Charlotte Community Foundation Newsletter  |  April 2021

Table of Contents

CEO Letter

Ashley Maher

Your CCF Team

Staff Addition

COVID-19 Grant Recipients

Higher Education  Scholarships

A Year of Connection, Strength, and Resilience


April 2021

When I think back over this past year during the COVID-19 pandemic, more than anything I am in awe of the connectivity that has come from it and served as a critical lifeline for our community.

I’ve thought a lot about the idiom that hard times and adversity makes your stronger; however, while in the thick of trying times and hardships, it can be hard to see how that strength can follow.

But then I stopped and really thought about strength, especially in the context of the last, tumultuous year.

I started to re-assess my assumption about who this letter would be directed to.  When I looked up how the dictionary defined the word strength— “the emotional or mental qualities necessary in dealing with situations or events that are distressing or difficult.” Contemplating on the changes we have seen in the world since the start of this pandemic, I gained some clarity over where our organization and communal strength is derived…

With us, the people of our community.

There is something to be said about recognizing that people have the ability to build resilience—to be able to bounce back from a difficult experience or crisis and to be as strong, or stronger, than ever before.

We talk a lot about resilience in our line of work.  There are programs and classes taught on how to build more of it as a mechanism for growth.  It’s a good thing to have, no doubt, and more than ever, this year has taught us all that life lesson.  It has been trying. We have lost people, been tested, quarantined, socially distanced, and masked.  We have been challenged to change our attitudes, perspectives, and everyday activities.  I can see how easy it would be to get lost in this, to get discouraged.

Instead, despite all of this, I’ve seen our community come together and embrace this change, pivoting and figuring out collective ways to support each other as we navigate this change, with a resolute focus on improving.  Through this community resilience and collaboration, this year has certainly shown us a few things…

  • Uncertainty and fear of the unknown can either paralyze us or motivate and inspire us 
  • Focusing on our strengths and coming together during times of adversity is paramount
  • The world needs more peacemakers, advocates, creators, and thinkers
  • Growth can and will follow set-backs through collaboration

Throughout all this, Charlotte Community Foundation and Charlotte County collectively has adapted pretty quickly to this new normal. We shifted to distribute COVID-19 grants, worked from home, and are utilizing new tools and technologies to try, as best we can, to limit interruptions to our ability to support our community.  Being connected to you is the bread and butter of why we exist. I know I can speak for myself and my colleagues when I say that as much as we have done to adapt to this new, temporary way of doing things…we really miss seeing you and are looking forward to moving towards integrating safe ways to incorporate more of that back into our operations.

I am proud and inspired to see my colleagues and this community jump right into action, finding ways to get through this. But the truth is, this resolve, this grit, this call to action – that’s something that has been inspired by all of you.

In the last year, through the unpredictability, the frustrations, even the isolation we’ve learned a whole lot about what makes up that remarkable word – RESILIENCE. While it’s impossible to know when or if things will ever return fully to the normal we knew, I plan to celebrate the little things that have been interwoven in the fabric of our everyday lives as we move closer to it. 

Ashley Maher
Chief Executive Officer
Charlotte Community Foundation

Your CCF Team

Leadership Team

Ashley Maher
Chief Executive Officer

Suzanne Herron
Chief Financial Officer

Justin Brand
Director of Community Engagement

Amber Bistarkey
Communication Associate

Georganna Dodd 
Administrative Assistant

Gayle Ross
Administrative Assistant

2019-2020 Board of Directors

Lew Bennett 

Brenda Lynch 
Vice Chair

Kim Savasuk 

Robert Peterson

Laura Amendola

W. Craig Esterly

Bill Hawley

A. Jill McCrory, Esq

Lucienne Pears

Mark Draper, Esq

Sarah Desrosiers

Mary Byrski
Immediate Past Chair

Welcome the Newest Member of the Charlotte Community Foundation Team

We’re thrilled to welcome Amber Bistarkey into her new role as our Communication Associate here at Charlotte Community Foundation!

We’re thrilled to welcome Amber Bistarkey into her new role as our Communication Associate here at Charlotte Community Foundation! 

Amber holds a B.A. in Communications, with an emphasis on Public Relations and minor in Journalism from Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers, FL.  Prior to joining CCF, she spent eight years in her field of study in various businesses including Walt Disney World and Rotonda Golf and Country Club. “I’m excited to utilize the tools I’ve developed over my career in order to help such an amazing organization continue to serve the community in which I grew up.”

Ashley Maher said of the new hire, “On behalf of the Board and my fellow colleagues, we are thrilled to welcome Amber to our CCF family.  Amber’s vast knowledge, Charlotte County roots, and professional experience will round out our dynamic team.  Her focus will be on marketing, communications and public relations that will springboard the foundation during this transformative phase.  We are looking forward to our continued growth, building upon our organizational impact, presence, and accomplishments. By identifying and bringing forth innovative solutions to the communities most pressing needs, we continue in our mission to ensure a thriving quality of life for all of those across the paradise in which we live in here in Charlotte County.  Connecting People who care with causes that matter”.

COVID-19 Response Grant Recipients

In response to the COVID-19 Crisis, CCF adapted existing Community Investment Grants process and instituted an interim grant cycle to meet community nonprofit needs related to the pandemic.

In order to be eligible for this funding, organizations and programs had to demonstrate impacted need with measurable outcomes. Grant distributions during this cycle totaled nearly $300,000.

“We are exceptionally thankful to have had the opportunity to pivot our grant cycle to distribute funds specifically addressing immediate needs associated with COVID-19.  We have all been effected by this pandemic so it was an amazing opportunity to be able to counter and contribute something positive during this time.  Staying true to our mission of Connecting People Who Care with Causes that Matter became even more critical while navigating these unprecedented times.  Building community resilience is at the core of what we do here at CCF,” Justin Brand, Director of Community Engagement.

COVID-19 Response Grant Recipients

Charlotte County
Healthy Start Coalition, Inc. 

Amount of Grant Awarded: $6,857

Charlotte Preparatory School 

Amount of Grant Awarded: $10,000

Englewood Helping Hands, Inc. 

Amount of Grant Awarded: $15,000

Loveland Center, Inc. 

Amount of Grant Awarded: $10,000

Military Heritage Museum 

Amount of Grant Awarded: $15,000

Tidewell Foundation Inc. 

Amount of Grant Awarded: $6,500

Valerie’s House 

Amount of Grant Awarded: $10,000

Virginia B. Andes 
Volunteer Community Clinic 

Amount of Grant Awarded: $9,880

Wintergarden Presbyterian 
Church Food Pantry  

Amount of Grant Awarded: $15,000

Additional funding awarded through HUG and COAD

2021 Higher Education Scholarship Recipients


The Charlotte Community Foundation (CCF) proudly awarded our annual Higher Education Scholarships to students across Charlotte County amidst a global pandemic.  This could not have been done without the generosity of the many donors who have established Scholarship Funds, allowing CCF the opportunity to award a total of $137,200 to 42 local individuals enrolled in higher education programs this year, totaling $600,000 awarded to-date. 

The CCF Board of Directors noticing the need to provide more opportunities to individuals seeking general education fields of study, unanimously recommended to award an additional 5 students from the Board designated Leo Wotitzky Memorial scholarship. This action by the Board was unprecedented and will increase the award scholarships from that fund to a total of 8 very qualified and deserving recipients. 

This year’s scholarship cycle brought about an additional milestone by receiving the highest number of graduate and doctorate-level applicants. CCF is thrilled to be in support of these applicants, who both contribute to our local economy and aid in raising the educational caliber of our region.

“The Charlotte Community Foundation is pleased to announce that 42 students will be receiving scholarship assistance for a total of $137,200 for the 2021-2022 academic year. These represent the largest number of scholarships and the largest total amount of dollars in scholarships ever awarded by the Foundation,” said Dr. Robert Peterson, CCF 2021 Scholarship Chair. “These scholarships will be very helpful in providing financial assistance to the recipients as they begin or continue their educations to become nurses, doctors, EMT’s/Paramedics, dentists/dental workers, engineers, teachers and business leaders. As a result, many lives will be affected in the future from the skills these recipients will be acquiring. We are also very appreciative of our donors for their tremendous generosity in making these scholarships available.”

Scholarships 2021-2022 Recipients

Cherian Family Scholarship:

(2) scholarships for female Charlotte County high school graduates attending post-secondary educational institution or technical program

Recipients: Amy Enberg, Gianna Cetrangelo

(1) scholarship for female Charlotte County high school student attending a 2-year or 4-year post-secondary education institution in the medical field 

Recipient:  Lexi Pickett

David Gerdel Memorial Scholarship:

for Charlotte County public high school graduates entering the field of engineering or physical science.

Recipient: Colby Gielow

Dennis Munholand Memorial Scholarship:

for Charlotte County high school seniors entering the field of dentistry

Recipient: Ana Beltran

Health Professions Scholarship:

for anyone entering or attending a two-year or four-year EMT/paramedic or nursing program at Florida Southwestern College, Charlotte County campus, or Charlotte Technical College 

Recipients: Emma Sweiderk, Megan Winter, Morgan Barham, Tamara Paul, Emily Anderson, Kellie Redmann, Kaitlin McCausland, Lucita Gomez, Davon Keyes, Chelsea Raines, Laura Yepes, and Jamie Gonzales

Jennifer A. Young Family Scholarship:

for any high school student interested in pursuing a career in education

Recipients: Trinity Gohl and Sara Drake

Karen Wynn Memorial Scholarship:

for any Charlotte County resident wishing to pursue a career in Real Estate 

Recipient: Jessica Howard

Leo Wotitzky Scholarship:

for Charlotte County high school graduates attending post-secondary education institution or technical program 

Recipients: Justin Rotolo, Stephen Donaldson, Fanny Arnyek, Raphael Maunahan, Dylan Hogan, Krista Leo, Tyler Caron, and Talon Bottonfield.

Nora Penton Beatty Nursing Scholarship: 

for students participating in a nursing program or applying to participate in a nursing program 

Recipient: Nicole Pulaskie

Nursing Scholarship:

for students participating in a nursing program or applying to participate in a nursing program 

Recipients: Hannah Roushia, Sabrina Lefebvre, and Penelope Thacher

Virginia B. Andes Healthcare Scholarship:

for Charlotte County public high school graduates, residents or employees entering their 3rd or 4th year in a health care related field 

Recipients: Mary Calitri, Vincent Bauer, Taryn Morneau, Nicole Allen, Samantha Martinez, Lorri Norman, Kaylee Marr, Bianca Vales, Bana Jarrah, and Jenna Dunakey

“We are honored to announce these scholarship awards, which reflect the importance of moving forward in the pursuit of personal growth and service to the community in which we live. These scholarships can often alleviate the financial stressors facing students who might otherwise not be in a position to seek higher education, especially in tumultuous times such as these. I am continuously humbled by our donor support, which allows us to Connect People Who Care with Causes that Matter. I would also like to thank the reviewers who volunteered their time and industry expertise to the process.” – Ashley Maher, Charlotte Community Foundation CEO.

CCF donors, scholarship recipients, and the general public are encouraged to attend the upcoming Virtual Scholarship Reception taking place in April.  Hosted by CCF, this event will highlight and celebrate the current year’s recipients, as well as provide an opportunity for the foundation to recognize our donors and the many volunteers who reviewed a record of over 200 applications this year.  More information including exact day, time, and how to access the reception will be released in the coming weeks.

The Charlotte Community Foundation Higher Education Scholarship cycle begins open calls for applications in December, 2021. More information on scholarships and their individual requirements is available on the Scholarship Section of our website.  The next call for applications will be released in the Fall 2021. 

Information on how to create your own Scholarship Fund can be found on our website or by calling our office directly at (941) 637-0077.


Your donations to this program could give the gift of a successful education to struggling students.