In 2009, the Jacksonville-based EverBank started a major initiative to support The Bridge of Northeast Florida, a non-profit agency dedicated to transforming the lives of at-risk children. Later that same year, the University of North Florida launched a $110 million campaign titled The Power of Transformation.For Blake Wilson, president and CFO of EverBank, the connection between the two organizations was obvious. The First Geeration Scholarship Program is the link that brought the two organizations together in a unique relationship cemented by a five-year commitment by the financial services firm to provide $250,000 in scholarship help with a preference given to students enrolled at The Bridge. The state will match that donation dollar for dollar, doubling the impact of the gift. “The First Generation Scholarship program perfectly aligns with EverBank’s community outreach philosophy,” Wilson noted. “It addresses a critical concern in our community by providing much-needed assistance to motivate young people who otherwise might not have had an opportunity to attend college.” While some may attribute the connection between the two programs as a fortunate coincidence, Wilson disagrees. The rapidly growing bank has a carefully thought-out plan to bring the organization’s resources, skills and experience to the task of improving the community. EverBank’s Fast Path Program is designed to help at-risk high school students through mentoring and educational assistance. Because of Wilson’s commitment, many EverBank employees donate their time to make Fast Path a success and provide children with a solid foundation to be productive and successful. Wilson, who sits on the boards of The Bridge and the UNF Foundation, saw the connection immediately. “We see both programs as a natural fit for each other. As young people move through The Bridge, we want to give them the added incentive to get a higher education,” he said. “This is a tremendous opportunity to help break the generations of poverty and develop new leadership within the community.” Pierre Allaire, vice president for Institutional Advancement at UNF, said EverBank’s commitment to the First Scholarship program demonstrates how the public and private sectors can work together to benefit the community. “The corporate citizenship exhibited by EverBank is remarkable. This commitment is a major step in The Power of Transformation campaign and ultimately in our ability to transform the lives of our students,” he said. Allaire specifically praised the efforts of campaign co-chairs Rad Lovett and Rusty Newton to facilitate the donation. “Rad and Rusty are business executives who have recognized the important role private enterprise can play in our community.” For Wilson, The Power of Transformation campaign was a perfect opportunity to extend the bank’s role in the community. “Our bank is all about transformation. It is in our DNA,” Wilson said. “Like UNF, our commitment goes well beyond the doors of our organization. Our success has the potential to create a new generation of leaders all motivated to create a stronger community.” About EverBank EverBank is a privately held thrift holding company headquartered in Jacksonville, offering innovative banking, lending, leasing and investment products and services of exceptional value. The company's balanced mortgage banking, deposit banking and leasing platforms provide diverse revenue streams with proven success in a variety of market conditions. The company has more than $8 billion in assets and more than $6.3 billion in deposits. For more information on the EverBank Family of Companies, visit EverBank.com About The Bridge of Northeast Florida The Bridge of Northeast Florida is a 501(c)(3) organization whose goal is to help at-risk children. It works to build bridges connecting those children to the opportunities they need to overcome the despair of their surroundings and to aspire to a life where their dreams can come true. Its main campus is located in the urban core in Jacksonville’s Springfield neighborhood. More than 700 children and teens are attending programs at The Bridge, which recently celebrated its 25th anniversary.