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Pete Norden, Sarasota Area Chair; Katie Knight, Sarasota Area President; Barbarb Siemer, Al Siemer and
Diana Baker, President & CEO of United Way Suncoast.

United Way Suncoast is pleased to announce that Barbara and Al Siemer of Sarasota County, will receive the National Tocqueville Award®, United Way Worldwide’s highest recognition within the Tocqueville Society. The prestigious award will be presented at United Way Worldwide’s annual Tocqueville Leaders Gathering in Washington, D.C. on April 12, 2013.

“It is with great delight that Barbara and Al have been selected for this award,” said Diana Baker, president and CEO of United Way Suncoast.  “This is especially wonderful and honors two of our region’s great philanthropists and civic leaders.”  Pete Norden, chair of the Sarasota area board of United Way Suncoast added, “We could not be prouder of our neighbor and friends.  The Siemer family brings so much good to the world with their generosity, I cannot think of anyone more deserving.”

The National Tocqueville Society Award® recognizes outstanding examples of deep and abiding commitment to community service. Membership in the Society is granted to individuals who contribute a minimum of $10,000 annually to United Way programs and services. United Way provides guidance to United Ways in developing local Tocqueville Societies, which recognize outstanding volunteer service by presenting local Tocqueville Society Awards; involving and cultivating new influential leadership; encouraging major gifts among high-wealth individuals; and cultivating additional resources with which to strengthen their communities.

The Siemers are in grand company which includes such notable award recipients as Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan; Microsoft’s Melinda and Bill Gates; Publix Super Markets’ Carol and Barney Barnett; NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle; Secretary of Health, Education & Welfare John W. Gardner; Notre Dame University’s Father Theodore Hesbergh; American labor leader George Meany and many others including the very first recipient, Bob Hope.

“Barbara and Al Siemer’s accomplishments go far beyond their philanthropic leadership,” said Brian Gallagher, President and CEO, United Way Worldwide. “With the Siemer Institute for Family Stability, they have created a model for the future of the United Way network. The only way we can effectively address the issues that face communities around the world, at the scale we must, is by bringing them together to learn from each other and work toward a common purpose in education, income and health. The Institute demonstrates just how the power of our far-reaching network can be harnessed to advance the common good.”

The Siemer Family joined United Way of Sarasota County Tocqueville Society in 2001, and Barbara became active in the United Way Women’s Initiative.  Through the activities of the Women’s Initiative, Barbara and Al supported crisis childcare scholarship, helping a woman named Bridgette not only with childcare, but with Christmas gifts.

By late 2002, Barbara had approached United Way regarding the development of a program that would impact the mobility of students in grades K-12.  She was in the process of commissioning the “Columbus Public Schools Student Mobility Research Project” in Ohio and wanted to explore opportunities in Sarasota.  United Way was the lead agency for the Homeless Continuum of Care and prevention funding was extremely limited.

Under Barbara’s leadership, concepts and outcomes were drafted and an active partnership with the Sarasota County Schools was pursued.  Initial visits were made to the Superintendent and implementation models were explored.  The Superintendent directed school social workers to begin discussion on identification of potential students.  United Way, with Barbara’s guidance, chose the “Single Lead Implementing Agency” model and selected Jewish Family & Children’s Service, Sarasota – Manatee, Inc.  to be that lead agency in 2003.

By June 2, 2003, a six month outline of operational/administrative expenditures for the Sarasota County Prevention of Homeless Program was presented to the Siemer Family with the understanding that as a challenge grant, matching dollars would need to be raised by the United Way for the financial assistance portion of the program.  Barbara answered with the first $50,000 grant on June 26, 2003 and the program began.

Throughout 2003, the Siemer Family Foundation provided dedicated funding for cost effective, integrated case management and emergency financial assistance to improve children’s academic success by decreasing family mobility and supporting homeless prevention.

The Siemer Family Foundation continues to provide a discretionary $10,000 gift each year in addition to the $50,000 funding for the Building Strong Families Program (formerly the Sarasota County Prevention of Homeless Program). Their gift has inspired other Tocqueville families to increase their giving to United Way, by investing in Building Strong Families as well as other programs.

In 2008, Barbara and Al Siemer joined the Tocqueville Society Million Dollar Roundtable.  Their gifts to Columbus, Ohio and Sarasota, Florida have funded and leveraged long-lasting changes by addressing the underlying causes impacting at-risk children and their families.  Their leadership and future plans will create opportunities for a better life throughout Florida.

During the past ten years, integration and maximization of limited resources to support homeless prevention have been leveraged by the Siemer family’s generosity.  In addition, their positive influence built strong collaborative partnerships with numerous agencies, funders and in-kind services.

In May 2009, United Way, with Barbara and Al, invited several other Florida communities to consider implementing a localized version of Building Strong Families with the ultimate same two outcomes: improve children’s academic success by decreasing family mobility and supporting homeless prevention.  Each of the communities approached joined and the Siemer moved to spread the success across the country with Ohio communities as the next expansion.

The Siemer Institute for Family Stability was founded in Columbus, Ohio, and today the program is in 22 communities with eight more to be established by the third quarter of 2013 and seven additional communities by the end of 2013 — helping thousands of children and families.

In 1986, the Alexis de Tocqueville Society of United Way Suncoast – Sarasota Area was founded by eight outstanding donors and joined as a Member of the National Society under the leadership of Jane Cook and Alex and Betty Schoenbaum.  The Sarasota Area Society has won national awards in 2000, 2004 and 2007 and hosted the annual National de Tocqueville Society meeting in 2001.

Barb and Al Siemer own Desco Corporation, a holding corporation for several manufacturing companies in the United States and Europe. Desco also includes Desco Capital Partners, which makes venture capital investments. A graduate of Muskingum College, Mrs. Siemer began her career as a high school English teacher. She is an active board member with I KNOW I CAN and the Columbus Museum of Art. Mr. Siemer is a graduate of John Carroll University. He also holds a bachelor’s degree in foreign trade from the University of Arizona (Thunderbird) and a juris doctor degree from Cleveland Marshall Law School.

The purpose of the Siemer Family Foundation is to provide funding for those institutions and organizations whose purpose is to affect continuing and long-term benefits for societal, educational, and cultural needs of the community.  The Foundation’s goal is to support those organizations which provide solutions for social problems, education and/or training to enable young people to be self-supporting, and support for civic and cultural organizations which enhance the quality of life in this or other communities.  The Siemer Family Foundation was established in 1997 and has focused the majority of its grantmaking in the area of education.

United Way Suncoast is a local not-for-profit organization working in DeSoto, Hillsborough, Pinellas, and Sarasota counties since 1924 to mobilize the resources of individuals, companies, government, and labor to achieve positive, lasting changes in the lives of people in the community. The Suncoast  mission is to inspire leaders and partners and mobilize resources to make a measurable difference in the lives of people in our community.

United Way Suncoast views income, education and health as the basic building blocks of independence. By addressing all three of these issues through the human services programs it funds, United Way helps families become stronger and communities more vibrant.  United Way Suncoast helps people build better lives by helping kids graduate and helping families find paths out of poverty.  For more information on United Way visit on the web.


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