The Challenge

More than half of Sarasota County students qualify for free or reduced lunch.

Each year, Sarasota County students face urgent needs that impact their ability and desire to learn and thrive in the classroom. While our community recognized that a lack of necessities such as clothes, shoes, glasses, medical treatment, or food due to a challenging economic situation should not limit a student from achieving success, interested donors had limited ways to help.

Urgent needs require immediate attention. Yet, while social services were available for longer-term obstacles, student emergencies often left teachers, bus drivers, counselors, or other staff members reaching into their own pockets to alleviate the need.

Over the last decade, Florida is seeing an increase in the number of students who qualify for free or reduced lunch. In Sarasota County, half (over 20,000) of all students fall under this category.

Our Response

In 2013, the Student Emergency Fund was established by the Community Foundation of Sarasota County in partnership with The Patterson Foundation to address the pressing issues impacting our students’ ability to learn. The fund provides last-resort, one-time funding for local students that pays for critical items necessary to keep students in school and ready to learn, such as:

  • Clothing, Glasses, Shoes, and Other Personal Items
  • Medical Treatments & Medicine
  • Vision Care
  • Transportation
  • Food
  • School Supplies

The Patterson Foundation has endowed the Student Emergency Fund in perpetuity to ensure that future generations of students could receive the help they need in order to thrive in and beyond the classroom.

The Student Emergency Fund provides last-resort, one-time funding to help keep students in school.

How to Receive Help

The Community Foundation works closely with Sarasota County public and charter schools to ensure that funds are responsibly maintained and can be distributed quickly to get children the resources they need to learn without distractions caused by their economic circumstances.


For more information on ways to donate, contact us at 941-955-3000 or

Get Involved

Kirsten Russell 

Vice President, Community Impact