Engaged Philanthropist Award

This award will recognize an individual who has distinguished himself or herself in the nonprofit community by engaging entrepreneurial skills and expertise to build or support a successful nonprofit endeavor. Examples may include: Utilizing a keen business sense to build a new nonprofit serving our community; providing the driving force for a unique and successful fundraising campaign to support an existing nonprofit organization’s initiative. A short essay on the nominee’s impact is necessary at time of nomination. Candidates may nominate themselves or be nominated by others. The top candidates that have achieved the most votes via an online poll during the voting period will be further researched by an impartial judging panel to decide the ultimate winner.

Read the essays for each nominee, then cast your vote for this category below.

NOTE: The essays below have not been edited and are presented as originally shared by the author. They may contain grammatical or spelling errors.


YES! of America United, Inc.

In 1996 Becki Forsell suddenly went from being sighted to being blind. She took one the toughest challenges that life could throw at anyone and made it a victory of strength and courage. That journey of self-discovery taught her that we are not defined by our body’s limitations, but by our aspirations and dreams. In 2002 she formed a nonprofit called YES! (Your Enrichment Services) of America United. YES!’s motto was to offer “A Hand up, not a Hand Out” for those like Becki living in Tampa. Becki has grown YES! into a successful community outreach organization promoting diversity, inclusion and disability awareness. She is constantly engaging our community, educating them that persons living with disabilities need to be seen for the abilities they have to offer. All people need to be needed, and that principle guides her as she reaches out with YES! volunteers providing outreach, encouragement, and engagement. Her dream the YES FAIR (Family Ability Information Rally) has grown to over 2,000 participants with and without disabilities receiving information and support from 200 vendors. YES!’s Disability Awareness Program in the schools continues to thrive. Holiday Smiles, a program providing food and gifts to the less fortunate has reached over 700 families and individuals. She continues to travel to Tallahassee each year to advocate for people with disabilities. YES!’s Spring Fling, a fun community outreach for people with disabilities continues to grow. She has added a fun resource and referral event for Seniors in the summer. She has added outreaches for youth, Veterans, Seniors, the needy, and prisoners at Coleman Prison in Bushnell to her agenda. In addition Becki is a true advocate serving on a number of Councils/Boards and she and her volunteers attend a multitude of community and partner events each year spreading the word.

Educational Support & Developmental Services, Inc.

JerJuan Green is a remarkable person who used his background in engineering and aeronautics to start a successful non-profit organization in St. Petersburg. After serving four and a half years in the United States Army, earning his A.A. at St. Petersburg College and achieving a bachelors in electronic engineering from Florida A & M University, JerJuan began a career at Kennedy Space Center working on space exploration projects such as the Mars rover. When NASA was downsized, he returned to St. Petersburg and, drawing upon his educational experience, began tutoring youth in Pinellas County in the subjects of math and science. His services were so sought after by teens that a colleague took notice and decided to purchase property for the purpose of providing space for JerJuan to start an out of school time foundation. With the creation of Educational Support & Development Services, Inc.; and through a strategic partnership with the Virginia M. Leonard Community Education Center, JerJuan has now successfully built a non-profit founded on the principals of providing resources for all youth to achieve academic success. This year, JerJuan coached a team of his young people as they participated in “The Brain Bowl”, an academic competition hosted by the Florida Education Fund. The team took second place in the Mathematics portion of the competition and, as a result, all team members received a scholarship to any Florida public university of their choosing. As the center has grown in capacity and more staff added, JerJuan has decided to join Boys & Girls Clubs of the Suncoast in the role of Club Director. This strategic partnership allows JerJuan to directly impact even more youth as he continues to make a difference in the lives of the young people of our community.

Academy Prep Center of Tampa

For over 30 years, Nancy has practiced marital and family law. Her firm, Harris, Hunt & Derr, P.A., resolves complex family law matters using the collaborative divorce method. Nancy is involved with the Tampa Bay Academy of Collaborative Professionals, the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals, the Florida Bar Family Law Section, and the Hillsborough Association of Women Lawyers. Nancy’s commitment to serving children and families expands beyond her profession. For the last 8 years, Nancy has supported Academy Prep Tampa’s (APT) students through her love of the outdoors. Nancy and her friends summited Mt. Kilimanjaro in 2010, completed the Tour of Mont Blanc in 2011, reached Everest’s Base Camp in 2014, traversed England in 2015, and trekked the GR20 trail in Corsica in 2016. In 2017, Nancy and her friends hiked the mountains of Bhutan, a landlocked country in Asia. Her love of hiking isn’t her only motivation. Nancy treks across the globe, inspired by APT’s students. Her hikes are mentally and physically exhausting, requiring determination and preparation. Nancy’s motivation comes from knowing APT students face the same challenges every day in their academics. The students’ educational journeys are full of rigorous curriculum, accountability and long days; much like the daily challenges Nancy faces on her hikes. As an advocate for APT, Nancy inspires her friends to sponsor her trips to benefit APT students, who receive a private middle school education. Through her friends’ support, Nancy has raised more than $93,000 for APT’s student scholarships. As a celebration, Nancy hosts a party to thank her tremendous support circle. APT students are invited to attend and share the impact the school has on their lives. Nancy previously served on the board of trustees for APT. Nancy fully commits herself to serving Tampa Bay through her profession and dedication to APT’s students.

Beat Nb

Kyle Matthews has made use of his entrepreneurial skills to help KIDS beat cancer. After losing his son Ezra to neuroblastoma cancer in 2010, Matthews and his wife Robyn founded Because of Ezra, a nonprofit focused on beating neuroblastoma through innovative clinical trials and research. After growing this group for 5 years, Matthews helped to lead the unification of 4 separate nonprofits founded by other neuroblastoma parents, to form what is now Beat Nb – a national 501c3 which has directed over $6m to research since 2010. Growing the brand and network over the past 8 years has positioned Beat Nb as “the” neuroblastoma-focused nonprofit. The “Because of _____” program has brought over a dozen additional neuroblastoma families alongside Beat Nb in various markets to continue our growth. These families share their stories, as well as all of our stories, and fundraise in their own communities to ensure the continuation of the research we’re doing. Kids on the clinical trials Beat Nb is helping to make happen are showing over a 90% survival rate – up from a historic 60%. This growth has happened all with a single full time employee (Matthews, as Executive Director) – embracing the hustle of entrepreneurialism to make the most out of limited resources. Beat Nb is truly beating neuroblastoma.

Embracing Our Differences

Dennis McGillicuddy’s vision, integrity and commitment have helped make our community a better place to live. He’s an active philanthropist, a wise counselor, a standard bearer of integrity and civility, and one of our community’s most respected leaders. Dennis embodies the original meaning of philanthropy: the love of his fellow man. In 2003, the Florida Holocaust Museum asked Dennis and his wife, Graci, to co-chair Co-Existence, a traveling outdoor art exhibit of large-scale works created by artists from around the world. Dennis was profoundly touched by Martin Neimoller’s poem in the exhibition catalogue: “First they came for the Communists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a Communist; then they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a Socialist; then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a trade unionist; then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out — because I was not a Jew; then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.” Those words moved Dennis and Graci to launch the locally based Embracing Our Differences (EOD). The couple soon recruited a 25-person steering committee from all segments of the community. Within a year, they raised sufficient funds to stage the exhibit and a series of workshops and seminars confronting inequality and discrimination. Although many people contributed to the success of this first event, Dennis’ leadership helped make it a community-wide effort. Fifteen years later, EOD is one of the most successful educational projects in our region, reaching more than 2.7 million visitors and 318,000 students. Thanks to Dennis, people of diverse ages and backgrounds know what it means to care for each other.

Babe Crafted

Through their membership program targeting women entrepreneurs and women-owned businesses in Tampa Bay, Babe Crafted has assembled a core of powerful and driven women who support each other — but support their community as well. Each quarter, Gina selects a local nonprofit organization whose mission supports women and girls, and donates a portion of her event proceeds to them. She hosts volunteer days that bring her membership to that organization for service and shared learning. And she provides her members with connections to those nonprofit organizations so they can give back independently as well. They have worked with Dress For Success Tampa Bay, CASA St. Petersburg, Girls Rock Camp St. Pete, The Centre For Girls, The Centre For Women, The Spring of Tampa Bay, & Trusting The Process FL. She’s a dynamo of influence and promotion, but she’s using her nascent following and her magnetic, undeniable personality for good in Tampa Bay.

Girl Scouts of West Central Florida

Are you man enough to be a Girl Scout? Jonathan Moore has proved to be! Jonathan’s journey with Girl Scouts started like many men, as a supportive father and husband, when his wife, Victoria, became the troop leader for their daughter Lillian. In the supporting role, Jonathan participated in Girl Scout activities and saw firsthand the meaningful impact it had on the lives of his daughter and her friends. Jonathan’s entrepreneurial spirit and passion for Girl Scouts collided when he took on a new role to help Girl Scouts of West Central Florida in a multi-year, council-wide strategic visioning process for its outdoor program and properties known as Her Vision of Tomorrow. His company, InVision Advisors, helped the council develop a property vision that promotes the mission of Girl Scouts with engaging and vital program delivery that best uses its properties to meet the program needs of girls both today and for generations to come. As a girl-led initiative, Jonathan and his team are making the girls’ dream camps a reality by incorporating their feedback into the execution. They’re coordinating with local businesses, engineers, contractors, builders and our higher education resources to bring this project to life. Jonathan is ensuring that the projects of Her Vision of Tomorrow are the highest quality with girl safety a top priority. He has recently expanded his reach by bringing the same dynamic outdoor experiences to other girls throughout Florida through work with neighboring Girl Scout councils on similar architectural projects. As a true champion of girls, Jonathan wants to ensure more girls are able to enjoy the newest additions to the camp properties. To that end, Jonathan and his wife are serving as the honorary co-chairs of the upcoming Dessert First event to raise funds for Girl Scout Summer Camp scholarships.

Hidden Creek Farms

She safes all of these animals for no have money and tries to adopt them out she has like 23 horses and seven eight nine dogs and she tries to adopt every one of them out and have them fixed and everything gets vaccinated and everything should go on the side of the road and save these animals she’s had this problem adoption agency going on for years and she does everything to save any kind of animal for her nonprofit organization. She has a heart of gold.

Starting Right, Now (SRN)

SRN Founder/Executive Director Vicki Sokolik engaged our community to execute multiple expansion projects for her 100% privately funded foundation without wasting resources. At Haven Poe, SRN’s housing facility in Hillsborough County, homeless unaccompanied youths access free stable housing. Through the county, SRN pays $1 annual rent. With the Beck Group, Vicki renovated the downstairs, upgrading floors, bathrooms, and kitchen, and adding two suites for house managers. In 2016, partnering with Wharton-Smith Construction Group, Vicki completed the secondary renovation upstairs at Haven Poe, adding bedrooms/bathrooms to serve more students each year (totaling 37 new students annually). Vicki was able to get the entire $900,000-cost of construction donated in kind. In 2017, SRN expanded into Pinellas county, encouraged by the Mayor and Superintendent. Vicki partnered with Ajax Building Corporation to renovate the former Harris Tips school, rented to SRN by the Pinellas County School Board for $10 annually. Two former classroom buildings were remodeled into dormitories, for females and males each, totaling 42 beds. The campus includes a house manager suite, common area, kitchen, computer lab, staff offices, and training center. Through in-kind donations, Vicki was able to complete this $1.2 million project with no expense to SRN. All vocational work was done by licenses subs from the builder. Painting was donated by the Tampa Bay Rays Foundation. Landscaping was donated by Sunset Bay Landscaping. In 2018, SRN obtained ownership of a building in West Tampa to move headquarters closer to both housing properties. Suffolk Construction built seven offices, a tutoring center, and a kitchen/break room. Landscaping and painting were similarly donated. This project totaled $750,000 with no expense to SRN. Because of Vicki’s entrepreneurial resourcefulness, SRN’s raised funds are able to go directly to programming, rather than into buildings over which we have no ownership.

Tinsworth Orthodontics

Dr. Steven Tinsworth has a long and dedicated history of community philanthropy. He served as a catalyst and community leader, assisting Manatee County and the City of Bradenton Water Departments to obtain fluoridation in the drinking water. His direct involvement tremendously benefited public dental health for current and future generations. He has served as Board Secretary for Take Stock in Children. In addition, he provides leadership as a member of the Take Stock in Children Development Committee and he serves as a mentor to a high school student. His philanthropic voluntarism compassionately extends to leading the Bradenton Kiwanis Foundation as President for the past 3 years. He serves food to the homeless and disadvantaged through “Our Daily Bread” located at the Turning Points Center. He has a 20-year history of serving and continuing to serve as a Salvation Army bell ringer and as a Boys and Girls Club tree sales assistant. He is part of the local leadership team for the Remote Area Medical USA team that provides direct medical care to people without access to health care. His highest value is to serve those in need. His dedication to local community organizations combined with his self-sacrifice of personal time and professional expertise has resulted in making our community exponentially better than when he first moved to Bradenton over 40 years ago. The breadth and depth of Dr. Tinsworth’s community involvement, toward helping others is unmatched. He is a role model that leaves a lasting and inspirational impression on everybody he comes in contact. He has the respect and admiration of the greater Bradenton area community leaders. This community is very fortunate to have a philanthropic leader, who many consider a personal friend, with his genuine dedication, generosity and compassion.

Julie Weintraub’s Hands Across the Bay

Julie Weintraub established Hands Across the Bay in 2010 as a means to assist hardworking families in need and advocate for survivors of Domestic Violence. She prides herself in keeping her promise that the donations from her supporters are going directly to assist families and other small organizations in the community. Gold & Diamond Source, the company Julie and her husband Steve own, donates the cost of their office space, most of their supplies and the majority of their staff’s salaries. Julie also personally guarantees that her time and efforts at Hands Across the Bay are 100% volunteered. Despite being a small organization, Julie and her team have worked miracles in the Tampa Bay Area.

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