Friends of Sarasota County Parks, Inc. (FRIENDS) was established in September 2003, as a federally qualified 501(c)3 independent nonprofit corporation organized and existing under the laws of the State of Florida, to promote, enhance and maintain community support for Sarasota County parks and public recreational lands through activities, fundraising, and volunteer efforts.
- Friends includes a parent organization plus park chapters.
- The chapters vary in number and reflect the changing interests of the groups.
- While the number of chapters fluctuate, there tend to be around 15 active chapters as well as other that come together for an activity, project or program.
- Some of the older chapters are Friends of Carlton Reserve, Friends of Woodmere Park and Friends of Urfer Family Park.
- Friends coordinate with a multitude of chapters, which raise and expend funds independently but under the name of Friends for specific county parks, programs, preserves and facilities.
- The Friends provide the 501(c)3 nonprofit status and manages the accounting process for each chapter.
- The chapters work directly with Sarasota County Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources on their approved projects.
- During the past 13 years, the Friends have provided over 33,000 volunteer hours on county park projects and thousands of dollars in park enhancements/amenities.
- Contributions to the Friends of Sarasota County Parks, Inc. are tax deductible to the extent provided by law and within IRS guidelines.
- In accordance with the requirements of the federal Omnibus Reconciliations Act of 1993, donors are notified that no personal goods or services were provided in consideration for contributions to the Friends organization.
- Recent major accomplishments include a $52,000 paver donation program at Siesta Key Beach, $72,000 raised to help fund a feasibility study for the extension of The Legacy Trail and $49,000 in startup funds for Shade Is Good: Helping to Fight Skin Cancer, a social enterprise that will sell UV protection and hydration products.
- Phillippi Farmers Market, which was established in 2010, is an all-volunteer market run by the Friends of Phillippi Farmhouse Market.
- To date, the market has raised more than $125,000 toward the renovation of the Edson Keith Farmhouse at Phillippi Estates Park.