Leaders of the pack

Meet the freshest faces of the nonprofit community

If there is one thing about Naples that never changes, it’s that each season there’s always something new.

New restaurants are welcoming new patrons. There’s a new theme (and a new dress to buy) for each of your favorite charity galas. The Philharmonic boasts a new calendar of shows just prime for filling out your new 2013 datebook with.

Come February — regardless of how many seasons you’ve spent here — this town just feels new. Some things, however, will always stay the same, like Naples being a haven for philanthropy. The army of do-gooders putting charity dollars into action is just as strong as it’s ever been — if not a little different. In the past 12 months, the faces leading the charge have changed a bit, but their mission remains the same: Make Collier County a better place to live for all. Here’s a quick guide to who’s who and who’s new in nonprofit leadership this year.

Maria Jimenez-Lara, Grants Director, Naples Children and Education Foundation

Maria Jimenez-Lara 
Grants Director, Naples Children and Education Foundation

Maria Jimenez-Lara Grants Director, Naples Children and Education Foundation

Where were you working before?

I worked in Immokalee for 15 years at RMCA [Redlands Christian Migrant Association], where I was the director of charter schools. One of my responsibilities at RCMA was to write grants, report on grants and track the funding for all three charter schools, so I understand that regardless of where money comes from, it’s a responsibility to receive it. That skill set has been a real foundation for me here at NCEF.

What do you feel you can offer to organizations seeking funding from NCEF?

I think I can help them look at what they’re doing with a fresh pair of eyes. I’ve worked on the other side of the table, so I know what that’s like. NCEF has done quite a bit of research regarding the needs of the community and I hope to be able to listen to both the local organizations and the trustees at NCEF to better help our community’s children.

What have you been up to since you arrived and what are your goals for the year?

I’ve been in this position since June and one of my first goals was to visit every organization that currently receives NCEF funds. It was a very busy summer! Right now we’re gearing up for the Wine Festival so it’s all hands on deck for that. My ultimate goal in this position is to help as many needy children as possible.

What speaks to you about working for the Winter Wine Festival?

I’ve always worked in rural communities with the poorest of the poor. I started my career in Miami working with gang kids. The fact that the Naples Winter Wine Festival is a phenomenal event and it’s a phenomenal organization was secondary. My motivation in moving into this role was the opportunity to help more kids.

Darlene Ann Grossman, Voices for Kids, Executive Director

Darlene Ann Grossman
Voices for Kids, Executive Director

Darlene Ann Grossman Voices for Kids, Executive Director

What were you doing before you joined Voices for Kids?

I spent 16 years at the Foundation for Lee County Public Schools, and in 2006 I left to do some other things. I did some development work in hospice and some freelance work in PR and marketing, and then I decided it was time to come back to the not-for-profit world.

What are some of the challenges facing you in your new role?

Voices for Kids had not had an executive director for several years, so that was a little challenging. Also, I think there’s a lack of awareness on what we do, so I’ve been working on branding and awareness. But we also really need more guardians. Currently there are 1,440 children in the system across all five counties that we cover and 550 of those children don’t have guardians.

Also we need to continue to grow our Kids Being Kids and our Beds for Kids programs. The Kids Being Kids program helps with everyday expenses, maybe they want to take dance lessons or they need money for sports, we will do everything in our power to help make that happen. The Beds For Kids program makes sure that, wherever these kids go — be it a foster home or a shelter — they have their own bed; a space to call their own. So, of course we need to fundraise to support these programs.

What speaks to you about Voices for Kids?

These children are truly innocent. They did not choose to be neglected or abused. The more you know about these kids the more passion you have for them, and that’s something I’m trying to bring to the community.

What have you accomplished so far in this position?

We’ve been working on updating our website and our materials; we’re working on doing a lot of branding. Each year we also do a Voice of the Year award which features one of our guardians, and I’m working on expanding that award so we have one guardian honored in each of the five counties we serve.

Barbara Evans, Director of Development, Grace Place

Barbara Evans
Director of Development, Grace Place

Barbara Evans Director of Development, Grace Place

What attracted you to the job at Grace Place?

I wanted to work at a nonprofit where the mission really spoke to me. Having grown up with a mother who was a nonnative English speaker, I felt I could really relate to the struggles the kids at Grace Place face. Feeling like I believed in the work of the organization was important to me, and I truly feel that way with Grace Place.

Where were you working before?

We moved to Naples in 2010 for my husband’s job, and I took a couple of years off because I have a two-year-old son. Before that, we lived in Detroit where I worked as a Major Gifts Officer for the Henry Ford Health System. And before that we were in San Francisco where my husband went to the San Francisco Theological Seminary and I worked in development for the Seminary. I always joke that while he got his masters at the Seminary, I simultaneously got my masters in fundraising there.

What Have Been Some of the Biggest Challenges So Far?

We need to raise $4 million for the second phase of the Campus Expansion Capital Campaign, which will add 14,000 square feet of classroom and program space. Grace Place hasn’t had someone in my position with a development background, so I am basically building a development strategy from the ground up.

What has surprised you about the job?

I’ve realized that I’m actually working with a lot of the same donors that I worked with in Michigan. There’s a tremendous amount of wealth here and a surprising amount of overlap with donors I worked with in Detroit. The other thing that has surprised me is just how seasonal it is; I consider myself more or less a native Floridian, having spent most of my childhood in St. Petersburg, but this is much, much more seasonal than that.

Tell us about some of your goals for Grace Place.

My biggest goal is to get this capital campaign funded so that we can serve more families. That’s my ultimate goal. Also, part of the new addition will include space for the community to use for a variety of purposes; it will be a defined space where other local nonprofits can meet. Meeting this capital goal will also help us provide an important resource to the community.

Carolyn Bott, Board President, Sunlight Home

Carolyn Bott
Board President, Sunlight Home

Carolyn Bott Board President, Sunlight Home

Out of all the worthy causes in Collier County, how did you get involved with Sunlight Home?

I’ve always had a soft spot for young, pregnant girls. When I was 26 my husband was killed in a car accident and I raised my two young daughters by myself. It was a real challenge, so I understand how hard it is for these young, single mothers. When my husband and I relocated to Florida from the New York area, I left my full-time job behind and had some extra time. I got involved as a mentor to a few of the girls and it’s grown from there.

When did you decide you were ready to take on the board president position?

Three years ago I ended up on the board and then when our past board president — who had been in that role for 17 years — announced she felt she needed to step down to work on new things, I agreed to take it on. I’ve been in the position for just over a year.

What have been some of your main priorities so far?

I felt like no one knew who we were; when I told people about Sunlight Home they’d say, “we never knew that existed.” So one big push has been public awareness. Last year we got a grant from Cause Populi in Miami. They do web marketing and through the grant they redesigned our website and helped us setup a Facebook and Twitter account. That was something we’d never tackled before. The new website launched just after Thanksgiving and it’s so much better than what we had.

I also went to fundraising college at Hodges University to educate myself on better modern fundraising techniques. Even though Sunlight Home is a not-for-profit, we still have to run it like a business and we still need to find people to support our cause.

You came into the organization on the ground level as a volunteer, do you still get to interact with the girls?

Yes, I still spend a lot of time at the house. Thursday night is always pizza night, we go out for pizza somewhere and then come back and watch a movie, and I’ll cook dinner for the girls every now and then, they cook for each other every night. I don’t do the one-on-one mentoring I used to do, but I am still at the home a lot.

What are some challenges for the future?

Summers are really hard. Things get tight for us from a fundraising standpoint. Last year I put on a “Non-Event Event” during the summer to make ends meet. Basically we mailed out a booklet with a “Forty Days in the Desert” theme and told our supporters that we weren’t going to make them eat a rubber chicken dinner or dress up and stand around at a fancy party. They loved it. We got great feedback on that and it really helped carry us through.

The other challenge is the need. We’re almost always full. As soon as one girl leaves another one arrives. We’re the only facility of our type here in Collier County and there’s just such a need for a place for these girls.

Andy Marquart , CEO, Golisano Children’s Museum

Andy Marquart 
CEO, Golisano Children’s Museum

Andy Marquart CEO, Golisano Children’s Museum

You’re new to Naples, how did end up in this position?

The leadership at the museum hired an executive search firm to help them recruit for this position and the firm contacted me. At the time I was serving as the executive director at the Mid-America Science Museum in Hot Springs, Ark. They told me I was on their radar and I told them that I was interested in the position. I came out to interview and I knew this job offered the kind of challenges I was looking for.

What are some of those challenges?

We’ve been open for just over a year and traditionally, after the first year, visitation does drop off a bit. One thing that we’ll be really focused on this year is keeping visitorship stable. So far, our family memberships have been very well utilized and that’s something we want to continue. We know a lot of our members by name and we’d really like to keep that strong connection with our membership.

The other challenge facing a new organization like ours is creating a sound operational structure that focuses on doing well what we do well. It’s important that we stick to doing what we’re good at, which in essence is two things: our daily interactions with the children and our programming for the community.

You’ve been in Naples for just over two months, how do you like it on a professional level?

Collier County is really unique because there is this demonstrated need in a lot of our area but there’s also this very giving community. Working in a nonprofit environment in Collier County you really have an opportunity to reach these underprivileged kids that you might not have elsewhere.

And from a personal standpoint?

It’s great! It’s nice having everything you have here. The people are nice and you can never run out of things to do. I’m truly enjoying it so far!

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