In 2008, when the economy was in the tank, a small group of Pasco County professionals formed their own unique investment group.
Members of Premier 1000 weren’t investing in stocks or bonds. They wanted to invest in their own community. Each member agrees to donate at least $1,000 a year, and all of the donations go to one local nonprofit organization.
“The whole premise was that there were a number of philanthropists in Pasco County who donate and volunteer to several different nonprofits,” attorney Shelly May Johnson said. “There was a feeling among a lot of those people that when you give money to some of the bigger charities, so much of it goes to administrative overhead.”
They decided they could make a bigger impact if they pooled their money and focused on smaller nonprofits that are run by volunteers.
“I think many of us feel the same way,” founding member Ellie Paladine said. “We’re asked numerous times throughout the course of the year to help this organization or that one. If you spend $100 with each one, you end up diluting your money.”
In the first four years, the group has donated more than $50,000. “If you include this year’s donations, it will be $65,000,” Paladine said.
The group has grown from five members to 15. “The intent was to put together 100 people so we could raise $100,000 each year,” Paladine said. “It didn’t quite take off as we had hoped. But when a nonprofit in Pasco County gets $10,000 or $15,000 for a project, that still makes a big impact.”
This year’s recipient is The Volunteer Way, which runs a soup kitchen and services for the homeless on Moon Lake Road. Assistant CEO Martha O’Brien said the soup kitchen serves an average of 120 lunches a day, six days a week.
Paladine and another donor visited the soup kitchen before the group voted unanimously to award this year’s grant. “I’m amazed at how much they do for so little,” she said. “Everything is manned by volunteers and all the food is donated. We were really impressed with the enthusiasm of the volunteers.”
The donation will pay for a walk-in freezer and new refrigeration equipment. “They’ve had problems with leakage and food spoilage, and what a shame when the food is donated for it to go bad,” Paladine said.
“That freezer is going to help us immensely,” O’Brien said. “We need it to keep the meats and produce from spoiling.”
Johnson said last year the group bought a van for Fostering Hope, an organization that serves teens in foster care and kids who have aged out of the system. “The whole idea was we wanted to encourage them to participate in sports and after-school activities, but they needed transportation to get them there,” she said.
Program director Gloria Lawson said the gift was a blessing. It allowed the group to buy a 15-passenger van and to rebuild a deck at one of the foster homes. “They’re very generous but very low-key,” she said. “They didn’t even want to give me a list of the people who donated. They’re like Santa Claus.”
The group is informal — it doesn’t even have a Facebook page. That’s the next step, Paladine said. “We want to grow. [email protected]