The Babcock Ranch Foundation is combining culture in the form of art with the culture of giving back to help make sure that children and families in need do not go hungry this holiday season.
The foundation has donated $3,850 to Harry Chapin Food Bank of Southwest Florida, the result of the foundation’s match of ticket sale proceeds and donations at the Babcock Ranch Art Show in November. The donation comes as the COVID-19 pandemic is raging across the country, impacting many Southwest Floridians who are caught in a cycle of sickness, job loss and hunger. “Harry Chapin Food Bank has experienced an exponential increase in demand since the pandemic began,” said Syd Kitson, chairman and CEO of Kitson & Partners, developer of the town of Babcock Ranch. “The Babcock Ranch Foundation proudly supports their vision of ensuring no child, family or senior goes hungry in our community.”
Kitson & Partners is steadfast in their commitment to a company culture of philanthropy. The nonprofit foundation was established with a mission to support, enhance, and implement projects that positively impact many worthy causes in Southwest Florida. The foundation is particularly passionate about the issues that most profoundly affect at-risk children, such as hunger and homelessness.
This is not the foundation’s only initiative this holiday season. The foundation annually distributes about $30,000 among five or six different nonprofits to help families fight off hunger, said Tyler Kitson, treasurer of the foundation.
Among the list of different nonprofits, Babcock Ranch continues to support are the Ace Champion Awards, AMIkids Southwest Florida, Babcock Neighborhood School, Boys & Girls Clubs of Lee County, Children’s Advocacy Center of Southwest Florida, and Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Sun Coast.
Tyler Kitson has seen firsthand the kind of impact helping a child makes. Before the foundation was established, he was involved in several nonprofits, including serving as a Big Brother for three to four years at Big Brothers Big Sister of the Sun Coast. Being involved in that organization made him see how important it is for kids to have someone looking out for them, he said.
“Whether it’s as simple as just some everyday advice, guidance on everyday challenges at school, sports, or with friends — or resources to help them find their path, whether that’s in college or career — it is truly inspiring to see how big of an impact you can make on a child just through interaction and showing that someone cares about them,” he said.
Philanthropy and the culture of giving back ties in with the town of Babcock Ranch and its focus on the concept of sustainability and responsible growth, he said.
Known as the country’s first solar-powered town, just northeast of Fort Myers, Babcock Ranch arose from the purchase of the former 91,000-acre Babcock Ranch. Kitson & Partners sold 73,000 of those acres to the state as a permanent preserve. The town is developed on about 18,000 acres. Half of the town’s footprint is set aside as greenways, parks and lakes for the town’s neighborhoods and the Founder’s Square downtown district.
Babcock Ranch is being used as a benchmark for future development, Tyler Kitson said. Building something as massive and complicated, yet sustainable and environmentally-friendly provides a huge platform to inform, educate and give back to the surrounding region.
“We have created a living laboratory here at Babcock Ranch,” Tyler Kitson said. “We believe it’s our responsibility to use it to help others in need.”
Pat Bishop, executive vice president of human resources and risk management for Kitson & Partners, said philanthropy and the philosophy of giving back is also a core value for the company’s employees. “Philanthropy is what we typically call community outreach,” said Bishop, who is also the Foundation secretary.
For the last 10 years, Kitson & Partners has held a day of caring each quarter to volunteer at one of the charitable organizations in the area. “People love giving back. A lot of people want to give of their time and do something for others, but don’t know how,” said Bishop. She is always amazed at how many associates continue to work as volunteers for the community group they’ve done service for. That whole feeling extends throughout the year, whether they hold food drives or other charitable activities, she said.
The philanthropy of giving back also extends to the residents of the town. Linda Lucas is a resident who moved to Babcock Ranch two years ago. She is also a painter who participated in the town’s art show in November.
It’s easy to give back, she said. “We’re all in that position to help someone, someone less fortunate who is having hard times.” She sees residents giving back every day. “There is always someone helping a family.” Whenever the town has a fun event, it seems there is also a charitable aspect to it, whether it’s collecting toys for children, food for the hungry, or other donations, she said.
The Babcock Ranch Foundation puts a high priority on education, Tyler Kitson said. “With education comes inspiration to do great things. I want the children that we encounter to believe in themselves, gain confidence, and know that people care about them.”
So many children do not have the same resources as others to learn or have doors opened for them, he said. “Hopefully we can advance our programs in the foundation over the next couple of years and open the doors to the experiences, knowledge and opportunities we have created here at Babcock Ranch.”