Social Justice Game Changer: Mark Brewer

by Josh Cohen

Name: Mark Brewer

Game Honored: Orlando Magic vs. Milwaukee Bucks (4/11/21)

Community problems aren’t solved by a single philanthropist or a single organization. Rather, it’s philanthropists and organizations working together throughout the community that spur change.

Mark Brewer, the president and CEO of the Central Florida Foundation, has seen through the years what can happen when we put our heads, hearts and resources together.

“It’s the process of figuring out how you turn diversity into inclusion,” Brewer said. “How over time you can get people to come together to create their own vision and the portrait of the kind of community they want to live in. So my passion has always been, what does that take? What do we need to do to get that done? And if you look across the broad range of things that the foundation works in from early pre-K education to issues of housing and homelessness to dealing with much bigger issues around how do we solve complex social problems that are driven in some cases by age-old policy and procedures that people haven’t thought about in years but they create injustices for people or barriers for people to get to where they need to get to. So, my passion has just always been how do you get everyone together to try to solve these problems with a focus on the source or core issues of the problems and not focus as much on diversity as you do on inclusiveness. How do you get all of the different cultures and feelings and thoughts and geographies to work together?”

The Central Florida Foundation, with Brewer’s leadership, connects, advises and empowers the philanthropic community. Uniting community leaders and coordinating the necessary dialogue between them is crucial and helps drive social change.

Since joining the foundation in 2000, Brewer has worked with hundreds of individuals, families, and corporations to establish philanthropy plans, endowments, funding strategies, and planned gifts. More than 150 regional nonprofit boards have enlisted Brewer’s assistance through the foundation with strategic and scenario planning initiatives that included the use of endowed investments to sustain their organizations.

Throughout the pandemic, the foundation has hosted many virtual community conversations, enabling local experts and community spearheads to share their challenges, triumphs, insights and activities. Topics have included healthcare, social-emotional learning, housing and racial justice.

A major focus area of the foundation the last several years is housing and homelessness. In February 2020, the Central Florida Foundation and the Central Florida Regional Housing Trust announced the $100 million Housing Impact Fund, designed to implement funding solutions to address the housing crisis in Orlando.

More than 40 percent of the population in this area spends between 30 and 50 percent of their income on housing, data shows, causing many individuals and families to be precariously housed.

In 2015, the foundation was part of a collaborative plan to provide permanent supportive housing to 100 of Orlando’s chronically homeless residents. That was a historic step at the time to breaking the cycle of homelessness.

Right now, Brewer and his group are working on projects that will help Black businesses in the community grow and thrive while eliminating any barriers that may stand in their way.

“The key to this is that we have the long-term social justice focus that really stands across years of investments from the foundation into things like strong attachments between children and their caregivers in the daycare world to uplifting community leaders,” said Brewer, who holds a bachelor's degree in Business, a master's degree in Public Administration with a specialty in Nonprofit Management and is a Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy. His graduate studies include work in policy and law at Walden University.

Grateful to be recognized by the Orlando Magic, Brewer says he’s inspired by the Magic’s extraordinary efforts in the community. The Magic and the Central Florida Foundation have worked side by side on many projects over the years, including one in which they invested in 83 Parramore housing units that prevented the families living in them from getting displaced.

“It’s incredibly important,” he said of the Magic’s community participation. “From what actually happens right in the neighborhood where the Magic live out to the broader region of the community where the Magic is a loud and very persuasive voice in having people think about doing the right thing and then empowering people in neighborhoods and communities to help them be successful at doing it.”

About the Program: As part of the Magic and Steve Clifford’s continuing efforts toward social justice reform, he created the Social Justice Game Changer program to honor one local leader who has made a difference in the realm of social justice issues. A cause close to his heart, Clifford is extremely active in programs that support equality and justice for all people in the Central Florida community.

Through this program, Clifford looks to put the spotlight on those continuously doing the hard work, day in and day out, fighting for sustainable change. As part of his program, one person is selected and honored each game. The honorees are given tickets, provided by Clifford, to the game and featured in-arena on the Magic Vision screen at center court.

“The purpose is to honor and to celebrate so many of the people in the Orlando community who are fighting for change and who commit their lives to making Orlando a better place,” Clifford said. “It’s just a way to celebrate them, what they stand for, and what they do for our community.”

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