Summary: It’s a rare organization that can begin in humble origins, carve out an identity as a major economic and philanthropic presence, and, for more than sixty years, faithfully embody the entrepreneurship, industriousness, and compassion of its namesake. And yet that’s exactly what Central Florida’s Dr. Phillips Charities has been able to do. This installment of the Doing Good series shows just a small portion of the impact one family’s legacy has made on a community for generations.
From the Orchards to the City
The sale of the citrus portion of his enterprises moved Doc and the rest of Dr. Phillips, Inc. into the second phase of the company’s history. The firm began to focus its primary business efforts on the building and leasing of commercial and industrial buildings. Blocks of Orlando real estate development can point to Dr. Phillips for their origin. For example, the firm created the first Industrial Park just north of Orlando that featured a Sears Roebuck distribution warehouse, among other leases. At one time, Dr. Phillips, Inc. owned and leased more than two and a half million square feet of buildings in the Central Florida area with more than 300 tenants. The litany of major current or past tenants are renown: Howard Johnsons, Sears Roebuck, Crown Cork and Seal, Nabisco, B.F. Goodrich, Goodyear, Publix, Winn-Dixie, Porter Paint, Amoco, Sealtest, Hertz Rent-a-Car, Armour Foods, Goulds Pumps, Bell South, Dupont Paint, and Stanley Home Products, among others.
Today, Dr. Phillips, Inc. continues to maintain many properties as a part of its investment portfolio; it remains one of the largest commercial landlords in Central Florida. The firm’s decision to invest in real estate was both good for the company and ultimately good for the community.
Philanthropy Begins at Home
Many of Doc’s business decisions arose out of a charitable and giving spirit that he demonstrated throughout his life. While running his orchards, Doc paid keen attention to the needs of his workforce. The creation of his Dr. Phillips housing community for his employees and families was only one element; as described in the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame, he “always made sure his workforce was taken care of in every way.”
His focus on public welfare was often ahead of its time. In the 1950s, recognizing that proper health care for African-American citizens of Central Florida was almost non-existent, Doc helped to establish the Dr. Phillips Memorial Hospital. Howard (who had ultimately finished his education at Harvard) was also dedicated to this project and encouraged two African-American doctors to relocate to Orlando to establish their practice.
The Phillips family’s generosity and keen passion for helping people in the community led to the establishment of The Dr. P. Phillips Foundation in 1953 to support charitable needs in the Central Florida area. Dr. Phillips, Inc. is now also a non-profit organization, and the two organizations together compose Dr. Phillips Charities.
Doc also valued the importance of education and teaching the values of American free enterprise to the young people in his community. He was integral in bringing a Junior Achievement chapter to Central Florida, and was committed to funding that effort; since its inception, Dr. Phillips Charities have contributed over $2 million to ensure Junior Achievers have the background in entrepreneurship, financial literacy, and work readiness required to pursue their futures.
Unlike some entrepreneurs of the time, Doc built up his foundation while he was still alive, and he was able to be involved with the organization for six years before he died. The family felt that it was important to support programs that would correct the origins or causes of a problem, thus leading to the Foundation’s motto “helping others help themselves.” Howard, who focused his time on managing the foundation after the sale to Granada, continued the family legacy of philanthropy after Doc’s death in 1959 (and, in 1968, Della’s death).
The family felt that it was important to support programs that would correct the origins or causes of a problem, thus leading to the Foundation’s motto “helping others help themselves.”
The Legacy of Doc Phillips and His Family
Today, there are many community buildings named to honor the Phillips Family in Central Florida, including the Dr. P. Phillips Hospital, a hospital built on a parcel of land Doc purchased in 1905. Dr. Phillips Charities has awarded nearly $200 million in grants, pledges, and program-related investments to Central Florida charities responding to the needs of the community and directly touching the lives of thousands of children and families each year. The support has focused on five primary service areas, including:
- Educational programs,
- Children and Youth Services,
- Social Services,
- Cultural Programs, and
- Health or rehabilitative programs.
The Charities also support nonprofit organizations that seek to preserve the free enterprise system and protect private property rights. [Editor’s note: Since 1988, Capital Research Center has received annual contributions from The Dr. P. Phillips Foundation.]
While Dr. Phillips Charities touch countless individuals in the Central Florida area, an examination of two organizations can showcase the spectrum of their impact—from the way Orange County Public Schools (OCPS) change individual students’ lives and LIFT Orlando transforming an entire community.
In the next installment of “Helping Others Help Themselves” we see how the Dr. Phillips Charities help students work towards their future.