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Charlene Altenhain
Charlene Altenhain, Chief Operating Officer

COO Charlene Altenhain reflects on how buildings play a role in human services and the environment.

When I first started at Glasser/Schoenbaum at the end of 2014, one thing jumped out at me about the campus… its “physical-self” needed a little love. We started making small changes, but we really started to focus on something we call Dignity of Place five years ago. What do campus staff see/feel when they come here? What do clients see/feel? We know the place people come to for help is an integral part of their assistance. So, we looked around and knew we needed to step up our game!

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In mid-2019, a colleague forwarded information on a matching grant program focusing on energy sustainability efforts in nonprofits. The two-phase grant was sponsored through the sustainability programs of Sarasota County and City of Sarasota and funded by local and national foundations. I attended my first informational session and immediately started making the connections to how this could work for Glasser/Schoenbaum. I mean, how could it not be perfect for us? This was a program designed to increase energy efficiency, so that those costs could go directly to the nonprofit’s mission. Our mission is, in part, sustaining a community of nonprofits by maintaining 14-buildings on a 5-acre campus, and paying all general utilities. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg of what we do. One of our largest costs is our FPL bill, averaging $4,000-$5,000 a month. A former board member always experienced sticker shock and asked me if this was a monthly expense, every month when he signed the checks. It made me chuckle, and I completely understood.

In late 2019, I received notice that we were awarded the first phase - the energy assessment that would provide a roadmap to future efficiencies. This turned out to be a staggering 107-page document detailing opportunities for improvement in 10 of our 14 buildings. I had a lot to learn, and that document began my instruction. There were so many projects to do, both big and small: add insulation to the buildings, swap out fluorescent lights for LED, upgrade HVAC units to a specific SEER, change out faucet aerators, unplug equipment when not in use… and the list went on and on. 

Luckily, we were awarded the second phase to assist in making a dent in that project list, a matching grant of $53,000 (total project opportunities of $106,000). This came right at the beginning of the COVID-19 Pandemic. The program sponsors were incredibly understanding of the strain we were facing. Suddenly, a campus of connectivity was dealing with how to continue services while staying distant.

"Somehow, we made it work. Just like everyone else. We did push this project to the back burner; we just didn’t have capacity to move forward. Until four months ago at the beginning of 2021."

Somehow, we made it work. Just like everyone else. We did push this project to the back burner; we just didn’t have capacity to move forward. Until four months ago at the beginning of 2021. Thus ensued a whirlwind of activity. Vendors were out giving quotes, online orders were being placed, and we got cracking. Our team retrofitted almost 2,000 light fixtures from fluorescent to LED; so many that one member of our team was dreaming of them. 😊 But we got the work done! We even had a small, but well-deserved celebration on April 1st.

This program serves a dual purpose of sustainability: our campus’ green footprint, and the success of our mission. That is the work that we save the organizations living on our campus. It is not the pretty part of it, it is not the fun part of it. But it is the part that allows them to continue their missions without any of that on their mind. They get to do what they do to serve the community, and we get to do what we do to serve them.

I wanted to share this experience on Earth Day because when we think about equity and better quality of life for all of our residents, we don’t always think about the equity of a place. If we can find ways to make our places greener, we can build the Dignity of Place we all deserve.

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Glasser/Schoenbaum is an integral part of our community. They not only provide critical commercial space for non-profits but also build networks within our community to meet the needs of our most vulnerable.

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Dawn Sakes, MSW Executive Director and Mentor More Too Life
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The staff at Glasser/Schoenbaum have done a great job of connecting the many organizations on campus and creating a space that sparks collaboration. This sense of community extends to staff and clients alike, helping to break down barriers and leading to innovative ways to serve the community as a whole.

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Katie Becker Executive Director Parenting Matters
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Real estate is one of the greatest costs in a business budget. Our partnership with The Glasser/Schoenbaum Human Services Center allows more money to go towards our mission. And what better place to house our office than on a campus with nineteen other outreach agencies.

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Janet Kahn Executive Director Early Learning Coalition of Sarasota County
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