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Meet the Foundation Leadership Team
Melissa Phillips – Vice President of Avow Foundation
Melissa Phillips joined Avow in July, 2016 to serve as the Vice President of Philanthropy/Avow Foundation, Inc.
Prior to joining Avow, Melissa was the Senior Director of Gift Planning at the Lee Memorial Health System Foundation. She has worked within the humanitarian arena for more than 20 years where she has raised over $40 million dollars for meaningful and effective not-for-profit organizations.
Melissa began her own career as a social worker on a medical floor at a hospital, followed by a position within the mental health crisis unit. She also worked in private practice as a family therapist. A former Director at the NCH Healthcare Foundation recruited Melissa which launched her career into the not-for-profit sector. Melissa received her master’s degree from Florida Gulf Coast University. Melissa spent time outside the U.S. in Jordan studying and volunteering for a United States Aid organization. Upon her return to the states, she became the Executive Director at the American Cancer Society on Marco Island.
Melissa strongly believes that social work — a career that strives to improve the quality of life of both communities and individuals who are affected by poverty and social disadvantages—is the backbone of philanthropy and non-profit organizations. For Melissa, giving back is an innate decision — one she considers a calling and an integral part of her moral code. She grew up in a community that was predicated on families always helping one another. Fortunately, that community remains the same to this day, and it is that distinctive giving that Melissa strives for in her daily work.
LIVE INTERVIEW with Naples celebrity radio host Bob Harden…
Sabrina Kelly Bennett – Development Officer and Retail Operations
Sabrina’s first job was working for the Arthritis Foundation Thrift Store on the East side of Manhattan. This started her interest in the not-for- profit sector and retail sales. Sabrina graduated from Arizona State University with a BA in Communication with emphasis in Interpersonal and Organizational Business. The majority of her career has been luxury retail management and philanthropy. She feels blessed to have served individuals and community leaders by partnering on numerous charitable endeavors. Having personally experienced the relief Hospice provided to her family, she sought an opportunity at Avow as Development Officer. Sabrina enjoys using her business background and community outreach in support of Avows important mission.
Brittni Brown – Volunteer Coordinator
Brittni Brown-Cooper is known as a community steward who loves her work as the Avow Foundation’s Volunteer Coordinator. She brings experience from previous Foundations and is enjoying the opportunity to expand the Volunteer program and its foot print. Brittni has a background in business and the Hospitality industry receiving her Bachelor’s degree at Southeastern Louisiana University and a MBA from Keiser University. She feels that she has found the perfect mission, vision and family at The Avow Foundation, a true match with her personal values. Creative by nature she has volunteered as a dance instructor developing the skills of students in tap and jazz, she has also offered performing arts as a gift to charity events. She herself has pride in being part of the Southeastern Lionette Dance Team. Brittni knows that Collier County is a special place with unique qualities and resources and this brings her uncompromising joy making a difference in the lives of others.
Sandra Lee Buxton – Director of Donor Relations
Sandra Lee has a 30 year history in Healthcare Administration ranging from acute, assisted living, long term care, home health and psychiarty. In addition to healthcare her background consists of business ownership, marketing and print media. She has a B.S.N. from Maryville University and an M.A. from Webster University both located in St Louis Mo. Sandra Lee is also a Licensed Healthcare Risk Manager. She has been honored as a “Woman of Initiative” through the Community Foundation, graduate of Leadership Collier and a member of Greater Naples Leadership(GNL). Sandra Lee has had decades of involvement locally in the charity and philanthropic circles and is a strong community steward.
Rick LoCastro – Senior Director of Development
As Senior Director of Development, Rick is responsible for Major Gifts, cultivation of donors and community presentations. After serving 24 years in the Air Force he retired as a Colonel in 2012, and was COO of Physicians Regional Medical Center prior to joining Avow. As a military commander he held senior positions in 80+ countries, commanded several military bases, worked for two U.S. Presidents, General Schwarzkopf, and was Aide to a 4-star General. Extensive fundraising experience with USO, Wounded Warriors, Air Force Academy Foundation, and Red Cross. Chamber Board member, Leadership Collier grad, American College of Healthcare Executives Board member, and active in many veterans’ organizations.