by Leonela Tasé Sueiro
She has been a volunteer, a teacher, an advocate, and a leader. The legacy of Jean Weiller is one of philanthropy and service.
In 2021, Jean once again proved just how limitless her generosity and passion for our mission really are. Through the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, Jean recently invested $1 million in our organization. This gift is designated to build and furnish the new Art Room and Technology & Robotics Lab at our soon-to-be-renovated Roy McBean Club on the Irving & Marilyn Naiditch Campus, renovation of the Lee Wetherington Club’s Art Room, and the renovation and expansion of our Administrative Building. This transformational gift, supported by discretionary funding from the Community Foundation, will lead to increased impact and capacity by our organization with the creation of state-of-the-art learning spaces for our Club members and capacity-building space for staff. Jean’s contributions and legacy will continue to inspire generosity and enhance the lives of current Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota and DeSoto Counties members and future generations; it will secure Club viability for years to come.
“With an unwavering belief in the next generation, Jean has brought countless opportunities that empower, inspire, and help families and youth realize their full potential,” said Roxie Jerde, President and CEO of the Community Foundation of Sarasota County. “We are grateful for Jean’s partnership and commitment to moving lives forward through education and improving quality of life not only for today’s youth, but for generations to come.”
Since our organization's inception in 1970, Jean has supported major initiatives for positive youth development. From instrumental leadership to altruistic volunteerism and dedication to enhancing our Lee Wetherington Boys & Girls Club, Jean has helped thousands of youth across Sarasota and DeSoto counties achieve their full potential.
In 2016, Jean was honored at our Signature Gala as a Champion for Children of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota and DeSoto Counties, an award, and honor presented to those whose leadership and transformational philanthropy have enhanced and saved the lives of the children we serve. That same year, Jean and her family committed to giving our organization $500,000 in the form of a Matching Challenge if we raised $1 million in new or increased funds by 2020. Thanks to the generosity of our community and supporters, we were able to meet that goal, and as promised, Jean and her family made a wonderfully generous gift to our organization.
The Matching Challenge has allowed the Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota and DeSoto Counties to continue to enhance our quality of programming for the youth we serve and help lead them on a path to achieve their full potential. One million dollars of her Matching Challenge gift was allocated towards our endowment fund and $500,000 was used to support Club operations and new initiatives, such as our Teen Program and state-of-the-art Tom & Debbie Shapiro Career Resource Center.
“Jean has been a staple of Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota and DeSoto Counties since its inception. Her generosity truly knows no bounds as she has willingly given her time, talent, and treasure over the years,” said Bill Sadlo, President/CEO. “Now, her transformational giving is leaving an indelible mark on our organization. This gift through the Community Foundation will transform the learning and enrichment opportunities for thousands of children for years to come. We are so fortunate to be part of her remarkable legacy.”
For Jean, dedicating time and funds to the Clubs is not such a tough decision. “You give where the need is,” she says. Coming from humble beginnings, Jean knows the obstacles children and families might encounter when they don’t have access to technology, education, or safety. It’s why, when she was a volunteer teacher in our art room years ago, she would not hesitate before going out and buying art materials for the kids to use, so that they could take home a Mother’s Day card.
One of her favorite things about teaching art at the Clubs was getting to see who might become a future artist. As a textile designer herself, Jean was passionate about art as a creative outlet and as a source of hope. When she learned that just a few weeks ago, two BGCSDC members were named National Art winners, she was ecstatic. Moments like those are proof of her commitment to the mission and make her proud to invest in our children’s futures.
Things are so different in our world today, and Jean has to prioritize her health, but she wishes she could visit the Clubs again and see how the kids she’s known since they were little have grown into teens, into leaders. At a recent visit to the Club, Jean reconnected with Ghita, a longtime Club member and talented artist who has looked up to Jean since she was 8 years old. Ghita loves to paint, and she knows that it's because of Jean's generosity and commitment to art that she gets to do so at the Club.
"Many kids want to figure out what they love doing. Art is a big part of that for a lot of them. There are kids whose families can't afford paints, paintbrushes, aprons, canvases, and other materials, and I feel that the art room is a really nice space for kids to just express their feelings and create art without having to worry.” Ghita said.
Jean has made a positive impact across thousands of lives during her time with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota and DeSoto Counties. From operational support to state-of-the-art learning spaces to ensuring the next generation of artists have the space and tools to explore their passion and find a positive outlet, Jean’s legacy is one of impact. We invite you to See Yourself Here and recognize the significant impact your support can have on a child’s life. To find out how you can leave your own legacy, contact BGCSDC at www.bgcsdc.org or by phone at 941-366-3911.
ABOUT BOYS & GIRLS CLUBS OF SARASOTA AND DESOTO COUNTIES:
Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota and DeSoto Counties have played an integral role in the lives of local youth for more than 50 years, providing daily programs and services to thousands of young people. The mission of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota and DeSoto Counties is to enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens. The vision is to provide a world-class Club experience that assures success is within reach of every young person who walks through our doors, with all members on track to graduate from high school with a plan for the future, demonstrating good character and citizenship, and living a healthy lifestyle. For more information, visit www.bgcsdc.org or call 941-366-3911.
ABOUT THE COMMUNITY FOUNDATION OF SARASOTA COUNTY:
The Community Foundation of Sarasota County is a public charity founded in 1979 by the Southwest Florida Estate Planning Council as a resource for caring individuals and the causes they support, enabling them to make a charitable impact on the community. With assets of $520 million in more than 1,570 charitable funds, the Community Foundation awarded grants and scholarships totaling $27.5 million dollars last year in the areas of education, the arts, health and human services, civic engagement, animal welfare, and the environment. Since its founding, the Community Foundation has been able to grant more than $350 million to area nonprofit organizations to our community thanks to the generosity of charitable individuals, families, and businesses. For more information, visit www.CFSarasota.org or call (941) 955-3000.