Community Leader: Barzella Papa

This month’s spotlight turns to Barzella Papa, president and CEO of the Gainesville Community Foundation. She is also a wife and mother-of-two, who has lived in Gainesville for 12 years.

Ms. Papa graduated from the University of Alabama with a BA in Communications where she won several local and national awards for her writings and worked for several years at Southern Living and Time Life Books. Papa is also board member for the Ronald McDonald House, University of Florida Performing Arts, Meridian Behavioral Healthcare and Association of Fundraising Professionals. She is also the past president of the Junior League of Gainesville.

GCF, founded in 1998, exists to promote and facilitate philanthropy, and to strengthen relationships between charitable organizations and donors. The foundation raises funds and acts as stewards of money reserved in endowments. Papa believes that community foundations are the fastest growing facet of philanthropy. She said to think of them as saving accounts. At a time of need, GCF was able to offer financial assistance to BBBS to help us through some short term challenges. Papa stated, “I think BBBS is absolutely on the right track to have an impact and be sustainable.”

Papa traces her volunteer experience back to the Time to Read program at an inner city school in Birmingham, where she would meet with a 7th grader for an hour each week. She continued her desire to be a positive impact by keeping in touch with three of the girls after they moved on from the program. “You can absolutely change a child’s direction in life by spending time with them,” she said. She recalls someone having an impact in her life. Papa said that her first boss, Nancy Wyatt, took her under her wing when she worked at Southern Living. “She gave me so much advice,” Papa said.

To any Bigs and volunteers, Papa said, “If you choose to do it, give 100 percent.”