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The Sunshine Economy

Giving It Away: Philanthropy In South Florida


Wednesday is the second annual Give Miami Day. It's an effort by The Miami Foundation to focus charitable giving for local organizations. Miami and South Florida have a history of giving, though our relatively young metropolis may lack the generational giving enjoyed by older, more established areas.

Sanford Ziff, Jorge Perez and the Knight Foundation's Alberto Ibarguen are three who are working to change that.

Ziff founded Sunglass Hut in Miami and has gone on to be a financial supporter for several groups, putting his name on a number of institutions, including FIU's College of Education building and the ballet-opera house in downtown Miami. But South Florida may not have been his philanthropic focus if it weren't for two poorly timed shots of bourbon in Ohio in the mid-1940s.

On the Sunshine Economy: Giving It Away - Philanthropy in South Florida we talk with three large funders to local charities: Ziff, The Related Companies founder chairman and CEO Jorge Perez and CEO of the Knight Foundation Alberto Ibarguen.

The Perez name will soon be part of the regional cultural industry when the Perez Art Museum Miami opens in a new $220 million building on Biscayne Bay in December. Perez donated $35 million in a mix of money and art, a donation that attracted criticism when it was announced. Perez contends the criticism was in part because his is the first Hispanic name attached to a major cultural institution.

The Knight Foundation's $2 billion is traced back to the Knight brothers' 20th-Century newspaper empire. But as the media industry is changing rapidly, Ibarguen at the foundation has been seeding what he hopes are new ways to connect communities with information. In his words, the efforts are about "saving democracy."

There are myriad more personal and private charitable efforts undertaken each day. It begs the question: can anyone be a philanthropist?

In Fort Lauderdale, May Jean Wolff and her husband Lou concentrate their efforts on education. Through their family foundation they have endowed scholarships at Broward College.

We introduce May Jean to Thamara Jean, who won one of the Wolffs' $400 scholarships. Thamara is a sophomore with a 3.77 GPA who wants to study pediatric nursing at the University of Pennsylvania.

While there is great wealth in South Florida, the Miami Herald's Jenny Stalotovich tells the Sunshine Economy, the giving here is not proportional compared to other metropolitan areas. But that may be changing as how South Floridians give is changing, too.

The Sunshine Economy philanthropyPAMM
In a journalism career covering news from high global finance to neighborhood infrastructure, Tom Hudson is the Vice President of News and Special Correspondent for WLRN. He hosts and produces the Sunshine Economy and anchors the Florida Roundup in addition to leading the organization's news engagement strategy.