Across our part of southwest Florida, families and individuals are reaching out for much-needed assistance with basic needs. From housing and shelter to food, local nonprofit organizations are responding to these common calls for help and collaborating to assist our most vulnerable residents to quickly connect them to the resources they need to get back on their feet.
To discuss these situations unfolding in Manatee County, the Manatee Community Foundation brought together several cause leaders from the Women’s Resource Center, Gulfcoast Legal Services, and Glasser-Schoenbaum Human Services Center for a virtual conversation about what local lifelines exist and how neighbors in crisis can access support.
As part of the panel, I was proud to share the impact of the 21-year-old, community-wide safety net known as Season of Sharing that has helped more than 38,000 households during times of crisis. Last year in 2020, our community entrusted a remarkable $5.2 million to this campaign, with 30% of that total going to our neighbors in Manatee County (the balance to DeSoto, Charlotte, and Sarasota counties).
This support assisted more than 1,000 families and 2,600 individuals from Parrish and Palmetto, across Bradenton and Myakka City, and to neighbors in the small communities leading south to the Manatee County line like Cortez, Holmes Beach, Anna Maria, and Oneco.
By providing vital emergency needs, such as rent and mortgage, utilities, and other expenses including childcare and transportation, those helped regained some everyday stability.
Here are a few highlights that I believe provide valuable perspective on just how important this time-tested and trusted resource is to our community:
- Relentlessly local, Season of Sharing has become known as a stable, reliable, and flexible way for neighbors to give back to their community and support neighbors during challenging times.
- Designed to have no administrative red tape, the campaign is powered by a network of more than 50 human services agencies with the highest integrity. Those requesting assistance are paired with one of these agencies either after calling 2-1-1 or working directly with an agency social worker.
- The process for social workers is just as simple: a one-page application that ensures more time is spent matching existing resources with those in need, and less on paperwork. Within 24-48 hours, funds are then directly and efficiently administered to providers, be they a landlord, utility company, childcare center, or car repair shop. (View this flowchart to learn more about the process.)
- Because it is considered last-resort funding, Season of Sharing assistance does not replace or compete with other funding sources in our community’s social service network.
This year’s campaign is already underway and changing lives. You can catch a glimpse into the lives of those touched by Season of Sharing in the stories shared by Saundra Armhein within the pages of the Herald-Tribune. Learning about the challenges faced by everyday people like Brenda, Kayli and her one-year-old child, and Todd reminds me of the incredible power Season of Sharing has to bring people together – in Manatee County and beyond – for the betterment of our community.
I hope you’ll take part in this hopeful yet pivotal moment.