with Valentine, one of the horses at the sanctuary. Burns says every donation makes a difference at the sanctuary. Photo by Liz Ramos.
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Dave Burns, co-owner with his wife Lisa of the Farmhouse Animal and Nature Sanctuary in Myakka City, has been hard at work constructing new habitats for their prairie dog and tortoises. 

The couple has been able to start construction of a new classroom and habitats using the funds they received from the Giving Challenge in 2020.

Now they’re focused on using funds raised through this year’s Giving Challenge to build an isolation area to help animals when they get sick. The sick bay will cost about $20,000. 

“We don’t actually have a nice little hospital room for animals when they’re sick,” Lisa Burns said. “Because so many of our animals are seniors, there are times when we have to be able to isolate them and treat them. It’s difficult for us because the barn can get noisy, and it stresses them out.”

The Giving Challenge provides funds to more than 700 nonprofits through Sarasota and Manatee counties, including dozens in the Lakewood Ranch area.

The Giving Challenge is from noon April 26 to noon April 27. The event is held by the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, and the Patterson Foundation will match donations between $25 and $100. 

“It’s a neat thing for the whole community to come together the way it does,” Lisa Burns said. “You see a lot of individual fundraisers and events, but this is 700 different nonprofits. If you want to support something with kids or if you want to support something with animals, there’s something for everybody.”

Besides the new habitats and the sick bay, any donations through the Giving Challenge also will be used if one of the sanctuary’s 106 animals needs to see the vet or if they have to create a home for a new animal. 

Friends of the East Manatee Library is hoping the Giving Challenge will help the nonprofit meet its $65,000 goal to help provide programs and extras at the 50,000-square-foot library, which is scheduled to open mid-2023 on Rangeland Parkway in the park adjacent to Premier Sports Campus in Lakewood Ranch. 

Sue Ann Miller, the president of the Friends of the East Manatee Library, said the money will allow the nonprofit to provide professional development for librarians as well as purchase equipment including a self-checkout machine and furnishings, such as tables, chairs and bookcases. A self-checkout machine can cost about $22,000. 

Giving Challenge donations will be used to support the various programs, such as a summer reading program for children, storytime sessions and creative aging classes. 

“People don’t know that so much is supported by the Friends,” Miller said. “We’re kind of the quiet folks in the back making it happen.”

Miller said Lakewood Ranch residents can’t wait for the library to open because residents tried to have a library built 25 years ago but were not successful in the endeavor. 

“With all the growth here in the county, it’s amazing how many people are here and not just people like me who are retired but families as well,” Miller said. “To have a library close, especially for parents to bring their children for family time, it’s all about convenience.”

For some nonprofits, like Beyond the Spectrum, a nonprofit education and therapy center for children with special needs, the Giving Challenge is the biggest fundraiser of the year. 

Lora Carpenter, the executive director of Beyond the Spectrum, said 100% of the proceeds from the Giving Challenge go back to the nonprofit’s students to provide therapies.


“Any size donation that comes through allows us to provide more therapies," Carpenter said. "We can have more sessions or longer sessions and ensure the children are getting the best quality they deserve. It helps us operate from year to year on a small budget.”

Besides providing in-house therapy at Beyond the Spectrum, funds from this year’s Giving Challenge will help the nonprofit build two playgrounds.

“We’ve never been able to have them,” Carpenter said. 

Lisa Burns, Miller and Angela Massaro-Fain, the president of Sisterhood for Good, all said the Giving Challenge will give them an opportunity to spread awareness about their nonprofits.

Sisterhood for Good, a nonprofit that provides grants each year to other nonprofits within Sarasota and Manatee counties, depends on member dues and donations to be able to support its grants program. The more people know about the organization, the more the nonprofit is able to receive donations to assist the community. 

“Sisterhood for Good is an all-volunteer organization,” Massaro-Fain said. “We have no salaries. We basically have no overhead. Every year when we raise money, 100% of what we raise goes back to the community.”

In June, Sisterhood for Good plans to give away $75,000 in grants to local nonprofits, compared to $44,000 from last year. Massaro-Fain said she would love to be able to give out $100,000 next year with the help of funds raised during the Giving Challenge.


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