—— 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! —— CHARLIE LANE—— Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, University of Florida Imoved to Gainesville in 2014 after working in Los Angeles at the University of Southern California for more than 20 years. It was a big decision. Before moving here, I knew Gainesville was home to a great university but I didn’t know a lot about the town itself. After a bit of research and a few visits, my wife and I knew that it would be a great place to raise our two young daughters. Obviously, there are some sharp contrasts between L.A. and Gainesville; my family and I love the change of pace and scenery. Where USC occupied a large city block just southwest of downtown L.A., the University of Florida – as a land grant university – boasts 2,000 acres of land, ranging from the historic and stately academic core on the east to the beautiful views at Lake Alice farther west. You don’t get that in L.A. The lush green surroundings and outdoor spaces in Gainesville and the region are refreshing. Paynes Prairie, Devil’s Millhopper and numerous clear, cold Florida springs are only minutes from town. Amenities like these are not something you can reach with a 20-minute drive in L.A. Gainesville also boasts rich cultural offerings many cities of this size are not so fortunate to have. Between the Hippodrome downtown, the Harn Museum of Art, the Florida Museum of Natural History, and the active visual art and music scenes, there are abundant opportunities to immerse yourself in culture. The growing tech community in Gainesville is also exciting. Not only are an increasing number of startups putting Gainesville on the map in the tech world, but UF is producing some of the most cutting-edge and exciting research in the nation. The city also scored a big win with our daughters with the opening of the fantastic Depot Park. The park not only provides a great place for families to spend time but injected a much-needed vitality to a valuable part of town that has been underutilized. Unquestionably, Gainesville’s greatest asset is its people. I spent much of last year working on UF’s Strategic Development Plan, which seeks to provide a framework for the university to thrive in the coming decades through a number of initiatives, from its physical infrastructure to partnerships with the city and county to help make this already great city even better. The process was challenging in the best of ways, and I was able to interact with the community on a deeper level and saw that many Gainesville residents are passionate about this community, the well-being of their fellow citizens and the future of the city. My family and I are happy to call Gainesville home and the list of reasons continues to grow. —— DEBORAH BOWIE—— President and CEO, United Way of North Central Florida It’s hard to believe, but it’s been nearly four years since I relocated to Gainesville, Florida. It was April 2013 when I was recruited to help re-build the business development and membership division of the Gainesville area Chamber of Commerce. A 10-year veteran of the chamber industry, having served as a vice president and registered lobbyist for chambers in Alabama and Georgia, moving to Gainesville was an opportunity come back home to the state where I was born and raised. I graduated high school in Miami, FL, back when no one referred to the area as South Florida. A lot about the state had changed since then, and frankly, so much in my life had as well. Today, I am a mother to triplets, one of whom is severely autistic and nonverbal, so choosing a place to contribute to professionally had taken a back seat to finding a community with a strong public school system, an environmentally-conscious landscape and an inclusive environment for my son. I still remember my first visit here – I met with the chamber team, walked the downtown sector and took a whirlwind windshield tour of the region’s biotechnology corridor in Alachua. It was impressive, but before I could commit, I needed to check with the University of Florida and the region’s resources for people living with disabilities. What I learned said more about Gainesville than any recruiter ever could – the region was full of promise, opportunity and hope. I accepted the job offer, and today my son attends an autism school, my girls attend a high-performing public elementary school, and I even switched careers to do something that is so meaningful, it doesn’t feel like work. I am the president and chief executive officer of the United Way of North Central Florida, a six-county charitable giving organization that is laser focused on fighting for the health, education and financial stability of every person in our community. The UWNCflserves six counties in the region, including Alachua, Bradford, Dixie, Gilchrist, Levy and Union counties. Last year, our economic impact to the region exceeded $11 million dollars. We fund more than 30 programs at local agencies in the region that are doing amazing things to help improve lives. In 2017, the agency will celebrate its 60th year in existence, and have raised nearly $100 million dollars! I am so proud of the legacy the organization has built in the Greater Gainesville region. There is an industry saying that to change lives, we must #LiveUnited. That means connecting with people on every level to help them realize their greatest potential and to serve the places in their lives where they need help most. I understand that need intimately because when I moved to Gainesville, I needed more than just a place to work – I needed a community to call home. Whatever brought you to Gainesville – welcome! You just found the greatest place to live, work and serve on earth! —— JOHN BARLI—— Regional Director, Catholic Charities — Gainesville Regional Office Ifirst experienced Gainesville when I came here to attend the University of Florida in the fall of 1974, as an 18-year-old freshman from Miami. I thought I would miss the “big city” and my Miami Dolphins, but I would have to give them up for four years to attend college. Well guess what? I never missed Miami and I fell in love with my new home in north central Florida. The Dolphins were quickly replaced with the Gators, and on top of football, we had basketball and baseball! This was in the day before the Heat and the Marlins. Miami Beach was replaced with Crescent Beach and the Santa Fe River. Year-round sports, a beach and a river, perfect for any 18-year-old. As with many college students, I started working in the restaurant business to supplement my student loans, and that afforded me the opportunity to meet more of the “locals.” I could not believe how nice and genuine the people I met were. I could drive a car through town and never hear a horn honk! People were patient. So much for the big city. When I had finished school, jobs took me away from Gainesville. I moved to nine different cities in Florida, and I kept coming back. I missed all those things I had fallen for as an 18-year-old. One of the things that drew me back to Gainesville was the faith-based community; I first became exposed to it when I was going to church while in college. As a restaurant owner, I became more involved with a number of churches and charities. I am always amazed at what a giving community we have, people so willing to give not only their treasures, but their time and talents. When I left the restaurant business, I began volunteering at Catholic Charities. I joined the board of directors and became exposed to an even larger group of likeminded charitable individuals who gave their time to help grow our community. They were proud of their charity and their churches, but their pride in the community was the thing that touched me the most. Along with Catholic Charities, I am an Impact Partner with United Way of North Central Florida, and I am a board of directors member of Stop Children’s Cancer. What a wide array of people working to benefit individual causes which ultimately benefit the overall health and wellbeing of Gainesville. If there are more giving communities than ours, I am not aware of them. —— STAR BRADBURY—— Director of Sales and Marketing, Oak Hammock at the University of Florida Yes, Gainesville really is a special place! Ok, I admit I am partial. Gainesville has been my home since 1978. To the surprise of many, I left Longboat Key near Sarasota to move here with my family, and my friends simply could not understand it. But I wanted the special vibrancy that only a university town could offer. All these years later, I love Gainesville more than ever, and it has become an even more attractive place to call home. So why retire here? Because Gainesville fits the bill for what retirees want! And what anyone is looking for! A reasonable cost of living, top-notch health care, great educational opportunities, fabulous cultural life, wonderful fitness, sports and outdoor activities and a great deal more! Why leave a place that offers so much and still has the charm of a reasonably sized town without the headaches of larger cities? Did you know that Gainesville is the home of one of the top lifelong learning institutes in the country? The Institute for Learning in Retirement is open to anyone in the county, 55 and up. All that is required is that you love to learn for the pure joy of it! Professors from the University of Florida and various local experts in their field teach classes on literature, science, history, music, global and national politics, among other subjects. Check out their website at ilratoakhammock.org. Gainesville is also home to one of the top U.B.R.C’s in the country; university-based retirement communities. Sponsored by the University of Florida, Oak Hammock opened its doors in 2004 and is home to more than 400 seniors, many of whom moved to Gainesville to make Oak Hammock their home. In the spring of 2014, the PBS NewsHour featured Oak Hammock as one of the best retirement communities in the country, and it continue to receive national accolades for all it has to offer. As for healthcare, Gainesville has several nationally recognized hospitals such as UF Health Shands, North Florida Regional Medical Center, and one of the top VA Medical Centers in the southeast. We also have a wealth of alternative medical care, with our own massage school, acupuncture school, yoga studios and meditation and healing centers. Culturally, we surpass many cities of our size. We boast a first-rate professional theater company, The Hippodrome, multiple community theaters, and the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts which hosts numerous national and international tours, plus, our own professional dance company, Dance Alive. We have the architectural gem of an art museum, The Harn, the Florida Natural History Museum, and a vibrant music scene with a wide range of musical venues and styles. Both the Spring Arts Festival and the fall Downtown Festival attract over 200,000 visitors annually and rank in the top art shows in the southeast. If you love the outdoors like I do, then North Central Florida is your Mecca with lakes, rivers, springs, canoeing, kayaking, hiking, biking, camping and fishing. Where To Retire magazine, (April 2016) voted Gainesville as one of the top eight cities in the country for biking with miles of “Rails to Trails” biking paths to enjoy. Yes, I am partial; but for good reasons! Come visit. You’ll see for yourself. Don’t be surprised when you fall in love with my town and never want to leave! —— REV. STEVE PRICE & REV. CATHERINE FLUCK PRICE—— Senior Co-Pastors, Trinity United Methodist Church Catherine and I moved to Gainesville this summer to become the new copastors of Trinity United Methodist Church. It has been a homecoming for her. She is a Buchholz grad and grew up actively involved in children and youth ministries at Trinity but hadn’t lived here for over 30 years. While I had some familiarity with Gainesville from holiday visits to see family, I had never lived here. I did have fond memories from those visits of pick-up basketball games at Littlewood (in my younger years), flag football with family and friends at the Boys and Girls Club, and great places to do training runs all over town (with hills…something I didn’t have for 20 years living in Bradenton!) I had no idea what to expect when it came to living here, though. Three months in, I can honestly say it is already feeling like home! I have been amazed at how friendly people are. It’s no wonder that over and over again I hear a couple of very common themes: people grew up here and never left because they love it so much, or they came here for college and never left because they love it so much. I am really enjoying the convenience of everything. My workplace, trips to the grocery store, plenty of local restaurants, the tennis club where I’ve already made great friends and found solid practice partners, places to feed my love for good coffee, and cultural opportunities like Devil’s Millhopper and the Gainesville Community Playhouse are all less than a ten-minute drive from home. How could I not be happy? It’s also a privilege to serve as the pastors of Trinity UMC, a great church that is making an impact throughout this city and beyond as well. Trinity’s emphasis on reaching out beyond the walls and property to make a difference, creating strategic and impactful partnerships with schools and non-profit organizations throughout Gainesville, really meshes well with my understanding of what it means to be a church. It’s also such a vibrant place onsite every day, offering one of the best preschools in the area (Stepping Stones), sports and recreation opportunities for all ages, and fantastic venues for events both small and large. And you couldn’t ask for a better place to worship on Sunday mornings. Trinity has also been a leader in the community in developing ecumenical relationships with other faith communities. It is exciting to see the collaboration that already exists between these communities from varying denominational and religious traditions. I look forward to continuing that work, joining with others in Gainesville to encourage interfaith dialogue with mutual respect and understanding. Greater Gainesville is indeed a wonderful place to live, work and play, and I look forward to the prospect of spending the rest of my working days here.
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