Last weekend I took a Florida road trip with my husband, Mike, to celebrate our 44th wedding anniversary. We took the back roads to Cape Canaveral to admire the feats accomplished by engineers, dreamers, and adventurers at the Kennedy Space Visitor Complex, even getting to experience the launch of the Crew Dragon capsule Endeavour before sunrise last Friday morning. On the return home we again traveled the back roads, stopping at Bok Tower Gardens, a green oasis tucked away in Lake Wales. Walking along a path lined with spring flowers, I came across a quote from Edward W. Bok that warmed my heart: “Make you the world a bit better or more beautiful because you have lived in it.”
A quote entrusted by Edward W. Bok to the next generation of community leaders and innovators. Located at Bok Tower Gardens.
For me, this message of hope brought together the two seemingly unrelated places on my itinerary – one a marvel of engineering, the other of the natural world – through similar, yet distinct visions. Both NASA and Bok relied upon the latest technology of their times to connect people with new experiences and viewpoints, and never once lost sight of bringing about a brighter future for their communities, both local and far-reaching.
Roxie Jerde at Bok Tower Gardens, a green oasis located in Lake Wales, Florida (2021).
These teams that contributed to these huge undertakings understood that local change – informed by data and research and grounded in emotions and values – has the potential to bloom into possibilities even greater than first imagined.
Decisions made from the heart and informed by the head guide our work at the Community Foundation of Sarasota County to respond, inspire, and build a more equitable region for all. Behind every gift and philanthropic investment, research is key to identifying opportunities and being aware of challenges. Along the way, human impact and measurable results weave together, informing each next step.
Just last month, this commitment took on new meaning when we welcomed our first Vice President of Knowledge and Equity. Ranata Reeder joins our leadership team as a seasoned nonprofit leader with more than 14 years of experience leading equity-focused initiatives touching the arts, economic innovation, housing, and even public health. These past experiences effectively coalesce in this new role that is helping balance current data with community input.
We’re already seeing how input is informing our recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, thanks to a collaboration with seven philanthropic foundations across our four-county region. Just imagine the possibilities that will be available to our community in the months and years to come as we continue to learn, listen, and understand our evolving community.
Knowledge comes as much from our hearts as it does our minds. While the pandemic confirmed the future is anything but certain, data-driven solutions – paired with the passion and care that can only come when thinking with our hearts – help guide and unite our community.
As always, I want to hear from you. How are you making the world “a bit better or more beautiful” through heartfelt and head-smart solutions? Is there anything you’d like to share with Ranata as she begins this important work? I welcome you to share any thoughts or feelings in a personal message. Let me know. We’re listening.
With appreciation for all you do,