If journalism is our first rough draft of history, then caring for community is today’s frontpage headline. From neighbors embracing mask fashion to safely maneuver social distancing in public to volunteers of all ages selflessly giving their time at food banks, stories of compassion, empathy, and “paying it forward” can be found all around us, we simply have to open our hearts wide enough to listen and learn from their wisdom.
You've heard more about Season of Sharing this year from me than ever before, and that is because this vital safety net that restores stability to thousands of lives each year is more important than ever. When Stewart Stearns and Diane McFarlin established Season of Sharing 20 years ago to cut through the red tape that presents barrier to those seeking emergency need for housing, utilities and childcare, something was born that today has become bigger than either the Community Foundation of Sarasota County or the Herald-Tribune Media Group.
Storytelling combined with philanthropy has met this moment. Season of Sharing - a constant, trusted resource - is now documenting our community's capacity to heal in response to COVID-19.
Our partnership with the Herald-Tribune has been expanded this year to ensure local journalism thoughtfully captures this time and gives voices to those in need, along with critical analysis. For the year to come, a dedicated reporter – Angela DiMichele – will develop articles that share a glimpse into the lives of families and individuals supported through Season of Sharing, while also touching on the range of charitable support available to the community.
Though data-driven and community-oriented, at the heart of DiMichele’s reporting will remain a feeling that resonates in us all: compassion. As DiMichele learns more about our community (she moved here in early August from Fort Lauderdale), and builds relationships with our neighbors, we will gain a more expansive view of just how varied our region is across a broad geography that includes people of all ages, races, and experiences.
Pictured Above (From Right to Left): Mischa Kirby, APR, Vice President of Strategic Communications and Marketing, Community Foundation of Sarasota County; Lee Williams, Topics Editor, Herald-Tribune Media Group; Angela DiMichele, Herald-Tribune Media Group.
Already DiMichele has introduced us to Shyla Robinett, a mother of and 8-year-old son who had to leave her rental home in May and has seen her independent plant business dramatically be reduced. Thankfully a social worker with the Sarasota County School Board knew of the help available through Season of Sharing. We also anticipate longer-form articles about those important social workers who navigate this complex human services system, and greater details how Season of Sharing will continue to be a resource for any funding requests that may not meet CARES Act requirements.
Day by day, the story of our recovery during and beyond this pandemic is being written. As both the author and protagonist of our own narratives, it is up to each of us to listen empathetically to the experiences of others and compose the next iteration of what our community can and should become, with the heartfelt messages behind Season of Sharing guiding our pen strokes. So what are we waiting for? Let’s start creating this next chapter, together.
As always, I want to hear from you. What stories continue to give you hope and how has the power of storytelling impacted your life? I welcome you to share any thoughts or feelings in a personal message. Let me know. We’re listening.