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$11.8 million gift from Rebecca Harris Baranick family for improving the quality of education
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$11.8 million gift from Rebecca Harris Baranick family for improving the quality of education

The Baranick Foundation Board of Directors recently approved $11.8 million in grants aimed at further improving the quality of education in Sarasota County’s public schools and preschools, expanding access to health care and the arts for underserved communities, supporting environmental education at important conservation sites on Sarasota Bay, and more.

Barancik Foundation awarded a total of $4.8 million to improve educational access and quality in Sarasota County and parts of the surrounding region.  This includes new funding for the Foundation’s three education initiatives and a major grant to YMCA of Southwest Florida for its leadership work in early learning.

The Foundation directed $981,519 to its Teacher Recruitment, Retention, and Recognition initiative, which supports Sarasota County School District efforts to attract and retain outstanding teachers.  Funds primarily will pay for internships and mentoring for prospective new teachers, scholarships for local residents pursuing a teaching degree, and other recruitment and retention activities at the district.  Additionally, $310,000 was approved for the Foundation’s TIME Fellowship program, which offers Sarasota County public-school teachers the opportunity to complete a personal project designed to reinvigorate their love of teaching and renew their commitment to the profession.  The Foundation will fund 25 new fellowships up to $12,000 each.

Barancik Foundation’s other signature education initiative aims to transform early learning in Sarasota County to improve kindergarten readiness.  The Board allocated $1,126,500 for this Early Learning Initiative to recruit and retain more qualified preschool teachers, provide behavioral health supports in classrooms and to families, and offer professional development for teachers and preschool directors.  The funding is aligned closely with a three-year grant of $2,379,965 to YMCA of Southwest Florida to improve quality and expand access at Sarasota County’s largest childcare provider.  The Y will raise wages, add key staff positions, enrich programming, and increase parent outreach as it works to become a best-in-class early learning program.  Ultimately, the Y aims to serve as a training site where other local preschool facilities can access resources to follow its lead, raising the quality of early learning across the region.

Barancik Foundation awarded several grants to make Sarasota’s world-class arts offerings more accessible to the wider community, a grant to help divert youth from the juvenile justice system, and funding for a significant expansion of the Community News Collaborative nonprofit journalism initiative.

FSU/Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training will receive $50,000 to construct a sustainable, reusable Elizabethan-style set for all of its Shakespearian productions, which include educational performances for local students.  Embracing Our Differences will use a $102,786 grant to purchase hardware and equipment needed to display and safely store its annual international outdoor exhibition, which celebrates kindness and tolerance and promotes diverse perspectives.  The Board also approved a $550,000, two-year grant to Ringling College of Art and Design to support access and programming at Sarasota Art Museum (SAM) for community members who have been historically underrepresented at museums.

Jewish Family & Children’s Service of the Suncoast (JFCS) was awarded $563,744 to assist families with youth who are at risk of becoming or already involved with the juvenile justice system.  JFCS will provide counseling, case management, and wrapround services to help adolescents avoid repeating destructive behaviors.

The Foundation Board also directed nearly $3 million to sustain and expand the Community News Collaborative (CNC) over the next three years.  An initiative of Barancik Foundation, this nonpartisan, nonprofit news operation aims to fill a gap in high-impact stories on critical community issues as newsrooms around the region shrink.  The CNC will become an independent nonprofit organization, governed by its own board of directors, as it further establishes itself as a content partner for local news outlets in all forms of media.

The Foundation awarded two grants to support conservation, education, and sustainable public access at environmentally sensitive waterfront preserves near each end of Sarasota Bay.  A $25,000 grant to the Longboat Key Foundation will help fund improvements at the 34-acre Quick Point Preserve, a coastal-restoration site at the southern end of Longboat Key.  A $165,000 grant to Florida Institute of Saltwater Heritage (FISH) will enhance public access at the FISH Preserve, 95 acres of undeveloped land adjacent to the historic fishing village of Cortez.  Both projects will be completed in coordination with the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program.

With a grant of $250,000, Rebuilding Together Tampa Bay (RTTB) will repair and rehabilitate homes in Sarasota’s Newtown neighborhood and in DeSoto County for residents who otherwise couldn’t afford to pay for the work.  RTTB provides home repairs at no cost to help people remain safely in their homes and maintain the quality of their neighborhoods.  The grant funding will be used toward direct project costs like weatherization, plumbing and electrical improvements, and roof replacements, as well as to support a staff position in Sarasota that will manage projects and coordinate collaboration with other organizations.

A grant to SunCoast Blood Centers (SCBC) for $46,000 will enable the organization to convert one of its bloodmobile buses from using gas-powered generators to operate equipment and air conditioning to using solar and battery power.  Conversion of SCBC’s fleet to clean, renewable energy is critical to the organization’s ability to collect enough blood products to meet demand from hospitals and to minimize its environmental footprint by reducing harmful emissions.

The Board also earmarked $250,000 for Barancik Foundation’s Health Equity initiative, which seeks to improve health outcomes for marginalized communities through a number of strategies, including increasing access to care.

In addition to these grants and initiatives, the Barancik Foundation Board approved $2,040,000 in grants to benefit more than 30 organizations that the Foundation supports annually, as well as $25,000 to support the charitable efforts of the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office in the community.

Charles Barancik was a first-generation American whose father was a doctor from Poland. His mother was a trained pianist from Russia.

The younger Barancik had an aptitude for numbers and started his career at a Chicago accounting firm. In 1957, at age 29, he purchased his first company, which produced milk-can washers for dairy farmers, which he proceeded to make more efficient.

From the acquisition of bakeries to fire-prevention equipment, Barancik’s business instincts were perhaps exceeded only by his generosity to employees.

In a 2018 interview with Sarasota Magazine, Barancik discussed his share-the-wealth employee incentive program that churned 25 percent of his company’s pre-tax profits back to the hired hands.

“In the event of a sale, the officers got 20 percent of a gain. Why? I loved these people,” he said. “They were beating their brains out for me.”

Dorsey met the Baranciks years before they started the foundation, when they began making contributions to the Herald-Tribune’s Season of Sharing program to mitigate homelessness.

“Chuck loved Sarasota and felt he could have a bigger and much more positive impact here than (in Chicago),” recalled Dorsey, one of the foundation’s early board members. “He was a businessman at his core who said he felt very lucky and always wanted to give back. But he always wanted to make sure that whatever he was doing with philanthropy was run well, that it made sense, and that it had a good plan.

“He wanted to make sure his money was going to be used to do good, and he was very engaged with that.”

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