Another Season of Sharing



Earlier this year our region faced a challenge that was an alarming experience for many who live in our community. In August, red algae bloom spread across our coastal waters, causing catastrophic damage to marine life, polluting our beaches and creating distress and health complications for anyone close enough to breathe in the affected air. While the effects of red tide could be seen and felt, there was one symptom that wasn’t as evident.

Thousands of people living in our community, our neighbors, were and still are struggling with financial emergencies as their jobs were greatly impacted during the algae bloom. Dozens of stores, restaurants and hotels on the coastline had to be closed due to lack of business and even health issues.  Employees did not receive paychecks for days or even weeks at a time. Unable to earn their typical wages and tips, many found it incredibly difficult to juggle putting food on the table, making car payments or paying their rent.

Fortunately, our community has a safety net in place for just these types of situations. For 19 years, Season of Sharing has allowed people living in our community who are just one unfortunate circumstance away from homelessness to keep a roof over their head. Circumstances beyond their control, like red tide, have turned what might be a minor inconvenience to some into a critical emergency that threatens their ability to stay in their home and pay their bills.

In 2000, Diane McFarlin, then-publisher of the Herald-Tribune Media Group, recognized the need for this type of fund in our community. Beneath the beauty of our region, too many of our residents were struggling to bridge the gap to an economically stable life. In partnership with the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, the Season of Sharing Fund was formed to support a network of 60-plus community agencies who dedicate themselves to assisting those who fall in the grey area between financial constancy and homelessness.

Through Season of Sharing, case workers can request up to $1,000 in immediate, emergency funding that provides for things like rental or mortgage payments, utility bills, transportation and other expenses so they can get back on their feet.

Since its inception, thanks to the caring hearts in our community, Season of Sharing has raised $19 million to help keep the roof over the heads of more than 20,000 families and individuals from Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte and DeSoto counties. However, this funding does not come out of thin air. Each year thousands of people in our community donate gifts ranging from $5 to thousands of dollars to lend a helping hand to their neighbors. The generosity is incredible, and the campaign is truly one that the community owns.

Thanks to this safety net, a senior who has worked hard their entire life does not have to choose between medicine, food or rent. A single mother can repair her car so she can get to work, allowing her to continue providing food at the table. A young adult transitioning out of foster care can stabilize their life and get on their feet. A family can afford childcare so they can continue to go to work each day. The stories go on.

The impact of this campaign is as remarkable as the collaboration required to put it together. Season of Sharing is the collective work of many partners who dedicate time, energy and money. Staff of foundations, nonprofit organizations and media partners dedicate hundreds of hours of time for project management, administration and creative planning so that 100 percent of every dollar from the community goes directly to help those in need. Additionally, thanks to support from The Patterson Foundation, every $500,000 raised by the public is strengthened by an extra $100,000. Also, when the campaign reaches $1 million, Community Foundation of Sarasota County will contribute another $100,000, as well as another $100,000 as a capping gift to achieve our goal of $2 million to assist those most vulnerable in our community. These funds are used throughout the holiday season and the year to come.

Diane may never have predicted red tide’s disastrous effects on our community. However, her vision helped put in place the safety net so many needed, especially this year. As we embark on our 19th annual campaign, we ask you join the tens of thousands of long-time residents and visitors who care about our neighbors in need. Our community still has a way to go in ensuring that every single one of our residents enjoys a legacy of economic security, but until then Season of Sharing is here for our most vulnerable families. 

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

Learn more about Season of Sharing and how you can help here.

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