HomeGrown Heroes – Connie Kauffman

Founder of Empowerment Gulfcoast

After their 30-year-old son (middle child), who had overcome opioid addiction, passed away from thyroid disease, possibly triggered by his previous drug use, Connie and Chuck Kauffman began to search for answers. They kept circling back to one over-riding factor: loss of hope. With friends and other concerned community members, Empowerment Gulfcoast, Inc. formed to help young adults counter that struggle by offering a multi-faceted approach: professional counseling (if needed), financial assistance, a mandatory budget class, and on-going mentoring.

Connie Kauffman is the Vice-President of Kauffman Home Improvement Inc and Founder and President of the nonprofit. Her husband helps at every fundraiser, attends many meetings, and earns the money that they donate to the organization (others give, as well). Their eldest son supports Empowerment Gulfcoast Inc. financially and shares/ “likes” posts on Facebook. Their youngest son is helping by matching funds up to $5000 in the upcoming Giving Challenge, which means the first $5000.00 donated to their organization triples to $15,000.00.

This group reaches out to working young adults, age 18 to 35, who are struggling financially, have limited or no resources, and are in danger of turning to self-destructive behavior as hope is lost. They accomplish this by offering a multi-faceted approach: professional counseling (if needed), financial assistance, a mandatory budget class, and on-going mentoring.

Empowerment Group’s work in initial stabilization is vital, but the Launch Program takes the program one step further, building self-sufficient earners using community expertise and mentorship. Second jobs are a great way to boost earnings. But this cannot be expected to last a lifetime, and continuing education is not always an option, and self-employment is a better choice. The work Empowerment Gulfcoast does is essential to the community because a family/individual stabilizes, there is a reduction in homelessness/crime, and better use made of the Client’s talents. Additionally, stable families make stable tax-payers, enhancing the community rather than draining it.

When asked the most rewarding or favorite part of what she does, Connie says helping young adults who feel that life is letting them down and seeing them regain hope, improve their income and self-esteem helps me to heal from my son’s death. Connie stated, “Knowing another mother will not feel my grief is deeply satisfying. I almost feel as if it helps to balance the scales a little.”

Connie works 40+ hours per week (she no longer keeps count). She works on her business and nonprofit throughout the day and during the evening. Connie enjoys baking. She has written articles for past editions of “Recollections,” a book series published by the DeSoto County Historical Society with articles about Arcadia’s past. Connie has spent two decades referencing her grandmother’s letters, written in the 1930s, that tells a compelling story of a Myakka City family’s experiences during the Great Depression. Her manuscript is almost done, but finding an agent is a challenge.

We asked Connie, “If you could ask for one thing to help your cause, what would it be,”?

She replied, “Since I’m limited to only ONE thing, I have to say “money.” We count on grants and donations over and above the membership, so fundraisers like the upcoming 2020 Giving Challenge help us get our cause in front of new people”.

She continued, “I wish you’d asked me what things would help our organization. Then I’d say new donors, budget teachers (PowerPoint provided), mentors, fundraising pros, and Social Media champs”.

We also asked Connie, “What pointers would you share with someone who is thinking of starting a nonprofit”? Connie answered, “If record-keeping and complying with government rules and regulations bother you, volunteerism is probably a better choice for you. Count on long hours, disagreements, and don’t forget, the buck will stop with you. However! If your chosen field is your passion/your mission and you’re willing to birth your cause, GO FOR IT! Try to fit in rather than seeing other nonprofits as competitors”.

Visit: Empowerment Gulfcoast to learn more.