For many ventures, breaking ground for a new project during the pandemic wasn’t ideal timing.
But for Sarasota-based nonprofit Resilient Retreat, which offers programs and services for people impacted by trauma and abuse, the timing proved a bit fortuitous. “I know it seemed like a curse, opening during the pandemic,” says Lisa Intagliata, executive director of Resilient Retreat. “But in a way I think it was a blessing, because people understand trauma now very personally.”
Resilient Retreat, which launched as a nonprofit in 2018 and received its IRS tax-exempt status in 2019, owes its beginnings to the personal story of founder Sidney Turner. An adult survivor of child abuse, Turner, a Ph.D, had tried various forms of traditional therapies but still found herself wanting more. She began feeling more successful once she added in more mind and body work and started looking for places in the United States “that really had everything under one umbrella — the mind-body-spirit approach that was confidential and based in evidence and free of charge,” says Intagliata, 51.
When Turner couldn’t find what she envisioned, she created it. Sarasota was chosen as the location because she felt it checked a lot of boxes, offering things like good year-round weather and a strong philanthropic community. The free of charge ideal remains a key part of the organization’s model, which is why it also launched The Retreat Sarasota, an event space on the property that can host weddings, retreats, meetings and more.
Resilient Retreat broke ground on its Sarasota facility in 2020, located on 84 acres east of Interstate 75 on Fruitville Road. The site was gifted by an anonymous donor, who wanted to keep the land in a conservation easement but also do something good with it. Resilient Retreat is building on less than 1% of the total donated land.
The nonprofit opened its new $7 million facility in the fall. It includes an 18,000-square-foot retreat center with sleeping wings on each side and a 5,000-square-foot community center the organization calls The Gathering Place. Resilient Retreat raised the needed funds through a capital campaign, and early support from the Charles and Margery Barancik Foundation, Gulf Coast Community Foundation, William G. and Marie Selby Foundation, Impact100 SRQ, and other local philanthropic organizations played a big role in its success.
“We couldn’t have done it without them,” says Intagliata. “Because we’re new to Sarasota, I think having those foundations support us early on really gave us a lot of credibility to open the doors to other individual donors. So that helped a lot.”
The project team included Tandem Construction, architecture firm Schimberg Group, and P.S. Interior Design Studio. The Danish concept of hygge inspired the minimalist yet cozy design for the facility, which features lots of wood paneling, soft and soothing color schemes and artwork evoking resiliency and hope created by local artists and program participants or donated by local nonprofit Embracing Our Differences.
The site also features walking and riding trails, a community garden and a meditation pond. Resilient Retreat offers 12 to 14 programs a month both on-site and virtually that include everything from music and art therapy to yoga, meditation and journaling. In February 2023, it will begin hosting three-day retreats where participants can try these and other options like equine therapy, neurofeedback and support groups.
“By the end they can hopefully leave with a curated menu of tools that we think will work for them and that they think will work for them,” Intagliata says. “It doesn’t mean that it’s going to do the trick, but at least it’s the next step on their healing journey.”
There’s already a waitlist for the retreats, which isn’t surprising, considering the numbers. The National Council for Behavioral Health says 70% of U.S. adults have experienced some type of traumatic event at least once in their lives. Add in a life-changing global pandemic and a recent catastrophic hurricane here in Florida, and the need for care for both trauma and abuse survivors and the first responders who provide aid is easily apparent.
“Unresolved trauma can manifest itself in a lot of different ways — usually unhealthy ways,” Intagliata says. “We can help them navigate on their journey once they’re not in an immediate crisis to figure out what’s going to work for them.”
“There’s nothing wrong with renting a hotel ballroom, but here your money is going back into the mission of helping trauma survivors heal,” says Intagliata. “So I think that [anyone] can feel really good about that.”
The Retreat Sarasota already has about 40 bookings and Resilient Retreat is in the process of hiring an event venue manager as well as an administrative assistant, which will bring its staff up to nine. And it’s just getting started. Future goals include bringing equine therapy services to the property so it can be offered on-site.
“There are a lot of good things on the horizon,” says Intagliata. “We’re trying to keep up the momentum.”
Nokomis-based freelance writer Beth Luberecki, a Business Observer contributor, writes about business, travel and lifestyle topics for a variety of Florida and national publications. Her work has appeared in publications and on websites including Washington Post’s Express, USA Today, Florida Trend, FamilyVacationist.com and SmarterTravel.com. Learn more about her at BethLuberecki.com.