Forward Thinking at the Crossroads of Crisis

Categories: BELONGING AND CULTURE: Cultural Development & the Arts, COMMUNITY CARE: Health & Hunger, Donors, EMPOWERMENT AND SUCCESS: Lifelong Connections, EMPOWERMENT AND SUCCESS: Scholarship Opportunities, Philanthropy, CEO Message,

Dear Friends and Family:

From hurricanes and earthquakes, and now pandemics and civil unrest across our country, crises have often been viewed as a rare, if not fully welcomed opportunity for social reevaluation and renewal. Ancient Greeks understood crisis as krisis, meaning decision or choice. Today’s modern use of the word often carries undertones of fear or panic from being placed at an unexpected crossroads. I prefer the Ancient Greek’s view of a decision point that empowers each of us to boldly brave the road less traveled towards new, daring – and quite likely challenging, but rewarding – horizons.

Our current crises have exacerbated longstanding social and economic inequalities that expose our previous “normal” as anything but, and I am encouraged by the innovation and resiliency we see from helpers of all means that will be needed to continue moving forward as we rebuild our community.

In the last two months alone, our Community Foundation and its passionate donors have granted nearly $4.5 million to bolster local nonprofit efforts, addressing basic life needs, strengthening emotional support programs, boosting arts and animal organizations and improving overall quality of life. Following an increasing trend seen amongst community foundations nationwide, a significant amount of this total – $1.86 million – was generously provided through donor advised funds, reflecting our donors’ pressing desire to ensure our community remains healthy, resilient, and united now and in the long-term. Combined with the generosity seen during the 2020 Giving Challenge and reactivated Season of Sharing, some $25.5 million has extended a vital lifeline to our community’s most vulnerable in less than 60 days.

With the stark reality of rising unemployment engulfing record numbers of families and individuals, health and hunger needs are at the forefront of our minds. Thankfully, a surge of charitable giving rose to provide All Faiths Food Bank, Harvest House, Hungers End, UnidosNow, and Meals on Wheels PLUS of Manatee, in addition of others, with the staying power to respond to the heightened need, including those of people who had never previously accessed social support services.

With all of us feeling the acute isolation brought on by social distancing, maintaining our mental health and motivation is critical in overcoming present and impending challenges. Our grantees reflect this sentiment, with support going to: Boys Town of Central Florida for juvenile quarantine needs; Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Sun Coast for one-to-one mentoring; and, Senior Friendship Centers for augmented support services, among others.

For so many arts and cultural organizations, the onset of COVID-19 translated into a tidal wave of cancellations and adjusted operations, prompting donors to swiftly provide support for program transitions and technology adaptions. With these forward-thinking steps, the Sarasota Ballet, Key Chorale, The Hermitage Artist Retreat, and the Venice Symphony among others are now able to interact with audiences of all ages in innovative ways while strengthening their ties to our community culture for generations to come.

It is clear that our community is at a crossroads.

Alongside our donors and nonprofit partners, we at the Community Foundation of Sarasota County know philanthropy has an important role to play in this decisive moment to innovate for the future and reconstruct a normal that is equitable and reflective of everyone who calls this community home. As we continue to address immediate needs and work towards longer-term recovery by strengthening nonprofits and the communities they serve, our aim is to heal the scattered fissures revealed in the pandemic’s after-effects and the civil unrest we are now seeing.

By piecing together collaborative strategies, we can decide how to transform past inequities into sustainable solutions.

For months now, we have seen our nonprofit partners bravely pivot with no small amount of flexibility and creativity, donors selflessly rise to this unprecedented occasion, and community organizations come together like never before. Although it is up to each of us to decide which path of the crossroads to take, I am confident we have a moment to safely come together, stronger and more united than ever before.

With heartfelt gratitude,
Roxie Jerde

About Author

Roxie Jerde

President and CEO