hat does it mean to be bold?
Not the definition, but how we live our lives. Are we willing to make tough calls and sacrifices to achieve our goals? Do we feel comfortable setting boundaries so we can stay focused on the task at hand? After thoughtful conversations with several local leaders, a number of bold ideas emerged that surround one central theme: community.
CONNECTING TO COMMUNTIY
Towards the end of 2020, Baptist Health Care broke ground for a new, $636 million, 57-acre campus at Brent Lane and Interstate 110. While capital improvements are nothing unusual with healthcare systems, this project is the largest in Baptist’s more than 70-year history and in the history of Pensacola.
A lot has changed in 70 years; however, one thing remains the same - the organization’s approach to inclusion of the community every step of the way. What does that look like? Well, the answer is seven decades in the making.
“When our founders first had the idea to create a better model of healthcare for our community, they came to the community and said, ‘We have a vision of how to transform healthcare, but we need your help,”’ said KC Gartman, chief development officer for Baptist Health Care.
Gartman further explained that when it comes to funding for the largest investment in healthcare in Pensacola’s history, community plays as much of a role in this bold project as it did during Baptist’s inception.
“I’m still blown away at the trust that our community has in our organization to make incredible gifts like those we’ve announced over the past few years,” Gartman said.
Funding for the new campus comes from three sources: bonds, operational funds and philanthropy. However, because of the pandemic, most healthcare systems felt a downturn in operational margins, thus shifting fundraising efforts to focus more on community giving.
“It really elevated the need for philanthropy to play a bigger role,” she said.
And since philanthropy thrives on personal connections, the pandemic led to innovative ways to make those connections meaningful.
“We had to get creative about how to stay connected with our donors, so we held regular virtual online sessions for them,” Gartman said. “In those sessions, we shared up-to-date information about the pandemic and its impact on our community. We also kept them informed of the construction progress on our new Baptist Hospital campus on Brent Lane.”
She explained that the pandemic also fostered a renewal of the importance of health care. With every single member of this, and any other community, members will always need adequate health care. Even before the first shovel was thrust into the earth, a community advisory council was formed to keep that integral connection to the area.
“The day after we announced that we were building the new hospital, we convened our first community advisory council to contribute to the future vision of the current campus at West Moreno Street,” Gartman said.
It’s hard to say how the founding members of Baptist would feel about Zoom calls, but they would arguably be touched that the mission of “helping people throughout life’s journey” is being carried on.
What is Gartman’s personal definition of bold?
“To me, being bold means not being afraid to stand up for yourself and go after things that you want in your life, whether that’s in your personal or professional life, because no one is ever going to be as strong an advocate for yourself as you.”
For Gartman, boldness is inspired by being innovative and sticking to your mission.
“You have to be willing to put yourself on the line and be vulnerable - be open and embrace opportunities, but it also means creating opportunities sometimes out of nowhere,” Gartman said. “Sometimes you have to create your own opportunities.”
Sometimes, being bold means thinking of the well-being of others around you. Especially in extraordinary times, many often look to leaders for communication and calmness. But when times change, there’s a resiliency of those who can adapt and prevail.
“When our community is healthy, we all benefit, right?” asked Pam Hatt, vice president of marketing at PenAir Federal Credit Union. “That means physically healthy, emotionally healthy, mentally healthy, but it also means financially healthy.”
The pandemic had a big effect on the credit union’s operations, according to Hatt, but the institution leapt into action with their Essential Workers campaign by highlighting and supporting these individuals with meals and positively engaging the community on social media about these frontline workers. Back in the office, per se, Hatt and PenAir faced a sizable challenge.
“We knew we needed to protect our staff, but we also struggled with the balance of serving our members and serving our community,” she said.
This is where PenAir’s core value of “Communerosity” drives home.
“Communirosity is bold,” said Hatt. “It’s looking for like-minded partners so we can all be a force for good in the communities we serve and then standing by that.”
She explained that by all the small impacts the team makes, it leads to much bigger impacts for members and for the community. With force comes flexibility. Hatt shared that her team even has a mascot devoted to that flexibility.
“Everyone in my department, on their desk, has a Gumby,” she said, also mentioning that in addition to flexibility, forward thinking is also crucial. “That’s what bold leadership looks like, dealing with the here and now, but you also need to deal with and prepare for and start directing the traffic towards the future.”
PenAir Federal Credit Union’s mission is “Enhancing lives through exceptional service, strength and financial solutions.” Boilerplate aside, Hatt sees the institution as having a remarkable ability to enhance lives, and sometimes it’s only a matter of asking “why?” This boils down to communication: a clear and concise understanding of the why.
“You always have to tie everything back to our why. Why do we exist,” Hatt said.
When it comes to asking that question, it goes back to implicitly enhancing the lives around you.
“When we talk about enhancing lives, did I enhance the life of my coworker? Did I enhance the life of a member? Did I enhance the life of someone in I.T. by doing what they needed me to do?”
While enhancing someone’s life one small impact at a time may seem easy to some, Hatt’s take on being bold doesn’t discount the call for bravery and ownership, even in making hard decisions.
“For me, being bold means being courageous. It means sticking to your convictions, and it means being a risk-taker and being unwavering when you make the decision, but humble if you know you’ve made the wrong one. And owning it.”
One conviction of PenAir is their bold commitment to education.
The Credit Union recently donated $100,000 in support of the Naval Aviation Museum Foundation’s Northwest Florida STEM Center of Excellence. The funds will provide science, technology, engineering and math education for school-aged youth who may not have otherwise had the opportunity. Hatt said this can have a positive generational impact, especially for some students who may have overlooked potential.
“It’s taking kids that literally live right outside that gate and throughout the two-county area and expose them to things that no one in their families have ever talked about and literally change the trajectory of their lives for generations to come,” she said. “Especially with girls, namely those who may think ‘Oh, I didn’t think I was good at math. ’ They go through this program.”
BOLDLY TAKING A PAUSE
Sometimes a bold action is no action.
As the pandemic took hold of organizations’ ability to function normally, especially if there was a public aspect to that function, some local groups used the opportunity to pause and evaluate where they could.
“When everything stopped and shut down, essentially for a year we did not perform,” said Jessica Hyche, development director for Pensacola Symphony Orchestra. “It gave us a unique time to really do a lot of self-evaluation as an organization, and I’m proud that we took that time to say ‘what should we be doing,’ not just during COVID, but the next steps for us as an organization.”
It’s no surprise that innovation and forward thinking remain top priority for this and other successful arts organizations. One notable addition to PSO’s repertoire was the option to livestream performances.
“People can livestream six concerts a year now. That was something that came out of COVID, but then we realized this is serving such a bigger need, not because people can’t come to the Saenger, but for people who can no longer drive at night and visitors who leave but want to stay connected,” said Hyche.
She added that families of musicians are regular streamers, as a majority of performers do not live in the immediate area.
“Many of our musicians have families who live internationally,” she said. In fact, if you were to put pins on a map of out-of-town viewers, you would pin 29 states and five countries.
As it enters its 97th season (making it one of the longest, continually-running symphony programs in the Southeast), PSO began a laser beam focus on three strategic imperatives: improve access and enhance the concert experience at the Saenger Theatre to deepen authentic connections between music, musicians and the community; broaden the impact of Beyond the Stage with relevant and recurrent musical experiences outside of concerts at the Saenger Theatre; and third, create a broader, more equitable, diverse and inclusive organization that reflects our community.
Regardless of pandemic status in the United States, PSO’s staff, board and advisory council members, musicians, supporters and patrons came together and rolled out these imperatives as a way to keep the organization viable in these changing times. However, the community is always the focus of PSO and how it can continue to remain an asset of the Pensacola area.
“Keeping our focus on the community, we ask what the community needs and how can we meet that need rather than asking ‘what do we need,’” said Hyche.
Through a series of bold roundtable discussions with local leaders from many walks of life, PSO was able to collect meaningful feedback and gauge what the community, in fact, does need. One of the tangible things to come out of this evaluation is “PSO in the Park,” a free, outdoor event at Museum Plaza downtown that offers a performance option to those who might not otherwise have one.
What does it mean to Hyche to be bold?
“Continuing to be an optimist, which sounds kind of funny,” Hyche said.
“It’s waking up every day and choosing to be positive and choosing to look on the bright side. It also means to look for solutions and find ways to bring that sunny outlook.”
• Pensacola Symphony Orchestra, pensacolasymphonyorchestra.com
• Baptist Health Care, ebaptisthealthcare.org/About
• PenAir Federal Credit Union, penair.org/about-us/