Mark Pritchett, president and CEO of Gulf Coast Community Foundation. [Herald-Tribune archive / Dan Wagner]

One of the area’s most prominent public charities recently ensured the financial future of several community programs.

Gulf Coast Community Foundation’s board of directors approved more than $5.8 million in grants and scholarships last week for various local organizations. The funding, which was approved at the final board meeting of the foundation’s 2018 fiscal year, included more than $3.8 million in grants from donor advised funds, as well as $508,000 in scholarship awards.

“We’re thrilled, during a record year of new gifts, to be able to put out this much money to the region,” said Mark Pritchett, president and CEO of Gulf Coast Community Foundation. “We hope to impact everything from mothers carrying babies, to the school system that has older students who need reading skills, to the Sky YMCA in Venice that needs money for low-income families to help children through early childhood education.

“We’re hitting a wide variety of important issues in the community and we’re just thrilled for our donors and board to continue on a record pace of getting money back out to the region,” Pritchett said.

The foundation has invested more than $35 million into the community over the past year between endowed funds, which are at the board’s discretion, and the hundreds of donor-directed funds, which are administered in partnership with philanthropists, according to Pritchett.

Among the recently approved grants are five leveraged grants, which address specific regional priorities identified by the foundation through community assessments, that total $289,500.

The board approved $97,000 by way of a leverage grant to Ringling College of Art and Design and Sarasota County Schools to support the design and pilot testing of innovative classrooms for intensive language arts education for struggling high school students in the county. The funding will be split so that $60,000 goes to Ringling College for classroom design, and $37,000 is awarded to the school district for professional development and teacher support.

There will also be $40,000 for United Way of Charlotte County to support the new position of collective impact manager, who will oversee initiatives that serve vulnerable women, such as mothers of substance-exposed children, women who are unemployed and experiencing health challenges and homeless women; $27,500 was approved to the Gulf Coast Partnership to address homelessness in Charlotte County and to implement a coordinated entry system into housing and services for female veterans and chronically homeless women and their children; $25,000 was also approved for the Van Wezel Foundation to support the planning phases of the organization’s campaign to create a world class performing arts center.

Among the organizations set to receive a leverage grant is the Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation, which will receive $100,000 in support of the First 1,000 Days Sarasota County initiative, which helps families get better access to medical, emotional and wellness services.

The funding will help to establish a Patient Navigator Program at Sarasota Memorial Hospital while supporting outreach and education to help vulnerable mothers and families access prenatal, newborn and early childhood development care.

“Gulf Coast Community Foundation’s generous financial contribution in support of First 1,000 Days Sarasota County complements the staff time and brain power that they have already invested in this important initiative,” said Teri Hansen, president and CEO of Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation.

Hansen sees the Patient Navigator Program as the first big step toward improving the system.

“Gulf Coast Community Foundation’s generous investment brings us much closer to providing a continuum of care for families in our community — especially the underserved,” Hansen said.

Gulf Coast also awarded over $139,000 in community and sponsorship grants, including a $20,000 grant to The Sky Family YMCA in Venice, which will be used to sustain scholarships for low-income families to participate in children’s programs at the Y, such as early learning, childcare, summer feeding and youth sports.

“We live in a very generous community of people who have big hearts for good causes and smart minds who want to impact people and this is a great representation of their philanthropy to make that happen,” Pritchett said.

For more information about First 1,000 Days Sarasota County, you can go to Barancik Foundation website at

For a full list of grants approved by the Gulf Coast Board, go to