Foundation leader keeps connection with community strong

Article by Jay Heater, Observer, February 14, 2024

The thump, thump, thump from above echoed through the Mark Clark household in Lakewood Ranch’s Greenbrook community, and since no plumber was working in the upstairs bathroom, there was only one explanation.

The grandkids were having a wonderful time.

It should be noted that it was only a portion of the grandkids who were upstairs. A dozen in all, others were to the left, and to the right, and underfoot.

Clark would not have it any other way.

It was a madhouse in which nobody was actually mad. Mark and wife, Tonna, love their Sundays, when as often as possible, their three daughters and their son bring their families to see Pop and Gia (Tonna’s personal grandma name). The ensuing “pure chaos” is like a Disney ride: the wilder, the better.

Mark Clark, quite content to be on the bottom of a dog pile or watching his grandkids do gymnastics in his living room, shows in an instant that the patriarch of this family could control the tornado when need be.

“Let’s go! Now!” he barks.

In an instant, daughters and sons-in-law and grandkids answer the call, knowing a family photo is going to be taken. The grandkids, ages a few weeks to 13 years, assemble in minutes. 

It was a display of why Mark Clark, 59, has been a force as president of the board of directors for the Lakewood Ranch Community Foundation: solid values, passion, a sense of humor and leadership skills. Under his watch, the foundation has gone through some enormous changes, from a name change (Lakewood Ranch Community Fund to Lakewood Ranch Community Foundation), to breaking away from the Manatee Community Foundation to control its assets, to pushing forward on a strategy of organizing more events and having a greater presence in the community. The foundation has had a paid executive director in Adrienne Bookhamer for more than a year. She is the first paid employee the foundation has had since its inception in 2000. Northern Trust was chosen in 2023 to manage the foundation’s funds.

With all that swirling around him, Clark isn’t that much different running the foundation than he is hosting and directing a dozen grandkids. He is fun-loving and laid-back, but when it comes to reaching goals, he is willing to stand up at board meetings and say, “Let’s go! Now!”

Just as his grandkids take notice, so do those associated with the foundation. The 14 other members of the board have differing talents and specialties, as well as differing opinions about the best ways to run an organization that distributes grants to the region’s nonprofits. When push comes to shove, and after hearing everyone out, Clark is OK with making a decision and pointing out the direction, and the other members fall in line to do whatever it takes to fill community needs.

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