Last week I shared the vision of incoming Friendship Centers President and CEO, Erin McCleod. This week Bob Carter takes a wonderful walk down memory lane looking back on the accomplishments of the Friendship Centers during his tenure as President and CEO.
This is a remarkable organization with a team that never slows down on building a strong community resource. Active in so many different areas of support, the staff and volunteers couldn't be more focused on their walking the talk of their tagline - "People Helping People"!
"Sometimes it seems like just yesterday I was spending the day in deep discussion with our founder, Brother Geenen, while visiting the site of our now Venice Friendship Center. That day, 28 years ago, he shared his vision for the Centers, the importance of the mission, and his hopes for the future.
"I value the time I was able to spend in those early years with both him and co-founder Molleen Pust.
"Much has happened since that day in 1988. We’ve built two Senior Services Campuses with national accreditation, created Centers for Healthy Aging and Caregiver Resource Centers as well as created numerous important programs like Friendship at Home and Senior Economic Security.
"We’ve expanded into neighboring counties when other agencies were unable to continue vital services to older adults. We’ve had visits from a Vice President, Senators and Governors, as well as national and international guests trying to understand our volunteer-driven People Helping People philosophy in action.
"Fortunately for our communities, the Friendship Centers has been in the right place at the right time. Demographically, we are in a historical period as the human life span has nearly doubled in the last century. In Southwest Florida, we are actually at the epicenter of a massive, multi-dimensional longevity revolution, with one in three people over the age of 65. The Friendship Centers has been, and will continue to be a major stakeholder and change-agent in all this.
As I transition away from the leadership role of this incredible organization, I am confident it is secure, and ready for its next chapters. We have an incredibly talented and dedicated board, staff and volunteers ready for the challenges ahead. Erin McLeod, the incoming President & CEO, is a very special talent who will continue to move this organization forward. The best is yet to come.
"My sincere thanks to all my past and present colleagues, volunteers, community collaborators, board members and friends who helped make these past 28 years so significant and fulfilling.
"Of special note are the thousands of older adults I’ve had the privilege of knowing and watching their aging process and progress. Many of them have been life-mentors, personal heroes and role models. Thank you again for all your kindness and friendship."
- Robert Carter
Highlights from the History of the Friendship Centers
1973 • Senior Friendship Centers was founded
1988 • The Friendship Center is dedicated in Sarasota on May 8, 1988
1990 • SFC nutrition programs expand to DeSoto County
1991 • SFC dedicates new complex at 2350 Scenic Drive, Venice
1994 • SFC Dining program and senior center activities open at Newtown
Community Center, Sarasota
1997 • Dental Unit opens at the SFC Pat Buster Health Services in Venice
1998 • SFC Lee County expands to include Elder Nutrition program
1999 • SFC’s initial website seniorfriendship.com is launched
• SFC expands into Charlotte County
2003 • Friendship Centers in Sarasota and Venice are among the first five Florida Senior Centers (and only nonprofit) to earn accreditation through the National Council on Aging Institute of Senior Centers.
2004 • Dr. and Mrs. Louis Rubin provide funds to name the Rubin Center for Healthy Aging in Sarasota
2005 • SFC Health Services awarded inaugural Sapphire Award by the Blue Foundation
2006 • SFC receives the Peter F. Drucker Award for Nonprofit Innovation
2007 • SFC becomes Sarasota sponsor of national Elderhostel program and establishes school of lifelong learning
2008 • Caregiver Resource Centers open in Sarasota and Venice
2009 • Organization renamed to the Friendship Centers
2013 • Friendship Centers Host National Economic Security Summit
2014 • SFC co-hosts the first Positive Aging Symposium in Charlotte County
• Economic Security Program launched in Sarasota County
2015 • SFC Selected by National Council on Aging to partner with Verizon and Columbia University on Digital Aging Mastery Program
• SFC selected as one of only three sites to launch Aging Mastery
• FC Collier County celebrates 30 years; changes name to Senior Friendship Health Center