Wave hello to a powerful (and surprise) partnership to help women

Members of the Centre for Women Board with the Waves of Change honorees, from left, Ashley Nessler, Former Mayor Sandy Freedman,Board Vice President Sul Hemani, Sheila Johnson, Board President Chris Jimenez, Treasurer Kim Caruso of TECO Energy, and Nancy Vaughn.

At the Waves of Change Luncheon, members of the Centre for Women Board with the Waves of Change honorees, from left, are Ashley Nessler, Former Mayor Sandy Freedman, Board Vice President Sul Hemani, Sheila Johnson, Board President Chris Jimenez, Treasurer Kim Caruso of TECO Energy, and Nancy Vaughn.

For 40 years, The Helen Gordon Davis Centre for Women has provided critical, day-to-day services for women in need through its counseling and wellness programs, employment services and more – and with those things comes confidence and empowerment for recipients that the help can inspire.

At the 2017 Waves of Change Luncheon earlier this year, a $20,000 contribution from TECO – the Centre’s longest-serving corporate supporter – inspired business-world powerhouse and Helen Gordon Davis Women’s Leadership Award honoree Sheila Johnson to contribute $30,000 more of her own to the Centre.

Johnson is co-founder of Black Entertainment Television (BET), CEO of Salamander Hotels and Resorts, and the first black American female billionaire. And by following TECO’s gift with her own, the combined contributions reached the threshold the Centre needed to qualify for a matching grant from the U.S. Small Business Development Corporation.

“The incredible contribution from TECO, followed by Sheila Johnson’s amazing gift, thrilled us at the podium,” said Ann Madsen, executive director of The Centre for Women. “Florida leads the nation in the growth of female entrepreneurs and the Centre is the only women’s business center on the West Coast of Florida – so this is a big deal and wonderful news for helping enable us to help more people.”

Kim Caruso, vice president of Finance and Treasurer with TECO and Centre for Women board member, said that the contributions mean so much on multiple levels.

Board President Chris Jimenez with Sheila Johnson and Ann W. Madsen, Executive Director of the Helen Gordon Davis Centre for Women.

Board President Chris Jimenez with Sheila Johnson and Ann W. Madsen, Executive Director of the Helen Gordon Davis Centre for Women.

“I feel fortunate to be a part of such a wonderful organization that offers programs to help women succeed both personally and professionally,” she said. “TECO’s ongoing support enables The Centre for Women to continue to provide services that encourage, educate and empower women.”

Corporate Relations and TECO Foundation manager Kim Estrada agreed.

“We’re proud to have been a charter member and Centre for Women supporter since the beginning, and it’s always nice to see a level of giving that inspires others to step up,” she said.

For Sarah MacDonald, president of TECO Services, the contribution by Johnson was as much of a surprise to TECO as it was to Centre staff and luncheon attendees.

“Our entire table was so excited,” she said. “The Centre needed $150,000 to get matching funds from the government and our $20,000 had brought them to $120,000. So when Sheila, out of the blue, announced that she would give $30,000, it really doubled our contribution.”

She added, “Sometimes we give in smaller ways, but by contributing in a meaningful way we incented an amazing woman to get the Centre across the finish line. Sheila was so down-to-earth and spoke about her connection with the Centre with such passion that it felt like a great fit for her and TECO.”

As the unexpected events at the Waves of Change Luncheon proved – for women who get help they need and new opportunities to succeed through the Centre, and for TECO team members proud to support those efforts – even as the world changes and individual trajectories in life can change, empathy and generosity are as important as ever.

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