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Prominent Naples philanthropist gives $5M to developmental disabilities nonprofit

  • By Mark Gordon
  • | 2:30 p.m. April 18, 2024
  • | 2 Free Articles Remaining!
STARability Foundation's new facility will be at 2655 Northbrook Drive in Naples.
STARability Foundation's new facility will be at 2655 Northbrook Drive in Naples.
Courtesy image
  • Charlotte–Lee–Collier
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The STARability Foundation in Naples, with a mission to empower individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, has received a $5 million donation from Southwest Florida philanthropist and entrepreneur Tom Golisano. 

The funds will go toward STARability’s permanent future home, according to a statement. The organization had $6.16 million in assets in its most recent fiscal year, according to public tax filings. 

“This generous gift from Tom Golisano is a monumental step forward for STARability and our community,” STARability Foundation CEO Karen Govern says in the release. “It brings us one step closer to breaking down barriers and providing greater inclusive opportunities for growth, learning and social connections in a supportive environment where every individual can thrive.”

The announcement follows STARability’s recent acquisition of a 5-acre parcel, including an existing 42,000-square-foot, two-story building, at 2655 Northbrook Drive, in Naples.

Tom Golisano
Courtesy image

The new campus, coupled with the donation from Golisano, the organization states, “marks a transformative moment for STARability, positioning the organization for expanded services and growth.”

Golisano is the founder and past CEO of HR and payroll giant Paychex, which provides more than 740,000 clients in the U.S. and Europe. A former longtime resident of upstate and central New York, Golisano also once owned the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres. Upon relocating to the Naples area he’s been a big part of the philanthropic scene, in health care, education and more, with donations, the release states, surpassing $355 million. That includes three children’s hospitals that bear his name and more than $95 million to advance inclusive health worldwide. 

“I am pleased to be able to provide this gift to help STARability create a new and much-needed center where individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities can gather, learn, and express themselves and access integrated services, therapies, and other support in a fully inclusive environment,” Golisano says in the release. “This center, and STARability's expansion of programs will transform the lives of countless individuals for years to come.”

The location will serve as STARability’s future permanent center, facilitating a range of wraparound services and support for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Southwest Florida. Property development plans are underway, and details on the timeline will be released at a later date.

STARability has grown exponentially in seven years, now serving over 360 participants with a team of 41 staff and over 200 volunteers. The organization offers pioneering programs, including the Trailblazer Academy, employment services and a variety of educational classes and recreational activities. In 2022-23, STARability provided over 30,000 experiences for its STAR participants.



Mark Gordon

Mark Gordon is the managing editor of the Business Observer. He has worked for the Business Observer since 2005. He previously worked for newspapers and magazines in upstate New York, suburban Philadelphia and Jacksonville.

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