Foundation for life: The Plantation’s nonprofit helps employees pursue post-secondary education


The Plantation at Ponte Vedra Beach is perhaps best known for its stately homes, newly upgraded golf course and numerous amenities.

Since 2013, however, The Plantation has quietly served the community through the establishment of a nonprofit corporation known as The Plantation Foundation, the mission of which is to provide association staff and families with financial assistance for post-secondary education.

Formed independently from the association by Plantation residents themselves, the foundation provides a way to support the dependable team of employees that community members consider part of the family. Since its formation, President Susan Birk said, it has raised more than $200,000 in support of its goal, with 163 members donating $61,000 in 2016.

“Our neighborhood is very appreciative of the professional and service-oriented staff we have,” Birk said. “Many of our employees work and go to school … and those involved in the foundation value post-secondary education and the opportunities it can provide. We hope this allows these students to follow their dreams without the burden of debt.”

The foundation is funded through donations and events wherein Plantation members informed of the foundation’s purpose and goals throughout the year. Members make donations to a general fund. Once applicants are approved, grants are made for them. All employees become eligible after six months.

According to The Plantation General Manager and COO Rob Schlingmann, the foundation provides more than just monetary support.

“Aside from monetary grants, the more valuable aspect of what the foundation provides is … the guidance and help they receive in their career paths,” he said. “When board members speak with employees and students, they’re speaking with someone who has a wealth of knowledge and is able to foster their careers and aspirations.”

Likewise, he said, the act of extending support to employees bolsters the family-oriented atmosphere of The Plantation for employees and associates.

“More than anything, we hope that the employees and the members feel that this is a family environment through the foundation,” he said. “(The employees) may stay with us or move on — but we’re all in this together and we want to help them become successful.”

According to Birk, students helped by the foundation have gone on to pursue degrees in criminal justice, business, aviation management, radiation therapy, graphic design, mechanical engineering and pre-veterinary medicine. This semester, 10 employees and two children of employees were awarded grants to attend the University of North Florida, Florida State College at Jacksonville, Jacksonville University, Flagler College and the University of North Florida.

Now in its fourth year, both Schlingmann and Birk hope the nonprofit will continue to foster the growth of Plantation employees as well as the pursuits of their lives.

“The foundation is a way for us to support (the employees’) lives outside of work,” Birk said. “And the foundation is something that everyone can support and be proud of.”