Esther and Harold Mertz opened a small charitable foundation in the late 1970s. Before Thanksgiving each year, they would sit together and choose a handful of organizations whose missions and programs followed their own thoughts on giving. They would compose an appropriate covering letter stating that they were thankful to God for all their blessings and therefore wanted to share some of what they received. This little fund was the predecessor to this current foundation. The mission hasn’t changed, and their vision of seeing their resources used to help those marginalized by much of society, is the same.
The Mertzes were born in Pennsylvania in the early 1900s and were married in 1974 in Longwood, Florida; a second marriage for both. They relocated to Sarasota, Florida shortly before Mr. Mertz passed away and for the next twenty-eight years, Mrs. Mertz gave generously to the arts and theatre community in this town.
Towards the end of her life, she re-evaluated her thinking on philanthropy. Her statement went something like this: “True charity isn’t about entertaining people or providing a light diversion from boredom and it is so much more than just empathy; real charity is assisting people who have needs, showing compassion to those who have lost hope, and making a difference in the lives of those who are suffering from some deficiency in body, mind or spirit.”
The Mertz’s legacy will continue through the efforts of this foundation. Our aim as members of the Board of Directors is to continue what they began, and to share their generosity by giving hope and assistance to those who are impoverished or disadvantaged.
We believe that philanthropy can be practiced in a manner where recipients become grateful partners and by attempting to give back, they actually share in their own recovery and progress. This provides a solution to the more common hand-out system which does not create a state of self-sufficiency, a feeling of accomplishment, or the opportunity to alter their circumstances.
The Foundation’s philosophy can best be described by the following proverb: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”.
If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.
Most people see a dove with an olive branch and immediately associate the image with peace and harmony. This symbol, however, actually had its origin in the Biblical story of Noah and the flood as related in Genesis chapter 8 verses 8 to 11. The account tells us that after raining for forty days and nights, water prevailed on the earth for one hundred fifty days, with all life being destroyed save for that which was preserved without harm in the ark. In order to determine whether the flood waters had subsided, and if it was safe to exit the ark, Noah sent out a dove to determine if the waters had abated. The first time the dove returned to the ark finding no place to rest. The second time she was sent out, she returned with an olive leaf in her mouth. This gave Noah the assurance that the flood waters had receded and they could now depart from their temporary haven. The dove provided Noah and his family the evidence that life was restored upon the earth. What God had promised to Noah, He accomplished and fulfilled. Noah believed God and placed his hope and trust in Him and he and his family were preserved.
We see the dove with the olive branch as a symbol of hope. Without hope in a person’s life, people have a natural tendency to give up or to look for a substitute in all the wrong places. Our desire is to generate hope. We want to show compassion and kindness by using the Foundation’s resources to instill hope in lives where it has been missing, and to reinstate hope where it has been destroyed or taken away. We want to see hope restored by using our funds to change the lives of those who are the beneficiaries of unfortunate situations and circumstances.
Who We Are
Lavender Trust Company Inc.
Nancy L. Close
Board of Directors
John B. Grandoff, III
John M. Olivieri
Nancy L. Close