a closer look: national philanthropy day

Earlier this month, the Council for Resource Development (CRD), a national association of community college fundraising professionals, selected Paul Jr. and Deb Mears to receive its 2013 Benefactors of the Year award. The annual award recognizes the outstanding contributions and service of donors who have made a difference to a community college. They were honored in Washington, D.C., as the top philanthropists for an urban, public college.

The Mears family and Mears Transportation Group have been involved with the foundation for more than a decade and their contributions include an endowed scholarship to benefit students in Valencia’s hospitality management program. Deb has been a valued board member since 2008.

In 2010, the Mears family pledged $1 million to create the Paul Mears Sr. Take Stock in Children Fund. Established in memory of Paul Mears Sr., the fund supports educational opportunities through the Orange County Take Stock in Children program, which is administered at the college. Take Stock helps promising at-risk children succeed through mentoring and a guaranteed college scholarship. In recognition of the gift, the college renamed its West Campus Student Services Building the Paul Mears Sr. Student Services Building.

On the morning of Nov. 22, it was a pleasure to join colleagues and friends at the Association of Fundraising Professionals Central Florida Chapter’s National Philanthropy Day at the Ritz-Carlton Orlando Grande Lakes. The event acknowledges the entire spectrum of services that the nonprofit and civic service sectors provide, as well as the profound impact that philanthropy has on the fabric of society.

Our dear friends from The Retired Air Force, Marine, Army, Navy (RAFMAN) Club received an award for outstanding civic and service group. RAFMAN Club was started in 1974 to unite retired military personnel as a brotherhood and become more actively involved in the community.

Member Arthur Jarvis observed a troubling trend in his church and in his neighborhood: Young African-Americans wanted to go to college but simply couldn’t afford it. Mr. Jarvis brought this to the attention of his fellow members, and, in 1996, RAFMAN Club partnered with Valencia Foundation to begin offering the RAFMAN Club Scholarship. To date, 26 students have received financial support through RAFMAN’s scholarship.

Members of RAFMAN Club at National Philanthropy Day

Members of RAFMAN Club at National Philanthropy Day


Improving access to a higher education through scholarships is a solution that RAFMAN believes in from the top down. Shares club president, George Jordan, “Education is such a simple word with a powerful impact. Education not only opens doors but it breaks barriers and evens the playing field, it increases personal confidence, it boosts morale, improves effectiveness and allows for endless possibilities. Education begins with us, we are the ones who instill the importance of this simple word, we are the ones who tell the young why education is important, we are the ones who encourage and motivate the young to seek education and to utilize it. We set the example for this generation as they will set the example for the next. Our legacy should include our commitment to such a simple yet powerful word, education.”

Mr. Jordan was on-hand to receive the award and told the crowd, “We love giving back to the community.”

Sue Foreman received honor as the outstanding volunteer fundraiser. Sue’s passion for giving back and making a difference has benefited this community through 40 years of service to at least a dozen non-profits. As she demonstrates the power of volunteerism in making a difference to solve community challenges, Sue inspires others to donate their time to local nonprofits.

Sue got involved with Valencia in 1976, as part of a Junior Woman’s Club group working in partnership with the college to create the Parent Resource Center, a family education and support center. She also has volunteered her time and talent to Valencia Foundation as a board director since the late 1980s. And after nearly 30 years on the Valencia board, Sue continues to raise her hand to support every project with her time, talent and resources.

Her continued and innovative commitment to Valencia demonstrates a stellar example of individuals who have made a remarkable difference in the life of this college. But she doesn’t think of herself as a fundraiser. In reality, she is an expert at building authentic relationships.

It was this model of friendraising not fundraising that Sue spoke of while accepting her award. She talked about the joy of a being a donor in this situation, where she is tasked to have fun and talk about these great successes.

Sue and Steve Foreman at National Philanthropy Day

Sue and Steve Foreman at National Philanthropy Day


Sue accepted her award with her trademark verve and soon had the entire audience laughing and smiling with her. She commented that each recipient is doing what they love, and today they are getting an award for it!

The morning was, as always, so moving and inspirational. It is timed perfectly, ushering in our traditional season of thanks and giving. From all of us at the foundation, we appreciate you and wish for you a happy and healthy December.

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