Season of Sharing Unwraps the Gift of Hope

Guest Correspondence

BY ROXIE JERDE SRQ DAILY SATURDAY PERSPECTIVES EDITION SATURDAY DEC 7, 2019

As the liveliness of the holiday season infuses our region with merry jingles and thoughtful wishes, families across our community search for the perfect present to bring joy to another’s life, which we all know doesn’t always come with free shipping on Cyber Monday. That warm feeling of doing something considerate for someone else is simply irreplaceable. I have found that the most meaningful gifts are the ones that cannot be wrapped neatly in a box or tied with a bow.

These are the gifts that come directly from the heart.

These intangible gifts are unique to each of us and relate to our own personal stories and experiences: the hug of a family member, the advice of a mentor, a shared smile with a stranger. During Season of Sharing, a community-wide campaign that for the past 20 years has empowered neighbors to help neighbors in need during times of crisis, these gifts are associated with one word: hope.

While our community is frequently recognized for its great wealth, the stories behind its great need often remain untold. For some four out of ten families in our community, a single paycheck is the only difference between enjoying the holidays from the comfort of home and being thrust into the uncertain reality of homelessness. These are individuals who work tirelessly each day to provide for their families but fumble for stability when faced with an unexpected emergency. Not knowing who or where to turn to, hope can be lost in an instant.

From its inception in 2000 as a partnership between the Community Foundation of Sarasota County and the Herald-Tribune Media Group, Season of Sharing has sought to restore that lost hope by unifying our community behind common goals to become part of the solution. Over the years, Season of Sharing has seen local participation triple, with annual donations exceeding $2 million and more than 3,000 individual gifts, both large and small, powering the campaign, with giving strengthened by The Patterson Foundation. Thanks to an outpouring of support from our community, including our friends with SRQ Media, Season of Sharing has helped 35,000 families and individuals in Sarasota, Manatee, DeSoto and Charlotte counties stay in their homes through nearly $22 million in one-time, emergency funds.

While the holiday season is an opportune time to raise awareness about our community’s chronic needs, we believe giving shouldn’t be limited to one particular season, certainly not stopping after the holidays. In fact, donations collected from November to January continue to support our community’s most vulnerable all-year long, providing timely assistance for an immediate need.

Take Angel’s story, for example. Struggling to raise her two children on her own and facing increased car insurance costs, Season of Sharing was able to keep her family in their home. A similar story of hardship and hope is told by Tasha, a single mother of two, who needed assistance after taking in her brother’s three children. Thanks to our community’s generosity, Season of Sharing was able to help Tasha provide for all five children and stay under one roof.

Though each of their stories is unique, they both reveal a common thread: our community's passion and willingness to change someone's tomorrow today. This holiday season, I hope you’ll join your fellow neighbors in giving a gift that will bring hope and joy long after you’ve packed away your seasonal décor. And while open hearts are encouraged, no gift wrapping is required.

To make a donation or learn more about Season of Sharing, please visit  www.CFSarasota.org. Thank you for your generosity.

Roxie Jerde is president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Sarasota County.

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