When he bought the newspaper in 1912, Paul Poynter determined he would set an example by giving back to the community that was helping to make his business successful. It was his obligation, he believed.
Nelson Poynter followed his father's example.
Today, the philanthropy of the Times is carried out through the St. Petersburg Times Fund, the philanthropic arm of the newspaper. The nonprofit organization was established in 1953. Its mission: to "train, assist and inspire those pursuing a career in the newspaper profession" through scholarships and fellowships.
Through the years, the Times Fund's giving has expanded to scholarships for college study other than journalism and grants to nonprofit organizations in the Tampa Bay area.
Since 1956, when the first scholarship checks were written, the fund has awarded nearly 1,200 scholarships and fellowships worth more than $4.7 million. It also has awarded more than $16 million in grants to local nonprofit groups.
In 1999, the Times Fund established a new scholarship program to help high-achieving high school seniors afford to attend their dream colleges outside Florida.
The Barnes Scholarship program annually awards four scholarships worth up to $15,000 per year for four years. In the past 10 years, the Times Fund has provided more than $1.6 million to educate 40 Barnes Scholars.
Bucking current trends, the Barnes program's college graduate rate is 100 percent — students who have entered as freshmen have graduated in four years or less. There have been 24 so far. Barnes Scholars attend such schools as MIT, Harvard, Yale, Georgetown, Duke, Columbia, Cornell, Michigan, Northwestern and Washington University.
Through its grants program, the Times Fund provides support to nonprofits in the areas of arts/culture, education, social services and journalism. Benefactors of the fund's generosity range from the area's largest cultural institutions — the Salvador Dali Museum, the St. Petersburg Museum of Fine Arts, the Florida Aquarium, USF — to the smallest — Happy Workers Child Care Center, the Nature Coast Envirothon and the Tampa Bay Children's Chorus.
The fund also helped launch journalism programs at Melrose Elementary and John Hopkins Middle School in St. Petersburg. Since 2004, those schools' journalism programs have won national awards from the Weekly Reader. The program expands to Lakewood High School in August.
Long a supporter of annual United Way campaigns, the Times Fund matches employee contributions dollar for dollar. In 2003 the fund expanded the workplace matching program to include arts and education organizations. Other programs match employee contributions to universities and other nonprofits.
Annually, the fund provides nearly $1 million in philanthropy.