Article by Jay Heater, Observer, November 15, 2022
Adrienne Bookhamer had no experience in family welfare when she took a position overseeing adoptions in Jefferson County, Colorado, outside Denver, in 1997.
She would go on to spend 25 years connecting babies, kids and teenagers with families, first in a county government role and later with nonprofits. When she moved to Florida at the onset of the pandemic, settling in Lakewood Ranch, she commuted to Tampa for two years, running a nonprofit adoption services organization there.
Bookhamer, named executive director of the Lakewood Ranch Community Fund in May, has now been out of the adoption services field for six months. But, for this forward-thinking, caring executive, the intrinsic value of adoptions will always have a place in her heart. Of the hundreds of families she’s worked with, she recalls one, more than 15 years ago in Colorado, when her organization found a family for a 17-year-old.
“Everyone had given up on him,” Bookhamer says, “and we found a family that wanted him. He had always wanted a family but thought he was going to have to emancipate from foster care. They took him in. And he never thought it was possible.” Bookhamer remains in touch with the young man, now in his 30s.
That’s the kind of passion Bookhamer seeks to bring to the fund, a role that’s ushering in some other big changes at the organization. For starters, Bookhamer is the fund’s first salaried employee. Another big one: In early 2021, the fund received its own 501(c)(3) exemption, after spending its first 20 years under the Manatee Community Foundation’s umbrella.
The fund’s mission, on its own and under Bookhamer, remains the same: to support the 100-plus nonprofits that improve the lives of Lakewood Ranch residents. The fund has granted some $1.4 million to those organizations since its inception. “It’s super exciting,” Bookhamer says. “We have the potential to be a huge resource in this community. We have nowhere to go but up.”
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