donor spotlight: mears family and mears transportation group

Mears Transportation Group pledged $1 million in support to Valencia Foundation to establish the Paul Mears Sr. Take Stock in Children Fund. Created in memory of Paul Mears Sr., the purpose of the fund is to support educational opportunities through the Take Stock in Children program. To honor this gift, the current Student Services Building, located on the West Campus of Valencia College, was renamed the Paul Mears Sr. Student Services Building.

The Mears family has a long history of support in the local community and their philanthropic reach is wide. As a family-owned business, their giving, both individual and corporate, is personal. Paul Jr. and Deb Mears provide the personal connection between Mears Transportation Group and Valencia. Deb is currently a board member for Valencia Foundation. The family has been involved with the foundation for more than a decade and their giving includes endowed scholarship, major gift, in-kind and event support.

Mears Transportation Group also offers support to the Red Cross and is a founding contributor to the Give Kids the World Village. Deb Mears has served on the committee for the local Festival of Trees and Mears Transportation Group has sponsored the event, presented by the Council of 101 to benefit the Orlando Museum of Art. In partnership with their sister company Hello Florida!, Mears has served as a corporate sponsor for the March of Dimes “March for Babies” charity walkathon.

Even the local little league is a touch-point for their generosity, as Mears Transportation Group is a current platinum sponsor of the Delaney Park Little League. The company is also involved in Mears School Supplies Give-Aways to benefit local children.

To offer response to an international crisis, Mears donated $25,000 to Haiti earthquake relief efforts the day after the tragedy happened. Through employee pledges and a dollar-for-dollar company matching challenge, more than $39,000 was raised, in addition to 8,000 pounds of donated items and supplies.

Started through a handshake between Paul Mears Sr. and founder of Give Kids the World, Henri Landwirth, Mears has provided complimentary transportation for more than 37,000 guests of Give Kids the World Village. Additionally, Mears is a sponsor of Give Kids the World’s Black and White Gala.

The Mears family’s support to Valencia was heightened in the ’90s with the establishment of the Paul Mears Sr. Scholarship to benefit Valencia students in the hospitality management program. The family’s establishment of the Paul Mears Sr. Scholarship has led others to achieve their dreams – an education. After a meeting with the foundation’s executive director in 1994, Paul Jr.’s interest was sparked by Valencia’s hospitality program. He believed an endowed scholarship in this area would be a fitting tribute to his father.

Mears Transportation Group recently pledged $1 million in support to Valencia Foundation to establish the Paul Mears Sr. Take Stock in Children Fund. Created in memory of Paul Mears Sr., the purpose of the fund is to support educational opportunities through the Take Stock in Children program. To honor this gift, the current Student Services Building, located on the West Campus of Valencia College, was renamed the Paul Mears Sr. Student Services Building.

Since 1995, Take Stock has impacted the lives of more than 17,600 deserving Florida students, providing more than 9,000 high school graduates with full college scholarships. The first class of Valencia participants is now in the tenth-grade and will graduate from high school in 2013.

This year’s gift to establish the Paul Mears Sr. Take Stock in Children Fund will continue to transform the lives of future Valencia learners and community leaders – creating lasting, positive changes in our community. One shining example of a life transformed is India, one of ten children in an abusive and substance-exposed home. At age 16, on Christmas Eve, she suddenly found herself homeless. It was a simple question that changed India’s life: Do you want to go to college? India took part in the Take Stock program, graduated from the University of Florida and today is a teacher. Through tears, India shares that if it wasn’t for finding the right path through college and Take Stock, “you probably wouldn’t see my face today. I’d be a statistic. I can’t say thank you enough.” As of March 31, 2011, the foundation has purchased 100 prepaid tuition scholarships for Take Stock in Children. The generous funding from Mears will ensure that for those who think that the dream of college is out of reach, it is actually closer than they realize.

Paul Mears Jr. and his wife, Deb, believe that Take Stock in Children reflects the values Paul Sr. engendered: offering students a mentoring relationship, a hand up and a guaranteed college education based on their academic and personal successes through junior high and high school. With what is often called a “golden touch in transportation,” Paul Sr. founded Mears Transportation Group in 1939 with three taxicabs. Today it is one of Central Florida’s most recognized premier guest services and destination management companies. A family business at heart, his three sons always recall that Paul was an aggressive but fair businessman with the utmost integrity. He believed in doing things the right way and doing them well. High achievement and success were not options; they were expectations. Those same high standards were infused into both the Paul Mears Sr. Scholarship and the recent Paul Mears Sr. Take Stock in Children Fund. In fact, high standards, parental involvement and community support are crucial to Take Stock’s success. Students and their parents sign a covenant to maintain solid grades and refrain from illegal activities, such as drug or alcohol use. Weekly mentor meetings help children to focus on their schoolwork and stay out of trouble.

The Mears family provides encouragement and motivation through their gifts and continues to groom future leaders and career-driven members of our community. This is evidenced in the voices of our students who have received the Paul Mears Sr. Scholarship. One such student, Juan, shares his passion and realized potential made possible through this scholarship: “Without scholarship patrons like you, there would be many students such as myself unable to pursue the career they’ve dreamed of.” After Valencia, Juan plans to transfer to the University of Central Florida’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management. His dream is to establish a career that allows him to “learn on an everyday basis.” This is a perfect fit with Paul Mears Sr.’s expectation of high achievement and continues the pay-it-forward spirit of philanthropy and involvement demonstrated by the Mears family. Transport: to carry from one place to another. Paul Mears Sr. began a small enterprise which has expanded into a large-scale transportation brand. His gifts and philanthropic touch, which he passed on to Paul Jr. and Deb Mears, provide transport of a different sort – carrying those most worthy, and often those most in need, to a new life and success through education.

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