To join the list of public ambassadors, philanthropists and community members on the quest for “regional change for common good” is Southwest Florida Community Foundation’s new Scholarship Coordinator, Melanie Holaway.
Hailing from Nebraska, Holaway moved to Southwest Florida 20 years ago to a pursue a career in hospitality. Soon after she found herself working in early education as a preschool teacher at Lee Memorial HealthPark and Child Care of Southwest Florida’s early childhood program at Edison College, which is one of the reasons she was drawn to the Southwest Florida Community Foundation.
“My past experience was with early education, so that plus the college aspect of it felt like a natural fit,” Holaway said over the phone. “On top of that, I read [CEO and President] Sarah Owen’s monthly article in the Florida Weekly and have been very impressed with her leadership. I want to serve the county and community, and this organization is highly respected.”
With over $80 million in assets, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation has been serving Hendry, Collier, Lee, Charlotte and Glades counties since 1976. Through the years, they have been able to give nearly $60 million in grants and scholarships to high school seniors, undergraduates and local organizations.
“We support everything from people to animals, art, education and more,” Holaway explained.
In 2014, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation awarded a combined $450,000 in scholarships to 84 students, as well as $782,803 in grants to local non-profits – a 181% increase from 2013.
While they hope to even further increase grants and scholarships in 2015 and beyond, Holaway says this first year she won’t make any drastic changes from the back-end of the system: “This first year I plan on just going along with the process we already have. We may change the software but for now we’re going to keep everything the same to make sure we learn the process well, and that it runs smoothly.”
This year there are a total of approximately 70 obtainable scholarships, and each has different requirements ranging from specific county to race, gpa, high school, gender, or financial based, so students are encouraged to check the Southwest Florida Community Foundation’s website for potential scholarship opportunities. Applications opened on Dec. 19, 2014 and will remain available until March 2, 2015. For more information, visit www.floridacommunity.com/scholarships.