President’s Message – Fall 2022

I am honored to serve as the Foundation’s president for 2022-2023 and look forward to a productive and constructive year. The Foundation has so much to be grateful for and we are hard at work implementing changes to many aspects of the Foundation’s operations.

Suzanne Van Wyk

Hon. Suzanne Van Wyk

We are proud to announce that the Foundation received in July a four-star rating from Charity Navigator. This is a testament to the stewardship of the Foundation’s assets and the Foundation’s commitment to fair and efficient operation. Read more about the Charity Navigator rating on page 10.

I am excited to announce that the Foundation is returning to in-person board meetings, and we look forward to welcoming grantees, volunteers, and other interested persons who attend. In an effort to reduce expenses, we are returning to sponsorship of our quarterly meetings by law firms and other supporters. This significantly reduces the Foundation’s costs for meeting space, IT support, and meals. In addition to reducing costs, this allows the Foundation to meet in communities around the state.

Rather than asking grantee representatives, volunteers, and other interested supporters to travel to Orlando for our quarterly meetings, we can “meet you where you are.”

We are well on our way to implementing the amended IOTA rule, having commenced with a trial run – using Foundation reserves, not IOTA collections – with distribution to grantees in September. Staff spent many hours analyzing the fairest and most effective way to distribute IOTA funds, and solicited and received input from grantees.

The result was a prototype methodology that was tested during the trial run. Over the next few months, we will evaluate that process and solicit more input from grantees and other stakeholders on the trial run, as well as the objective standards used to develop the fair distribution plan. We will use the results and feedback to make any needed adjustments for our first “real-time” IOTA distribution, scheduled for December of this year.

Another change includes welcoming new personnel to the Foundation. In June, we said goodbye to long-time grants administrator Andrea Horne and IOTA remittance specialist Lizzie Tracy. We welcome Jordan Hopkins, the Foundation’s new grants administrator; Summer Roberts, the new IOTA distribution and reporting manager; and Peter Balgobin, the new IOTA remittance specialist. Please extend a warm welcome should you meet them.

The Foundation’s role as a steward of funding for legal aid and legal services drives us to seek out changes to reduce expenses and operate more efficiently. One of those changes was the move from an annual awards dinner during the 2022 Florida Bar Annual Convention to a breakfast award ceremony. The event included a pinning ceremony to recognize our past and new Medal of Honor award winners. We thank the Honorable Emiliano Jose “E. J.” Salcines, past Medal of Honor recipient, for the idea, and we hope to make this event a new tradition to annually recognize superstars in service to Florida’s most vulnerable residents, while reducing our expenses to do so.