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Foundation leader keeps connection with community strong

Mark Clark brings his passion for family into his work leading the Lakewood Ranch Community Foundation.

Mark Clark says faith and family are the keys to everything.
Mark Clark says faith and family are the keys to everything.
Photo by Jay Heater
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The thump, thump, thump from above echoed through the Mark Clark household in Lakewood Ranch’s Greenbrook community, and since no plumber was working in the upstairs bathroom, there was only one explanation.

The grandkids were having a wonderful time.

It should be noted that it was only a portion of the grandkids who were upstairs. A dozen in all, others were to the left, and to the right, and underfoot.

Clark would not have it any other way.

It was a madhouse in which nobody was actually mad. Mark and wife, Tonna, love their Sundays, when as often as possible, their three daughters and their son bring their families to see Pop and Gia (Tonna’s personal grandma name). The ensuing “pure chaos” is like a Disney ride: the wilder, the better.

Mark Clark, quite content to be on the bottom of a dog pile or watching his grandkids do gymnastics in his living room, shows in an instant that the patriarch of this family could control the tornado when need be.

“Let’s go! Now!” he barks.

In an instant, daughters and sons-in-law and grandkids answer the call, knowing a family photo is going to be taken. The grandkids, ages a few weeks to 13 years, assemble in minutes. 

Mark Clark enjoys Sunday afternoons at his Greenbrook home with his 12 grandchildren, even if it turns into a wrestling match at times.
Photo by Jay Heater

It was a display of why Mark Clark, 59, has been a force as president of the board of directors for the Lakewood Ranch Community Foundation: solid values, passion, a sense of humor and leadership skills. Under his watch, the foundation has gone through some enormous changes, from a name change (Lakewood Ranch Community Fund to Lakewood Ranch Community Foundation), to breaking away from the Manatee Community Foundation to control its assets, to pushing forward on a strategy of organizing more events and having a greater presence in the community. The foundation has had a paid executive director in Adrienne Bookhamer for more than a year. She is the first paid employee the foundation has had since its inception in 2000. Northern Trust was chosen in 2023 to manage the foundation’s funds.

With all that swirling around him, Clark isn’t that much different running the foundation than he is hosting and directing a dozen grandkids. He is fun-loving and laid-back, but when it comes to reaching goals, he is willing to stand up at board meetings and say, “Let’s go! Now!”

Just as his grandkids take notice, so do those associated with the foundation. The 14 other members of the board have differing talents and specialties, as well as differing opinions about the best ways to run an organization that distributes grants to the region’s nonprofits. When push comes to shove, and after hearing everyone out, Clark is OK with making a decision and pointing out the direction, and the other members fall in line to do whatever it takes to fill community needs.

Clark, who joined the foundation in 2020, doesn’t mind saying that the values he uses to keep his family together help drive his decisions as both a businessman (he and fellow managing partner Jeremy Keller run insurance and financial planning firm Prestige Planning in Lakewood Ranch) and as the foundation president. 

“Our core values start with how important our faith is,” he says. “Faith is the foundation at the end of the day, and when the chips are down, you pray about it.”

His core values brought Clark to the foundation. He would have come sooner, but running a large family and establishing security can take a lot of energy, too.

“There is a season for everything,” Clark says.

It’s a new season for the Lakewood Ranch Community Foundation and Clark says the name change was a major step. Using “foundation” in the title means it’s an organization that has a job of impacting the community when the need arises. 

More than $100,000 is expected to be granted in 2024, with those grants being awarded quarterly — another first. The thought is that the foundation will be better positioned to help in times of need.

Jeremy Keller and Mark Clark are managing partners of Prestige Planning in Lakewood Ranch.
Photo by Jay Heater

Part of the foundation’s growth has been the Builders Give Back program. Seven regional builders — Pulte Homes, Anchor Builders, Homes by Towne, John Cannon Homes, Lee Wetherington Homes, AR Homes, and Stock Luxury Homes — all have jumped aboard to provide a $100 donation for each home sale. Schroeder-Manatee Ranch matches each of those donations up to $10,000 a year. The program began April 1, 2023.

Clark started his insurance career when he was 33 after 10 years working in corporate America.

All along the way, family has been his top priority.

“We just pour everything into the kids,” he says. “Where did I get that from? It is just who Tonna is. If you don’t have a family, what do you have?”

Tonna was asked why all their kids chose to live together in East County.

“This is friggin’ paradise,” she says. “But it is a chance to do life together. We go to Disney together. We go on vacation together. Maybe we are the glue. When the sisters have fights, arguments, normal disagreements, they call me. I tell them, ‘You need to fix it.’”

Mark Clark says that love and devotion is returned.

“I go to put up Christmas lights and out will come two of my sons-in-law. It is a special kind of thing. We’re all in. If you need help, it comes in truckloads.”

When it comes to the Lakewood Ranch Community Foundation, Clark hopes that help comes in truckloads as well.

“The foundation is kind of like a family. You take care of your family like you care about no one else.”



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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