Not Your Average ?Joe?

HELPING THE HEALERS Sacred Heart Hospital on the Emerald Coast, which was just named one of the nation’s Top 100 Hospitals, was a recipient of the St. Joe Community Foundation’s stewardship. Photo courtesy St. Joe CompanyNot Your Average ‘Joe’St. Joe Community Foundation is Putting Big Dollars in Our Community

By Ashley Kahn

It started with a desire to enrich the lives of the people who live in the St. Joe communities. They began by investing in quality health care, superior education, environmental preservation and cultural arts. As the St. Joe Community Foundation enters its 10th year, it has contributed nearly $15 million in grants to build hospitals, support educational initiatives and serve meals to disaster victims.

And that’s just scratching the surface.

“Too often, people will look at landowners and developers and think they’re only interested in what benefits them or their shareholders and not how it may benefit the community,” says Clay Smallwood, president of the board of directors and president of timberland and land sales. “The St. Joe Community Foundation provides an opportunity to see tangible, real, quality change.”

Few corporations have dedicated foundations for community enrichment, and Executive Director Jane McNabb knows this sets the foundation apart. The foundation’s funding comes directly from St. Joe real estate holdings, primarily the sale of residential properties. A transfer fee of one-half of 1 percent from the initial or resale of St. Joe properties is the sole source of income for the St. Joe Community Foundation.

“In foundation law, one is supposed to give away 5 percent of the assets,” McNabb says. “We give it all away because the founders wanted to see lives touched immediately.”

The St. Joe Company donated the land for Sacred Heart Hospital on the Emerald Coast and in Gulf County. The St. Joe Community Foundation subsequently donated cash gifts totaling $7 million dollars to the hospitals.

Another significant partnership with the Salvation Army in Bay County resulted in the purchase of a brand new canteen truck, a veritable survival kit on wheels capable of serving 2,000 meals a day in the event of fire, flood or hurricane.

The St. Joe Community Foundation is working to protect our environment, as well.

“It’s an unusual alliance when you see a landowner or developer working with environmental groups,” Billy Buzzett, former president of the board of directors, says. “They see a company that owns an awful lot of land and an opportunity for each group’s mission to be aligned. We can find areas that we can develop and yet preserve vast areas of land. That’s the fabric of this company.”

The St. Joe Company is dedicated to environmental stewardship, while the foundation sponsors and supports environmental causes.

The company’s largest gift was the land donated to West Bay in Panama City Beach and to the new Panama City-Bay County International Airport that is currently under construction. The foundation is in partnership with the Nature Conservancy of Bay County on the West Bay Sector Plan to protect 33 miles of shorefront and 44 miles of creek and riverfront. The foundation simultaneously is working with advocates of the Audubon Society of Florida who hope to establish a National Audubon Center here.

Education is another primary focus. The foundation is a donor for Take Stock in Children, a program that puts deserving students through college if they keep a B average, graduate from high school and stay drug-free. The foundation also formed an alliance with the Seaside Neighborhood School in 2007 to help fund a robotic competition that a group of sixth-grade students entered and won.

“These young people are really doing a Herculean job, and this is what we need and want to see in education — entrepreneurship, collaboration, partnership,” McNabb says.

The St. Joe Community Foundation challenges the community to get involved and make a difference.

“I would encourage everyone to be philanthropists … step up to the plate and join the game with us,” McNabb says. “After $15 million in contributions, there are still so many needs. We can’t meet them all, even though we’ve been trying.”