Be Brave!

Uncommon Friends Foundation Promotes Character Education in Schools

About four months ago, someone told Jennifer Nelson she would be perfect as Executive Director of Uncommon Friends Foundation. Nelson prayed for a sign while attending church one Sunday.

A written message, “Be Brave!” made its way into her hand from a member of her congregation. She received the message clearly and embraced it fully. She hasn’t looked back.

Nelson radiates true passion while speaking about this self-supporting 501 (c)(3) nonprofit. Three parts make up the foundation: Scholarships, Business Ethics and Historical Preservation.

Uncommon Friends is a book written by James Newton who befriended Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone, Dr. Alexis Carrel and Charles Lindbergh. Newton documented their relationships in the book, which became the inspiration for the nonprofit with the same title many years later.

The Foundation reflects the same spirit of adventure along with a strong sense of purpose these five friends exuded throughout their lives and in their business endeavors. Uncommon Friends Foundation, established in 1993, dedicates its mission to promoting character education in schools, business ethics in the workplace, and historic preservation of the Burroughs Home and James Newton Archives. The Burroughs Home, leased to Uncommon Friends, brings in revenue for the nonprofit.

Uncommon Friends Foundation has created an endowment at Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU). As a result, all FGCU business majors must take classes in ethics. The Foundation’s character education program teaches such traits as honesty, integrity, friendship, cooperation, and perseverance.

Each year, the Uncommon Friends Foundation scholarships recognize deserving people who have a financial need, the potential to succeed in school and who demonstrate the personal traits of the Uncommon Friends. The Foundation annually recognizes and honors those educators who stand out in their use of the character education curriculum with their students.

Transparency, the Golden Rule, a high level of self-control and the traits common to the five friends provide the basis for Ethics in any successful organization. Nelson embraces a philosophy of employee loyalty before customer loyalty as a key part of the Uncommon Friends curriculum, which is available for public, private and home schooling.

Uncommon Friends reflects these core beliefs throughout their organization. Two of Nelson’s goals are sustainability, which includes recording stories for future generations, and partnering with other communities to expand the reach of Uncommon Friends.

The Uncommon Evening Gala is the Foundation’s Annual Signature Event, an enjoyable way to spend an evening raising funds to ensure the mission continues to be fulfilled. This year’s event, “Starry Starry Night,” will be held November 2, 2017, from 6:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m. Support of sponsors and individuals throughout our community is vital to the success of this empowering nonprofit.

Help someone else “Be Brave!” For more information, contact the Foundation’s office at 239.337.9503 or email Executive Director Jennifer Nelson at