Schott Communities rejoices over ‘gift from above’

Couple donates $250,000 worth of stock,creating endowment for ministry to disabled

Monday, August 18, 2014
Cristina Cabrera – The Florida Catholic

Mike and Sandy Davis watch as Jamie Vargas ads the finishing touches to her fish painting. Vargas’s unique method of painting involves hundreds of dots to compose one giant image.

COOPER CITY | When Jamie Vargas sits down for the Art from the Heart classes at the Schott Community Center, she picks up her brush and begins to paint an intricate pattern of dots. She continues to paint dozens of dots until she fills her canvas. When she is done, she has created a mosaic-like fish that exudes vibrant colors, and even air bubbles.
Vargas’ fish painting is surrounded by a sea of other colorful paintings of lilies, doves, jaguars, and even a reef full of mermaids. The artwork of her peers is just as unique as the way some of them paint. Many of the students who attend Art from the Heart have difficulty using their hands because of a physical disability. But that does not stop them from creating works of art. With the supervision of a professional artist, students paint with their feet, mouth, headgear, or whatever means is available to them.

Donors Mike and Sandy Davis speak with Schott Communities’ executive director, Ileana Ramirez-Cueli, while touring the center.

Such is the resourcefulness associated with the Schott Communities, a private, non-profit organization based in Cooper City that serves persons who are deaf or who are physically or intellectually challenged.
This summer, Schott Communities received an unexpected “gift from above,” in the words of its executive director, Ileana Ramirez-Cueli.

Mike and Sandy Davis, parishioners of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Coral Springs, donated 2,500 shares of stock in NextEra Energy, Inc. (worth a little more than $250,000) to the Archdiocese of Miami. The Davis’ stock donation seeded the newly-created Kevin Michael and Sandra Mann Davis Endowment Fund within the archdiocese’s Catholic Community Foundation, an endowment that will benefit Schott Communities.
“Donating stock is not an uncommon way of making charitable contributions, and can truly be a win-win for both the donors and the Church,” said Katie Blanco Crocquet, president of the Archdiocese of Miami Development Corporation. “Endowments provide a perpetual, constant stream of annual income for the Archdiocese of Miami, parish, school, ministry or program it is designated to support. As a gift that will leave an ever-lasting legacy with the Church, endowments provide future financial stability and a foundation on which the Catholic community of South Florida can flourish.”
“Like any little non-profit, everyone is striving for sustainability,” said Ramirez-Cueli. “That’s why a gift like this is great. It truly is a gift from above.”

The Davis’ generosity preceded their first-ever visit to Schott. When they finally toured the grounds in mid-July, they said they immediately felt the warm and loving environment that Schott’s clients and their families celebrate.
“We know we made a good decision,” said Sandy Davis as she and her husband admired the art created by clients in the Art from the Heart classes. They also observed an adult day training class where clients learned how to identify coins, and they visited the St. Jude Chapel, where Schott’s deaf and disabled clients, along with their families, celebrate Mass on Sundays at 9:30 a.m.
“This is a place where these children can be nourished by the love of God,” said Pablo Cuadra, director of religious formation at Schott, who met with the Davises as they toured the community.
In 1985, Joseph J. Schott, a Cincinnati native, founded the Schott center after being impressed with the work of Father Jim Vitucci, an archdiocesan priest who, along with a woman religious, Sister Conleth Brannan, had spent more than a decade conducting a traveling ministry to the deaf: celebrating Masses in sign language and coordinating social events throughout the archdiocese.
Father Vitucci died in 2002 and Sister Brannan is retired, but their spirit of service to the deaf and disabled,  be they Catholic or not,  lives on at Schott Communities. So does the vision of Schott himself. A dedicatory memorial plaque with his photo hangs in the main building, quoting him: “May this center be a sign of hope to all peoples, a place of learning and dreams, and a gathering point for people of all faiths to meet their God.”

In 2000, the 17-acre Schott Communities added two residences to their campus. One residence is a group home for six women, between the ages of 30 and 70. The home has six bedrooms, six bathrooms and a caring staff.
“It’s very homey,” said Ramirez-Cueli, Schott’s executive director. “Even though each room has a different look to match the different personalities of each woman, these women eat together, they rotate chores, and they enjoy activities like biking, barbecuing, and gardening together.”
The other residence on the Schott campus is a six-apartment complex with independent housing for six families. At least one person in each family must have a disability. Those individuals with a disability must also participate in activities at the Schott center, such as Art from the Heart classes, daily adult day training classes, community shows, or worship in the St. Jude Chapel.
A third residence also exists on the property, known simply as the original house. It was built for the priests and religious who worked on the Schott campus. The original house is much need of remodeling and renovation, but Schott Communities allocates its limited funding to benefit its clients and programs first.
That’s why the Davis’ stock donation and endowment are such a godsend.
Ramirez-Cueli hopes to use the money to add more arts and crafts classes for clients, as well as a program for small children, and a summer program. While touring the center, the Davises also saw a few items, such as laptops, chairs, and Wi-Fi access that will be updated thanks to their contribution.

“You can’t do it without funding,” said Mike Davis. “This donation is a way of meeting that need and growing that base in the future. Hopefully we can get other people to do the same.”
While the Davis endowment leaves a significant mark on the Schott Community, so too has the Schott Community left a mark on the couple’s hearts. As a thank-you gift, they received a painting of a dove over a field of hearts, flowers and stars created by Schott client Danielle Segarra.
“It’s so beautiful. It gives us joy in the morning,” said Sandy Davis.
That is truly art from the heart.

  • What is an endowment: Operating as a permanent investment fund, an endowment is created through an initial principal gift (cash, stock, or other asset) which is then invested within the Catholic Community Foundation in the Archdiocese of Miami, Inc. The income generated by the interest earned on the principal gift is available for distribution annually. More importantly, it is available in perpetuity, while the principal gift remains unspent.
  • Donating stock: There can be many tax advantages to donating stock, the key being whether the stock has appreciated in value. If so, gifting the stock, as opposed to donating cash, allows donors to take a tax deduction for the full fair market value of the securities at the time of donation, while also avoiding capital gains taxes on the sale of the stock.
  • For more information on donating stock, contributing to the Catholic Community Foundation or including the Church in your will, contact the Archdiocese of Miami Development Corporation at 305-762-1243.