Editor’s note: This op-ed by former Foundation President and CEO Javier Alberto Soto originally ran in the Miami Herald on Feb. 2, announcing the Foundation’s 50th anniversary year. 

On Jan. 26, 1967, a group of forward-thinking Greater Miami residents connected people, ideas and philanthropic resources to improve life in this community forever. They wanted to reshape how fellow Miamians cared for one another, uniting donors and the causes that affected the health, well-being and livelihoods of everyone who called this place home.

As Greater Miami has evolved, our needs have changed, and for the past 50 years, The Miami Foundation has expanded to meet them. Now, we are poised to leverage this storied history for significant growth, ensuring we can collectively help residents thrive and shape a Greater Miami community rapidly ascending toward prominence.

So, what’s your Miami story? Inherent in this question is your connection to this place — how you came here, why you stay here and what you value about this community. Every Miamian’s story reveals what matters to them. This year, we will amplify those narratives and foster a deeper relationship between residents and their community, inspiring them to take ownership of its future by investing today in the issues they care about.

Take media pioneer Mitchell Wolfson Sr., who established a philanthropic fund at The Miami Foundation two years after its creation, providing initial resources for the small community trust. Fifty years later, his grandson Louis Wolfson III, carries on the tradition of family philanthropy, working through his own fund to ensure that a decent and affordable home is a reality for all Miamians.

Or Marlon Hill, Esq., a native of Jamaica and member of our inaugural Miami Fellows leadership class, who partners with the Foundation to connect Caribbean Americans to better opportunities in Greater Miami. There are countless other stories we’ll share this year that reflect who we are as a community: caring, passionate and, above all, generous.

In our history, more than 1,000 donors have taken ownership of their community and dedicated their philanthropic legacy to the Foundation. Their generosity has allowed us to grant more than $250 million to the people and efforts enriching residents’ lives. This year, we’re making an unprecedented commitment to honor that history with $1 million in strategic investments, celebrating our legacy, creating opportunity for residents, ensuring Greater Miami’s resiliency and fostering home-grown creativity. They will provide resources to pivotal organizations with a legacy of innovation and success in both tackling Miami-Dade County’s most pressing challenges of the past and helping mold our prosperous future.

From hurricanes to real estate booms and busts and now the challenge of sea-level rise, Miami has faced immense threats throughout our history. Each time, we have united to confront these challenges together. The Miami Foundation’s donors have played an integral role in supporting the initiatives and solutions that have helped the community rebound and become more resilient.

Twenty-five years ago, in the wake of Hurricane Andrew, the Foundation created a relief fund, which deployed much-needed dollars to assist residents and neighborhoods victimized by the storm. We also launched the Hurricane Rebuilding Fund, designed to assist nonprofit organizations working to restore hard-hit areas.

To prepare for the next 50 years, we have now established the Miami Forever Fund. It will be a permanent endowment, allowing devoted Miamians to provide tactical resources for innovation and solutions to the known challenges of today and those of tomorrow we can’t foresee. Our goal is to raise the resources necessary to ensure that as Greater Miami advances, our donors stay on the front lines of protecting and shaping a stronger community.

Every Miamian has a story. This year, we invite the entire community to share experiences, discover how they connect us and become a champion for what matters to each of us in the city we all love.

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