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Ranch fund seeks more directed giving

LAKEWOOD RANCH — Last October, the Lakewood Ranch Community Fund awarded $79,972 in grants to 17 local organizations, heavily weighted toward youth, seniors and families.

The largest share, $30,000, went to the Lakewood Ranch YMCA for teen outreach, and a number of smaller grants went to Easter Seals of Southwest Florida, Center for Autism Resource and Education and other organizations.

But with more than $200,000 in requests, many needs went unfunded.

“There is a tremendous need in Lakewood Ranch for charity work,” said Keith Davey, who assumed the presidency of the fund June 1. “There are a lot of organizations that need support. These economic times are not what we would like. We need to get contributions from businesses and residents to support the community.”

Given the state of the economy, the Out East Gala, which in the past has helped raise money for the fund, was canceled last year.

“We will most likely do a gala next year,” Davey said.

Nick Drizos, who serves on the fund’s planned giving group, said developer Schroeder-Manatee Ranch got the fund off to a good start with seed money and its partnership with General Electric.

GE, which became a community sponsor in 1994, has contributed 1 percent of the price of all its appliances installed in Lakewood Ranch homes.

In May, LWR Communities reported that GE’s most recent annual contribution was more than $8,000, bringing its total to almost $250,000 thus far.

GE is the single largest donor to the fund since its inception.

Drizos said fund officials don’t want to compete with charities by hosting a lot of fundraising events but rather want to help them with their needs.

One approach is by encouraging residents who are able to set up a donor advice fund, with a minimum gift of $10,000, where interest can be directed to a specific charity.

“You can set it up now and see some of the good it does,” Drizos said.

Residents are also being asked to consider the Lakewood Ranch Community Fund in their wills.

The Lakewood Ranch Community Fund has had a value of about $1 million in recent years, and historically interest from the fund has been used for charitable grants.

“We gave out a little less last year because of the economy and the difficulty raising money,” Davey said.

Fund officials know that if they can enlarge the pool of money they have to work with, they might be able to fund more requests.

Lydia Kolbas, a certified financial planner, has been a fund volunteer for about 10 years.

“It’s interesting to see how the needs ebb and flow,” she said.

The fund is administered by the Manatee Community Foundation.

For more information, call (9441) 556-5442 or visit www.lwrfund.org.

James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee Editor, can be contacted at 745-7021.

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