After sponsoring an entire fourth-grade class to take a field trip to Spanish Point, Phyllis Siskel, the 76-year-old Sarasota resident, received a bundle of thank-you notes: “If it wasn’t for you,” one wrote, “we wouldn’t be at Spanish Point having fun. We would be at school doing work.” Others wrote,“I hope we get to go again when you have extra money,” and “If you was little, I would pay for you to go back one day.” “Isn’t that precious?” giggles Phyllis.

“These children are our future, and this plants seeds.” Seeds of kindness and empathy, charity and engagement. “You never know how you touch someone’s life,” she says, so in the end there are no bounds for achievable good. Phyllis Siskel is arguably unable to achieve the bare minimum. While her philanthropic career most likely began as a child when volunteering to clean the chalkboards at school, it has spread far and wide. Every holiday, major or minute, Phyllis drops off packets of stickers at her post office to be given out to the children, supplying small snippets of joy in the shapes of flags and bunnies, snowflakes and fireworks, hearts and pumpkins, and shamrocks and turkeys.

For more than 25 years, she has volunteered with Southeastern Guide Dogs in the puppy nursery, whispering to each and every one what their adorable and important destinies will entail. She serves lunches for the Sarasota Military Academy middle and high school, has ushered children and families as they enter the Circus Arts Conservatory tent for over 12 seasons, and has volunteered at food banks throughout her life. Phyllis donated 25, then 50, then 100 copies of Magic: One SMART Horse to a fourth-grade class, a book describing the journey of Magic, a blind horse who inspires young riders with physical or developmental challenges at SMART, the Sarasota Manatee Association for Riding Therapy where shevolunteers as a side walker. She then sponsored the fourth graders to visit SMART on a field trip, meeting the legendary horse they had read about face to face.

The list is long, but “that’s the way to go about this world,” she says. Never shutting a door, turning a blind eye or closing an ear, Phyllis believes there will always be room for more in the nonprofit world and you never know who or what will come across your path. Never donate anonymously, she urges, because by putting your name on a good deed you will continue the philanthropic conversation, encouraging the act of giving. “People want to associate with someone,” so why not be that face, be that inspiration? Phyllis Siskel has no limit for where she hopes to spread good works. Viewing philanthropy from a holistic view, no act is too small and no role in a charitable organization unmeaningful. “It’s been a way of life for me,” says Phyllis, with philanthropy instilled in her youth and maintained through a spiritual path. She believes in the big picture, with few plans to slow down or step back. “To be kind and giving,” she says, “it makes for a joyful heart.” SRQ