Listening to and learning about the needs of our community requires building trusting relationships and being a partner during difficult times. Our Community Care programs include Emergency Needs & Disaster Relief, Preventing Homelessness, addressing Health & Hunger, providing care for Animals & the Environment, and Placemaking through housing, transportation & economic support.
The following are some recent examples of initiatives and support provided to enhance our community:
Student Emergency Fund
The Student Emergency Fund provides financial assistance to school administrators and teachers to help children with one-time, immediate needs. Each year, half of Sarasota County students rely on the Free and Reduced-Price Meal program for breakfast and lunch — representing a 36 percent increase in the past decade. Some students arrive at school without shoes or required uniforms, proper eyeglasses, or little to no school supplies. These unfortunate yet preventable deficiencies often impact their ability to learn and thrive, and the Student Emergency Fund can be used to help quickly meet those needs.
Season of Sharing
Season of Sharing is a 20-year community-wide campaign that seeks to prevent homelessness by providing financial assistance for mortgage/rent payments, utilities, child care or other crucial expenses to keep families and adults in their homes. Around $28 million has been raised since the campaign’s inception in 2000, helping thousands of people each year.
COVID-19: As a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are relying on the time-tested and trusted Season of Sharing partnership with the Herald Tribune Media Group and our multiple nonprofit agencies to help the most vulnerable individuals and families. Even in regular times, Season of Sharing is vital to many in our community, and we are fortunate to have it to help in addition to the government and private measures being developed.
Supportive and Affordable Housing
According to the recent ALICE Report, 40% (129,056) of all households in Sarasota-Manatee struggle to pay for basic needs including food and housing. As housing costs significantly rise and wages slowly increase, families are finding it more difficult to maintain safe housing and bounce back after experiencing homelessness. Harvest House supports families in need of permanent housing, transitional housing, and affordable housing, and our foundation provides support to achieve measurable changes in self-sufficiency of the families they serve. The Community Foundation’s board of directors recently approved a $100,000 grant that will allow Harvest House to improve the properties in ways that are not possible with the reduced rent payments made by residents, enhancing the family-friendly atmosphere and services that add stability to the lives of those who live at Harvest House.
Scholars & Collars
Companion animals and people share many of the same feelings. Learning more about dogs can encourage an increased awareness of self and promote good decision-making as students mature. A partnership between the Humane Society of Sarasota County, The Florida Center of Early Childhood and Gocio Elementary is underway to pilot the benefits of connecting our students with therapy dogs. Initial indicators show that students are learning to identify their strengths and realize how they fit into the world around them, become more accepting of physical and behavioral differences in people and animals and develop their ability to recognize and respect other’s feelings. Through this program, students are finding feelings, developing empathy, and cultivating cooperation.
Mental Health Therapists in Sarasota County Schools
A child’s health and well-being is essential to their ability to learn and thrive. Because children spend so much of their life in school, it’s logical to bring these services to them. Alta Vista and Gocio elementary schools served as the pilot sites to test the concept of therapists in schools before the expansion to 18 additional schools. Since more students were served by bringing the services in-house, the partnership between The Florida Center for Early Childhood, Sarasota County Schools, and the Community Foundation expanded for the 2018/2019 school year. Nearly 300 students in 14 schools have received services. Being onsite provided immediate services, improved communication with teachers, and removed barriers for parents. Principals report that they are able to serve families better. Teachers and staff received over 1200 hours of coaching and mentoring. The best news: teachers reported a statistically significant improvement in student behaviors.
Animal Reproductive Services
With the passage of Amendment 13 in the 2018 state election to close all greyhound racing tracking in Florida by 2020, it is expected there will be up to 8,000 greyhounds in need of homes by that deadline. Our foundation supported the Racing Dog Retirement Project to assist with spay and neuter programs for greyhounds exiting the racing industry and increase the adoption rates.
Partners for Green Places
Partners for Green Places (PGP) is a collaborative movement and grant program designed to inspire organizations and nonprofits to implement sustainable measures while achieving community sustainability goals. The grant program funds energy assessments and energy and water efficiency projects to reduce operational cost for human services and environmental nonprofits.
The Legacy Trail is currently a 12.5-mile multi-use recreational trail system connecting communities across Sarasota County. The Legacy Trail offers several areas to stop, rest, learn about its history and enjoy the natural beauty surrounding the trail. Through Friends of The Legacy Trail our foundation supports safety improvements and enhancements.
Hammock Place is a deed-restricted community of 40 single-family homes developed by Habitat Sarasota in response to the growing need for affordable housing in our community. Located in Sarasota County on the north side of 17th Street, just east of Beneva, Hammock Place features 3- and 4-bedroom homes that include a 2-car garage. It will be deed restricted, include lawn maintenance and have a gated entry. Through the support of volunteers and community partners, the homes will be sold with a zero percent interest mortgage to qualified candidates.
Occasionally, support is provided for social or environmental issues through impact investing. Projects that would not typically qualify for traditional lending are considered for these types of investments, with the interest paid back being reinvested in other projects.
Census 2020 Education
The Community Foundation has offered support in the formation of and activities related to the City of Sarasota’s Complete Count Committee in preparation of the 2020 Census. The importance of ensuring a fair and accurate count in Sarasota County cannot be understated: if just 10% of our current population is not counted (estimated to be 40,000 people), as a community we lose $40 million a year in federal funding, or $400 million over the next decade. This could affect the future hiring of teachers, important resources for 12 Title 1 schools, Pell grants for students in need, budgets for infrastructure, and the list goes on. All of us have a civic responsibility to ensure our growing community has the resources needed for the decade to come.