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Side of Ranch

New Lakewood Ranch Community Fund president takes the helm

Mark Clark says he wants to build the momentum that outgoing board President Nicole Ryskamp began.

Mark Clark took over June 1 as the new president of the Lakewood Ranch Community Fund.
Mark Clark took over June 1 as the new president of the Lakewood Ranch Community Fund.
Photo by Jay Heater
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It was early in 2020 and Mark Clark, the managing partner at Prestige Planning, had joined the Lakewood Ranch Community Fund board.

Admittedly, he didn't know a lot about the LWRCF until he was introduced to it by East County Observer Associate Publisher Lori Ruth, who at the time was a board member.

Clark was asked what prompted him to actually join the LWRCF.

"Lori Ruth," he said quickly. "She didn't just tell me I needed to join. She told me I had to join."

Clark, who on June 1 became the nonprofit's president, taking over from Nicole Ryskamp, is glad he listened.

It wasn't long before he saw the LWRCF break with its own tradition by awarding $150,000 to local nonprofits — outside of its normal grant cycle —  that were involved in COVID-19 response and recovery.

Among the recipients was Tidewell Hospice, which was given $10,000 to buy electronics equipment that was used to allow family members who couldn't have an in-person visit during COVID-19 to have a 3D virtual experience.

Clark was struck by the compassion of his new nonprofit and it made him want to become even more involved.

That desire increased as he began to visit nonprofits that benefitted from LWRCF grants. He would talk with family members of the nonprofits' clients about what those grants meant to them.

"Whenever I join something, I am all-in," Clark said. "I was all-in."

Now he is all-in as president, and he agreed this will be one of the most important years in the LWRCF history.

Under Ryskamp, the LWRCF made some bold moves, such as adding two major events each year — the Wine and Giving event and the Run for the Beads 5K — to raise money to add to its grant fund. The LWRCF also started the "Builders Give Program," where seven builders operating in Lakewood Ranch agreed to be a fund partner.

Upon the sale of a home, the builders will make a $100 donation to the LWRCF in the buyers' names. The new owners also will receive a welcome to the community letter, explaining the mission of the LWRCF.

Clark understands the importance of the latter.

"I didn't know the fund was here," he said of his time in the community before 2020. "It probably was the best kept secret in Lakewood Ranch."

He said it is essential to continue marketing the LWRCF so that the area's residents know how to connect with nonprofits.

"People are looking for the opportunity to connect with a nonprofit organization and the Lakewood Ranch Community Fund is one of the most valued resources to help them do that," he said. 

During his work as a financial planner, he said his clients often want to be connected to charitable support.

"I didn't realize we had an organization with boots on the ground in Lakewood Ranch that would help them with that connection.

"And I was not aware of the depth of the need."

He said he finds people continue to move to the area because of a family culture. Supporting nonprofits is part of that culture.

"To have a healthy community, you need to have relationships with its nonprofits," he said.

Clark said he doesn't feel stress trying to continue the momentum built by Ryskamp.

"Absolutely, this is an exciting time," he said. "If you are not growing, you are dying. And I am excited because of the great leadership, and great people, we have on our board. These are people who aren't just looking for something to put on their resume. They are committed to being involved."

He said one of his main goals is to get more people involved in the effort. Building a volunteer corps will be key, and he said that was proven by the formation of subcommittees for both the wine event and the 5K run.

"We are going to need volunteers for other events, and we need to find ways to making committees fun. As important as (monetary) contributions are, we need those volunteer contributions. You've heard the saying, 'Time is money?'"

Another huge goal for Clark is to expand community partner programs, such as "Builders Give Back." He is hoping to connect with other businesses that have flourished as the Lakewood Ranch community has grown.

"Our community is made up largely of service-based companies," he said.

The education component, telling residents of the need of those utilizing the nonprofits and how to support them, again will take a concentrated effort. 

"People need to know things like autism touches all socio economic classes," he said.

Once people learn about the need, he said it is likely they will help the effort.

"We all are so busy, and we all have our heads down," he said. "People just need to be plugged into the needs of the community."

He is optimistic the LWRCF will continue to grow. 

"I want to treat this like a business, with marketing and connections. We need education resources, funding resources, and passion resources. We need more videos, more blogs."

He has great hope with the builders embracing the partnership with the LWRCF, saying it shows their passion is about building communities and not just homes.

And he has another reason for wanting to succeed in his one-year term as the LWRCF president.

"Nicole set the tone for this," he said. "I don't want to let her down. I don't want to let the community down. We are going to continue to build, and we are going to continue to connect."



Jay Heater

Jay Heater is the managing editor of the East County Observer. Overall, he has been in the business more than 41 years, 26 spent at the Contra Costa Times in the San Francisco Bay area as a sportswriter covering college football and basketball, boxing and horse racing.

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