Guiding Lights of Our Community

Guest Correspondence

BY ROXIE JERDE SRQ DAILY FRESHLY SQUEEZED CONTENT EVERY MORNING SATURDAY JUL 4, 2020

By now, we understand that changes to our lives as a result of the pandemic are hard and true facts. What could be changed to virtual life has — doctors' appointments, fundraising events and screen-led school lessons are no longer rare. Even the annual RAGBRAI, Des Moines Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, that my husband and I complete each year with more than 20,000 other bicyclists, has transformed into a virtual trek, allowing riders across the world to connect and participate on a previously unimaginable scale.

We all are discovering innovative ways to adapt, innovate and heal as we chart our path to recovery. It is different for everyone, though, and some of us are better equipped than others to adjust, an inequality that should be acknowledged and one we at the Community Foundation of Sarasota County are focused on addressing.

Many of our local nonprofit partners are facing the same challenging realities. Decreased capacity and future uncertainty have led to a concerning fear for the vulnerable populations nonprofits serve who have been disproportionately impacted by this crisis, especially in the field of mental health. All of this compounded by a sense of urgency felt across all sectors to sustain, survive, and ultimately thrive once again.
Along with six other local foundations — Charlotte Community Foundation, Gulf Coast Community Foundation, Manatee Community Foundation, Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation, The Patterson Foundation and The William G. and Marie Selby Foundation — we have moved quickly to gather insight from area cause leaders to better understand the severity of COVID-19’s impact and provide actions to support our partners. In response to an in-depth questionnaire, nearly 300 respondents shared their stories and experiences with us, and here are two key highlights that stood out to me:

  • Successfully caring for our community will come with access to technology. While a vibrant collection of virtual events has emerged to sustain engagement and fundraising, the means to successfully pivot and thrive are restricted for many. With many nonprofits tapping into reserves for the next six months to tackle pressing financial realities, having the right tools and funding today has never been more crucial in creating the community we all want to live in now, and for generations to come.
  • On the other hand, what is needed most is not new: innovation, connection, and collaboration remain as imperative as ever to sustaining the capacity necessary to deliver programs and services at pre-pandemic levels. As business models continue to shift, so too will strategic and innovative partnerships working across sectors to create a web of resources to support and empower our community.

In this decisive phase of accessing community needs, our recovery is only as strong as the tools, resources, and voices that come together to create it. Just this week, we shared that nearly 40 local nonprofits had received more than $867,400 in grants to support animal welfare, health care, school readiness and summer education. Now more than ever, these specialty grants — in addition to other grant opportunities awarded — will act as a vital lifeline to cause-driven organizations addressing the fault lines exposed by COVID-19.

While nothing can replace the fireworks that would normally grace our nighttime sky tonight, I believe the same is true for the light our nonprofit partners give to our community identity, one that glows brighter with each person, cause and community served. Just as Francis Scott Key was inspired by the “broad stripes and bright stars” of our resolute flag to compose our national anthem, the work of our nonprofits is a guiding light that illuminates the very nature of our community, reminding us that even in the darkest of times you can still see the stars. As we work to build a brighter future together for all of us, I say to you with an abundance of hope and optimism: Shine on!

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

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