This year Florida Philanthropic Network is losing a valued member. The Eckerd Family Foundation is sunsetting, per the intentions of the foundation’s founders, the late Ruth and Jack Eckerd, and therefore will no longer be a part of our membership. On February 1 at FPN’s 2013 Statewide Summit on Philanthropy, we honored two of the Eckerd Family Foundation’s leaders, Joe Clark, the foundation’s president, and Jane Soltis, the foundation’s vice president.
Based in Tampa, the Eckerd Family Foundation was founded 15 years ago by Ruth and Jack Eckerd and endowed with $100 million. Jack Eckerd founded Eckerd Drugs in Florida. Joe Clark, Ruth and Jack Eckerd’s son-in-law, has been with the foundation since the beginning, and Jane Soltis has been there almost as long. The foundation upheld Ruth and Jack Eckerd’s spirit of philanthropy by investing in youth and families, encouraging youth leadership, supporting the journey into young adulthood and the pursuit of educational and vocational opportunities.
Under the leadership of Joe and Jane, the Eckerd Family Foundation has done pioneering work in supporting and advocating for Florida’s most vulnerable children, particularly youth and children in the juvenile justice system and the foster care system—especially youth aging out of foster care. Their work involved not just the funding of critical programs, but also advocating for changes to the foster care and juvenile justice systems so that they work better for the youth and children they are intended to serve.
The Eckerd Family Foundation has gained a national reputation for its work, and has demonstrated that a foundation does not need to have a large asset base or extensive staff to make a significant, demonstrable impact and to be a powerful influence on public policy. The foundation’s advocacy and investments have changed how our state cares for some of its most vulnerable children as they work to age out of systems and into our communities.
Joining me at the FPN Summit to honor Joe and Jane was Jake Short from the Eckerd family’s next generation. Jake, who is an Assistant Professor of History at the University of Georgia in Athens, thanked Joe and Jane for honoring the legacy of his grandparents. He also praised Jane for not only navigating successfully the complexities of the foster care and juvenile justice systems but navigating successfully the complexities of his family.
To honor Joe, Jane and the Eckerd Family Foundation for their leadership in Florida philanthropy, and to continue the Eckerd Family Foundation’s commitment to youth and the spirit of family philanthropy, we were pleased to announce at the Summit that Florida Philanthropic Network has created the Eckerd Next Generation Scholarship. The scholarship will allow a next generation or youth leader from a family foundation in Florida to attend FPN’s Summit each year.
Florida’s philanthropic sector will sorely miss the stellar leadership of Joe Clark and Jane Soltis and the Eckerd Family Foundation, but FPN will work to ensure that their efforts and the lessons they’ve learned will help inform future generations of philanthropy in Florida.