Barzella Papa
President and CEO, Community Foundation of North Central Florida

Seventeen years ago, my husband and I relocated to Gainesville from Washington, D.C. with the thought this would be a temporary stop along our career paths. He was quickly climbing the corporate ranks of a large pharmaceutical company while I had spent five years as a writer in major publishing houses. Newly married, we wanted to escape the traffic of the D.C. area and be closer to our families in Mobile, Alabama. When my husband was offered a promotion to come to north central Florida, we knew this was what we were looking for even though the next career step would take us somewhere else within a few years.

Two years after our arrival in Florida, my husband left the pharmaceutical field to start his own business based in Gainesville and I was introduced to the local nonprofit sector as a volunteer. This community provided us the support and opportunity to step out of our comfort zone and try something new. From outstanding educational institutions and a thriving business community to incredible performing arts events and outdoor excursions, Gainesville was exceeding our expectations. When our daughter and son were born, we knew this would be the perfect place to raise our children. Gainesville became our home.

To meet people and get involved, I joined the Junior League of Gainesville. During my time in the League, I volunteered on fundraising committees and attended leadership sessions to learn new skills. Volunteering gave me the chance to meet people, learn more about the community and tackle new tasks. When the offer to lead the Community Foundation was presented to me ten years ago, I didn’t hesitate to accept the challenge. A new and exciting door opened and I embarked on a different career path learning even more about this vibrant place we now call home.

Greater Gainesville is an incredibly generous and charitable community. Our residents care about our community, our people and our future. This year, the Community Foundation launched the area’s first 24-hour Give Day, The Amazing Give. More than 45 local nonprofits participated in the inaugural event and thousands of residents contributed a total of $286,000 in just 24 hours. For ten years, the Foundation’s Women’s Giving Circle has supported local women and girls through strategic philanthropy raising more than $750,000 in grant support. Most recently, working with the Community Foundation, a donor committed $1.5 million to four local elementary schools to provide mental heath services to children over the next three years. There are countless other stories that inspire us to give back.

With more than 300 local nonprofits working to meet our community needs, there are plenty of ways to get involved. From preparing meals at the Ronald McDonald House or volunteering in the Alachua County Humane Society’s Thrift Shop to reading with 2nd and 3rd graders for United Way or mentoring a student through Take Stock in Children, many organizations offer ways to give back while learning more about this community and perhaps even  opening a door or two. Welcome to Greater Gainesville!

About The Author

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.