About our members
The best asset of The Venice Golf and Country Club is its members. They are creative, fun loving and caring people. They enjoy a lifestyle which includes looking after themselves and each other. And since 2005, they have also been helping to look after those in need who live outside the VGCC gates.
It all started in 2004, when a small group of residents got together to organize a community foundation dedicated to providing financial assistance to local charities that serve South Sarasota County. They had the advice and assistance of the then-president of Gulf Coast Community Foundation, who was also a resident of VGCC at the time.
This philanthropic endeavor, started as a member-driven campaign to help others, will soon celebrate its 20th anniversary of "Giving Beyond Our Gates." Along the way, our members have discovered ways to enhance their giving spirit by "Connecting Beyond Our Gates." We will highlight some of their experiences here and hope you find them inspiring.
"Connecting Beyond Our Gates"
About a year after the death of my husband, over 8 years ago, I found myself struggling for a focus in my life. Golf, yoga, lunch and committee work were not filling the void left by the loss of Mark. I needed something worthwhile, something that would make a difference. I was aware of the Guardian ad Litem program (GAL), through a friend who had previously volunteered. I knew it was a program that advocated for children who had been removed from their homes and placed in the court system. Google gave me the information I needed to begin my journey into the most rewarding volunteer experience of my life.
I contacted the 12th Judicial Circuit Court in Sarasota County, was interviewed, accepted as a volunteer, trained, and assigned to a case manager, who assigned me my first case, a 4-year-old little girl with drug addicted parents, a common cause of court intervention into family situations. Each state has its own Guardian ad Litem procedures. The Florida State office uses a team approach. Each volunteer works with an attorney and a professional case manager in advocating for the child. It is the volunteer who works most closely with the child, with monthly home visits, regular contact with teachers, and oversight of medical care. Fun outings are also encouraged: an occasional movie or dinner out is encouraged. It is the volunteer’s job to know the child, their needs and wishes, and it is the volunteers who are the backbone of the Florida Guardian ad Litem system. The volunteer assists in providing the judge with information necessary to determine the best placement for the child.
My initial case, and the one closest to my heart, took a lengthy and convoluted 4-year path to its closure, which I consider to be a fairytale ending. She was returned to her parents, removed again, placed with a close relative and ultimately adopted into that family where she joined two younger brothers and lives happily today. She is now a lovely young lady, almost 12.
Needless to say, all cases do not end this way. Over the course of my almost 9 years as a GAL, I have had cases lasting a couple of months, a couple of years or any timeframe in between. I will say that they have all ended acceptably. One important lesson I learned in my training is that we cannot expect that outcomes deemed acceptable will necessarily meet our level of expectation. Okay can be okay. It’s not a perfect world.
Another organization, The Children’s Guardian Fund, works closely with the GAL Office, providing funding for life’s little extras, that can be largely missing from the lives of children in the court system. Among other things, The Children’s Guardian Fund pays for sport teams, dance and music lessons, holiday gifts, back-to-school back packs filled with supplies, and summer camps. One small but meaningful project was to supply each child in foster care with a handmade pillowcase, something of their own to take with them when they were assigned a new placement.
ABOUT BEVERLY: She has been a member of The Venice Golf and Country Club since 1999. She joined the Foundation Board of Directors in 2022 and previously served on the Grants Committee from 2015-2018.
Our Foundation has long supported Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Sun Coast, and VGCC member Harriet Thompson has been a volunteer there for many years. In 2022, she was was recognized as their Big Sister of the Year.
“I was hesitant at first about becoming a Big Sister,” Harriet said. “What did I know about children, never having any of my own. What did I have to offer a child, and was I good enough? I soon discovered you do not have to be perfect (lucky me). I think the most important quality of a 'Big' is to listen, to share your life experiences, good and bad, and to sprinkle fun times along the way.”
Harriet and Amanda, Harriet’s Little Sister, have been together for about 13 years. “If I didn’t have Harriet in my life, I would most likely rely on others to get me where I want to go," Amanda said when asked where she thinks she would be today without Harriet. "Early on in our relationship, I struggled a lot with people’s opinions of me, and without her, I would listen to what others would say or think about me. Harriet has taught me how to stand up for myself and not care about other people’s opinions. Because of her, I’ve been more comfortable being my true authentic self.”
Visit Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Sun Coast to learn more.
Peggy Jarvie is one of those special people who found that connection by volunteering as a resource advisor at the Venice Women’s Resource Center (WRC). A 2023 VGCC Foundation grant recipient, WRC’s mission is to engage, educate and empower women of all generations. “We live in such a beautiful, amenity filled area,” says Peggy, “and yet almost 40% of our local families don’t make sustainable wages. And women are overrepresented in that population.”
Based on the clients’ individual needs, WRC weaves together programs such as career development, resource connection, mental health services, post-secondary scholarships, legal/financial education, mentoring, and direct financial support. As to the $5,000 granted to WRC by the VGCC Foundation for 2023, these funds will be used for two postsecondary educational scholarships for clients who have completed core portions of WRC programs and wish to pursue higher education. This is a wonderful example of our VGCC donor dollars at work!
“With over 2,000 clients serviced each year, volunteers are critical to achievement of our mission,” says Ashley Brown, WRC’s President and CEO. “We train our resource advisors such as Peggy to empathetically greet potential new clients, evaluating emergency needs and initiating client needs assessments. And some of our best volunteers are snowbirds!” While some clients require mental health counseling or even emergency housing, others are seeking guidance on how to get back into the workforce. “I spend some of my volunteer time organizing the clothing closet at the Venice WRC location,” says Peggy. “I also collected bundles of clothing from my VGCC friends that are greatly needed and appreciated by women interviewing for new jobs or starting work with a new employer. I was really looking for a way to stay connected to our local community beyond our gates and the WRC mission is a great fit with my professional background.”
“While other organizations offer services to women, the WRC is the only organization on the Gulf Coast that offers such extensive targeted services under one umbrella for individuals,” says Ashley Brown. “By blending a wide range of services, we can meet the distinct needs of each individual. We analyze the needs of each client, develop personal growth plans, give emotional support, educate, train and open doors to additional services through referral. The two scholarship recipients supported by the 2023 VGCC Foundation grant are well on their way to financial self-sufficiency and greatly improved emotional health.”
Contact Peggy Jarvie at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about women’s clothing donations or other ways to support WRC.