Get to know the Philanthropist of the Year finalists

The Philanthropist of the Year Awards are on November 16.

The Tampa Bay community has no shortage of philanthropists, both large and small. Some roll their sleeves up and help lift heavy boxes, some write checks that help keep an organization’s lights on and some provide valuable knowledge on boards and committees.

The companies, and individuals, you are about to read about here do all three.

You probably don’t know most of their names, because they don’t do it for recognition but instead, because they feel compelled to give back to the community they call home.

TBBW designed these awards to help showcase some of the silent “angels” who live among us and to help encourage others to go out and give when, and where, they can, as well.

Everyone has something to offer. Turn around, reach out a hand and help the person behind you.

COVID HERO

Brooke Palmer Kuhl

Brooke Palmer Kuhl

President, RSBP Events and PR

In 2008, Kuhl established RSBP Events and PR, representing some of the biggest names in the restaurant/hospitality industry, including David Laxer and Bern’s Steak House.

Through the recent challenging times for the restaurant and hospitality industry, she relentlessly rallied chefs and owners alike to give back and pay it forward. This resulted in more than 10,000 meals to first responders in the Tampa Bay area.

Her loving spirit and giving nature are contagious and spreads throughout our community.

She’s currently completing her master’s degree in public relations and communications at Georgetown University.

How did you champion philanthropy during the COVID-19 pandemic?

I made it my personal mission to support the needs of restaurants and first responders. I also supported the kids of “Starting, Right Now.”

I invented and trademarked “Takeout Bingo” for 25 neighborhoods in the Tampa Bay area.  I also created restaurant-specific ones for 10 restaurants (most were my clients).

In my first responder project, I spent 12 weeks feeding all different hospitals, nursing homes, fire departments and law enforcement, feeding nearly 10,000 meals. By purchasing the meals from my restaurant clients, I was able to support them while feeding the frontlines. This was all personally funded.

Lastly, I was able to coordinate 70-plus days of meals, for three meal periods, totaling over 4,000, with 20 restaurant partners.

Debbie Lundberg

COVID HERO

Debbie Lundberg

Performance coach,
Presenting Powerfully

Lundberg is the founder and CEO of the Florida-based, national firm, Presenting Powerfully. She serves as a MacDill Air Force Base 927th Air Refueling Wing honorary commander board of directors member, South Tampa Chamber of Commerce board of directors member, Centre Club board of governors member (and former chair), Leadership Tampa alumnus and the Special Needs Family Hour board member. She was recently honored as the 2021 South Tampa Chamber of Commerce citizen of the year.

How did you encourage others during this time to meet the needs of the community?

During COVID and to this day, I’ll happily meet with anyone for a 15- to 20-minute complimentary, confidential coaching session. As I spoke with so many people on the phone, and video, a part of my practice is to encouRAGE, meaning: Reflect, Appreciate, Gratitude, Empathy. By being a person who has that perspective, it was a way to assist with stress relief and lift another person. When someone does that, they can go beyond themselves. If someone feels helpless, they can reach out to another person with a call, text or short video to brighten both party’s day.

I also had the honor of mentoring nine people regarding being a living kidney donor and two of them have gone through with the donation completely. They have my admiration and appreciation for being interested in learning about the process.

Kuleen Shah

COVID Hero

Kuleen Shah

Director of marketing, Lockhart Management Group

Founder, Connecting Tampa Bay

Shah, born and raised in Tampa, established his own company called Connecting Tampa Bay, where he shares his resources, raises funds, obtains auction and raffle items, secures speakers to speak at meetings and more.

How did you champion philanthropy during the COVID pandemic?

During the pandemic, I reached out to partner with We See You and the Dungy Family Foundation. Also, I spearheaded community efforts to provide school workers, cafeteria workers and front-line health care workers with meals. Being instrumental in providing over 1,300 meals and donated over 1,300 materials for local school children, in Tampa.

Can you share a specific story of how you affected the community during the COVID pandemic?

I helped to get reading materials and activity packets to students at Title 1 schools. We also provided meals to teachers, and staff, as a gesture of thanking them for everything they were doing to help students continue their education.

COVID helped us realize, and gave us a reminder, about many important things in life. I am so happy that I could help people during such a difficult time.

Nicole Hubbard

Rising Star

Nicole Hubbard

Regional chief certified nurse anesthetist, TeamHealth

Chief certified nurse anesthetist, Tampa General Hospital

Hubbard has spent 18 years at Tampa General Hospital, TeamHealth’s largest anesthesia practice, and she not only represents 140 of her colleagues but serves on the National Advanced Practice Council as one of four representing anesthetists nationwide where she was just elected as chair elect. She serves as the co-chair for TeamHealth’s Women in Leadership Ambassador program. TGH awarded Hubbard CRNA of the Year for 2020.

What haven’t we asked you that you would like the judges to know?

In October 2019, I was the brainchild of a sleeping bag project for the homeless using recycled operating room materials at TGH that grabbed the attention of the Tampa community. The TGH sleeping bag project repurposes sterile surgical material used to protect operating room instruments that are often tossed in the trash after one use, to make sleeping bags that can help homeless people across the Tampa Bay area keep warm during the winter months.

I collaborated with two TGH preoperative nurses to come up with a sewing pattern for the bag. After that, word spread fast of the project across different departments of the hospital and throughout our community. A network of both TGH staff and volunteers was quickly established, and within one month, we had created 200 sleeping bags.

Matt White

Rising Star

Matt White

President/CEO,
Meter Technology Werks

White obtained a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Central Florida in December 1991. As a young engineer, he worked in that field for the next several years with companies such as Lockheed Martin and Pratt & Whitney as a mechanical design engineer.

In 1997, he accepted a position as an applications engineer supporting the industrial metering segment of what was then ABB Water Meters.

What are the ways you give back and show support for organizations in the Tampa Bay area community?

In 2013 a colleague “volunteered” me for the annual MDA lockup fundraiser. I was inspired by a family I met and how, despite their many health challenges, their spirits and outlook was so positive. It made me realize how truly blessed I was and how my challenges paled in comparison. I worked that fundraiser and went on to serve on their first annual gala committee in Tampa.

I have served as an MDA board member for many years and have served on every gala committee since that first gala. My company, MTW, has been a table sponsor at every gala.

I sponsored and coordinated a fishing event at the local MDA camp for a couple years with some friends of mine.

Jacqueline “Jackie” Zumba

Rising Star

Jacqueline “Jackie” Zumba

Owner & CEO, Jackie Z Style Co.

Zumba is originally from Long Island, New York. She lived there until she was 17, when her family relocated to Sarasota.

She opened her first clothing store on Main Street, in Sarasota. After four years in Sarasota, she decided to move her store to its current location in downtown St. Petersburg.

What are the ways you give back and show support for organizations in the Tampa Bay area community?

There are many ways I give back and show support for organizations in the Tampa Bay area community. I am involved with raising funds for the Salvador Dali Museum, in St. Petersburg. The museum serves as an active resource in the cultural life of the Tampa Bay community. I recently hosted a fashion show at my store, and a percentage of proceeds raised were donated to the Dali. I am co-chair with my husband, Brian Kins, for the Dali museum’s “Suenos De Dali” annual fundraiser. All proceeds will go to the Museum’s vital mission as a non-profit arts and education organization.

In April of 2021, I participated in a fundraising fashion show for the “Heels to Heal” organization. They are a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence, making sure they receive resources necessary for healing. Along with wardrobing the models for the fashion show, I donated items from my store to be auctioned to raise money for this worthwhile cause.

Monica Martino Angel

Individual

Monica Martino Angel

Chief strategy officer, Older Lundy Alvarez & Koch

Executive director, Cure Kids’ Cancer Now Foundation

Angel joined Older Lundy Alvarez & Koch in 2020 and is responsible for the firm’s marketing and public relations initiatives, as well as overseeing the firm’s marketing budget.

She founded, and continues to serve as the executive director for Cure Kids’ Cancer Now Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to funding research into less-toxic treatment options for children with brain cancer.

How do you encourage and motivate philanthropy in others by leadership and example?

Since 2016, I have been visiting D.C., meeting with countless members of Congress to advocate for our children and for better research, retelling our story many times in order to turn our own negative experience into a catalyst for change.

In 2019 and 2020, I wrote language requiring the National Institutes of Health and the National Cancer Institute to place a higher priority on funding the deadlier forms of childhood diseases. Despite my own cancer diagnosis and treatment at the time, I successfully lobbied for this language to be supported, and, in 2020, it was signed into law. The National Cancer Institute has now placed a higher priority on funding research for the deadlier forms of childhood cancer.

Tony DiBenedetto

Individual

Tony DiBenedetto

Founder and chairman,
Think Big For Kids

DiBenedetto has more than 30 years of experience in the technology industry, with a focus on executive management, business innovation and high-impact growth. He is the former CEO of Tribridge.

In 2016, Tony founded Think Big for Kids, a nonprofit organization that provides career exploration, mentorship and job readiness and placement for underprivileged youth

What inspires you to give back so generously?

I started giving back to the community as a young professional but it wasn’t until about 15 years ago that I believe I fully understood my personal motivation. One of the Tribridge team members, Cindy Rowles, asked me to speak at a Rotary Club about the work our company was doing with Boys & Girls Clubs and helping underprivileged teens. During the presentation, I wound up sharing for the first time, in public, about my own childhood and that I had come from a very challenging upbringing. My mom was a heroin addict and I was raised by my grandparents. My grandmother (who was like my mom) passed away when I was 12 and I was surrounded by a lot of crime and drug usage. By the time I graduated from high school, I had lived in 15 different homes.

I believe the experience opened me up to increased self-awareness and made me very appreciative of how much help I had received as an at-risk, underprivileged kid. I became very purposeful, and even more motivated, to give back. It made me a better mentor and ultimately inspired me to establish Think Big for Kids.

Shelly H. Glenn

Individual

Shelly H. Glenn

Chief Growth and Relationship Officer, American Oncology Network

Glenn is responsible for overseeing AON’s referral base management, physician recruitment, patient advocacy and practice engagement as well as driving network growth. Before joining AON, she was the chief development and community partnership officer at Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute.

She is the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s national executive chair of Light the Night as well as sits on the board of directors of the Jack & Jill Late-Stage Cancer Foundation and the American Cancer Society’s “CEOs Against Cancer.”

How do you encourage and motivate philanthropy in others by leadership and example?

Donating is not for recognition, but because it’s the right thing to do. When I learn that an employee, or vendor, is struggling, I ask how they can be supported or helped.

What inspires you to give back so generously?

Seeing the difference a donation, or volunteering, makes is why I want to give back. However, when I was a child, my parents lost a dear family friend to lymphoma and it was the first time I saw my dad cry. That was truly the impetus to want to make a difference for those with blood and other types of cancer.

Connie Henderson Lindsay

Individual

Connie Henderson Lindsay

CEO, Liberty Manor for Veterans

In 2006, Lindsay worked to implement the Liberty Manor for Veterans initiative, the first program of its kind in the nation that promotes the social service needs of veterans who have served the country and fought for independence, but fell victim to homelessness.

What are the ways you give back and show support for organizations in the Tampa Bay area community?

I provide food for 11 other food banks that are too small to perhaps qualify on a larger scale for some of the opportunities that are available. The food banks are located in areas that are less populated and the residents experience difficulty purchasing food at grocery stores primarily because of a lack of transportation.

How do you encourage and motivate philanthropy in others by leadership and example?

I promote “stewardship” whenever possible. I am convinced that we should all give back for the many advantages that we have been given in America. We enjoy freedom of speech and the right to choose what we believe as it relates to our choice of religion.

Danielle Moore

Individual

Danielle Moore

Founder, Sunday Bacon Foundation

Moore grew up in Sarasota. Upon returning to the area, she and her children, Gaines and Baker, founded the Sunday Bacon Foundation to help fuel community change in their new community.

What are the ways you give back and show support for organizations in the Tampa Bay area community?

Earlier this year, I founded Sunday Bacon Foundation. The foundation’s main purpose is to fund, and assist, small nonprofit programs that are directly impacting St. Petersburg and the surrounding areas.

We started by focusing on programs that were helping black, indigenous, people of color, people with exceptionalities and children. We’ve recently expanded with programs addressing conservation, LGBTQ-plus and mental health. My goal was not only to help these organizations financially, but also to offer support, whether it be filling a board position or joining a committee. I’ve had the privilege of accepting two board positions with my grantees and a committee position.

How do you encourage and motivate philanthropy in others by leadership and example?

As a new foundation, I have tried to be as transparent as possible with my strengths and weaknesses to encourage others to do the same. I think a lot of times we get stuck on helping in the perfect way, when an imperfect helping hand is just as meaningful.

Kevin Ricci

Individual

Kevin Ricci

Owner, Covelli Family Limited Partnership

Ricci is also a partner, and owner, of Fresh Kitchen. In addition, Ricci and his parents operate 62 of the 300 Panera Bread locations, encompassed under the Covelli umbrella, which is ranked one of the top 10 restaurant franchisees in the country.

The Fresh Kitchen brand was added to his portfolio after entering into a joint venture partnership with Ciccio Restaurant Group to expand the Fresh Kitchen concept across Florida.

What are the ways you give back and show support for organizations in the Tampa

Bay area community?

Giving back to the community has been in my family’s DNA since our company was founded, more than 60 years ago. I was raised with a strong moral responsibility to give back and consider this to be one of the most important missions in my personal and professional life.

One of my biggest accomplishments was establishing the Panera Bread Knead for Knowledge Scholarship Program, benefitting the Children’s Cancer Center. Since the inception of the program seven years ago, 152 scholarships totaling $455,000 have been awarded to local students who have battled childhood cancer or a chronic blood disorder.

Additionally, our Operation Dough Nation program allows us to help numerous organizations who are making a difference in the Tampa Bay Community.

Patti Ann Templeton

Individual

Patti Ann Templeton

Executive director,
One Community Now

Templeton served as the minister of outreach at Generations Christian Church for 17 years and went on to become one of the founders of One Community Now. She also has served on the board of Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas and West Pasco and the Rotary Club of New Port Richey.

How do you encourage and motivate philanthropy in others by leadership and example?

Because of my activity in the community, I am well aware of both the needs that must be met and the philanthropic individuals who can meet those needs. Beyond just making these connections happen, I seek to lead and inspire by example, rather than be the mere facilitator. I also work to connect organizations to one another, in order to break the “silo mentality” and make Pasco’s human services network more robust.

What inspires you to give back so generously?

First and foremost, I believe that is my duty as a Christian to serve others as Christ served us. As a child, I grew up in a very low-income community which exposed me to a great deal of hardship and struggle. I was given opportunities. Now, I believe in doing for others what was done for me, providing a kind and generous spirit to make the community a better place.

Ronald P. Wheeler

Individual

Ronald P.  Wheeler

Founder, RPW Advisory

Wheeler has developed innovative methodologies of leadership, management and operations over a 35-year career in private and public companies. He currently serves on the board of the Alzheimer’s Association’s Florida Gulf Coast chapter (chairman, 2016-19) and on the St. Pete’s Promise Committee, investing in schools, teachers and children.

How do you encourage and motivate philanthropy in others by leadership and example?

I believe one of the principal pillars of building a culture of fulfillment within any organization is philanthropy. In my role as CEO of my previous company and when I consult with leaders or future leaders today, I extoll the benefits of helping others and bettering your community and making it a priority of any organization. People who help others are happier, healthier, more connected and more cooperative. They find greater meaning in their work and their lives. I try to support others in their charitable endeavors and encourage them by talking about how much it means to me to get involved in something I truly care about.

What inspires you to give back so generously?

When I meet with those experiencing Alzheimer’s, who the Alzheimer’s Association is helping, like my family, or visit a school after a grant has shown real benefits for children, it motivates me to keep helping and encouraging others to do the same. My parents were incredibly kind, and gentle, people who treated everyone with respect and were there for people in need, and I try and follow their example.   

Columbia Restaurant Group

Corporate/Business

Columbia Restaurant Group

How does your business financially provide support for the benefit of the greater Tampa Bay area?

The Columbia Restaurant Group has given more than $3 million to local charities through its annual Community Harvest program. Each September, for the past 24 years, CRG gives 5 percent of each guest check to a charity designated by the guest—at no charge to the guest.

Additionally, through three major events we organize and run, we have raised significant funds. That’s $1.6 million to Moffitt Cancer Center for adolescent and young adult sarcoma research from the first 24 years of “Richard’s Run for Life.” And $710,000 for Moffitt Cancer Center prostate cancer research and treatment from eight years of “Richard’s Father’s Day Walk and Jog.” And hundreds of thousands of dollars to USF athletics from the annual Cesar Gonzmart Golf Tournament.

The company also donates at least $10,000 a year, a portion of private label wine sales, to the University of Florida Small Animal Hospital.

International
Diamond Center

Corporate/Business

International Diamond Center

How does your business provide strategic philanthropy, or charitable investments, that are transformational and are aligned with the core values of your business?

Since opening International Diamond Center’s doors, nearly 30 years ago, [owner] Keith Leclerc’s ambitions have always gone far beyond the diamond business. “The Lord has blessed my family and our company,” he says, “and we will always live by the motto, ‘To whom much is given, much is expected.’ ” This spirit inspired Leclerc, and his family, to give back to all of the communities that IDC’s stores serve, in a consistent and authentic manner. Hence, he is very proud to introduce the Fifth C Foundation.

The Fifth C Foundation was created to provide a meaningful impact regarding IDC’s philanthropic efforts. IDC’s core values include honesty, integrity, compassion, refuse to lose and giving back.

How do you take measures to aid in the employees’ ability to volunteer and give?

We encourage our employees to support the nonprofits that speak to them. If there is an event an employee would like to support and participate in, IDC will get involved.   

It is important that we support the passions of our employees and encourage them to become part of their community.

Florida Blue

Corporate/Business

Florida Blue

How does your business financially provide support for the benefit of the greater Tampa Bay area?

Florida Blue and the Florida Blue Foundation enable healthy communities by making grants, building coalitions and rewarding best practices to nonprofit organizations whose efforts support our mission of helping people and communities achieve better health. In 2020, Florida Blue and the Florida Blue Foundation generously supported the Tampa Bay area by supporting more than 130 various organizations totaling an amount more than $2.2 million.

How does your business provide strategic philanthropy, or charitable investments, that are transformational and are aligned with the core values of your business?

Our Florida Blue Foundation recently refreshed its strategic plan and updated our objectives and focus areas. We prioritize our resources to improve the health outcomes of Floridians, while aligning our efforts with community needs and serving as a thought leader and trusted partner in our communities.

Through three new strategic “Drivers of Health,” we believe we are firmly positioned to make a difference in the health of individuals and communities in Florida through our philanthropic resources. Our foundation focuses its funding priorities on these three areas that have a significant impact on the health of Floridians: Food security, health equity and mental well-being. As we look at the magnitude of the challenges presented by COVID-19, we remain focused on the individuals, families and communities in need, even more so, after this pandemic.

GTE Financial

Corporate/Business

GTE Financial

How do you take measures to aid in the employees’ ability to volunteer and give?

GTE Financial employees work, play and live in the communities we serve, so it’s only natural that we give back. And our members really rally behind us, too.

In 2019, employees of GTE provided more than 4,800 volunteer hours to local charities and community organizations. Our executive and leadership team members volunteer on boards and committees, providing long-term support for some of Tampa Bay’s most impactful charitable organizations like the Boys & Girls Club, Tighten the Drag Foundation, American Heart Association, YMCA and Southeastern Guide Dogs, just to name a few.

Just one piece of our philanthropic efforts is our monthly charity program where we focus our efforts on one charitable organization per month throughout the year. Fortunately for GTE, our team members rally around each organization to provide support through fundraisers, personal contributions and volunteerism. In 2020, GTE Financial was able to raise $140,000, for 12 organizations that needed our help.

How do you show community leadership to help build prosperity, equity and well-being through the Tampa Bay area community?

The bones of our industry are formatted to help people. At GTE Financial, we are ready to serve our community and work every day to positively impact Tampa Bay. Working with organizations around the community has an incredible impact on people’s lives.

TECO Energy

Corporate/Business

TECO Energy

How does your business financially provide support for the benefit of the greater Tampa Bay area?

For over 100 years, TECO has developed a significant legacy of investment in our community through financial contributions and volunteerism. Our participation, and support, impacts where we live, work and serve. We believe we can make a difference. We want our customers and employees to experience that difference our investments are making to create stronger communities. We are strategic, and intentional, with how we partner and have identified the following community investment priorities: Youth programs and education, wellness and well-being, cultural vitality and growth and innovation.

During 2020, TECO Tampa Electric and TECO Peoples Gas provided more than $1 million to support Floridians in the communities they serve who have lost their jobs or substantial income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The contributions went to a variety of nonprofits, across Tampa Bay, that provide education, health care, food, childcare and many other necessities to those in need.

In addition to these contributions, TECO Tampa Electric and TECO Peoples Gas invested $500,000 in the “Share” program, administered by the Salvation Army, to help support customers who could not pay their utility bills.

Tomlin St. Cyr
Real Estate Services

Corporate/Business

Tomlin St. Cyr Real Estate Services

How does your business provide strategic philanthropy, or charitable investments, that are transformational and are aligned with the core values of your business?

We believe in and help the community by focusing on giving every child a chance to realize their potential. We’ve done that with the Boys and Girls Club of Tampa Bay. Many of these children do not have mentors or even parents at home, at the end of the school day. The Boys and Girls Club helps less privileged children, particularly after school, making sure they do their homework, teaching them leadership skills, social skills, including hot meals, coaching, mentoring and hope for a bright future. The Boys and Girls Club instills values that are consistent with being successful in their adult life.

We also participate and invest in Junior Achievement and Finance Park, which teaches children how to use their finances so that they can be fiscally responsible. It also helps them discover career options for the future.

Tomlin St. Cyr Real Estate Services is also actively supporting organizations that are supported by our agents because we want to encourage our agents to be involved in the community as well. We will offer financial support for any activity, or event, that our agents are doing in the community from a charitable standpoint.

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