One Community, Indivisible



While the dazzling fireworks and festive gatherings this week for the Fourth of July were certainly appreciated, what shines brightest in our community is the mosaic of donors, volunteers, nonprofits, staff and community members, all collaborating to move our community forward, that encourages unity and belonging on Independence Day and all year long.

It is sometimes easy to forget just how much in common we share with one another. Although individual motivations or reasons may differ, our community has always demonstrated a remarkable tendency to discover these commonalities, connect others and progress towards shared goals for the betterment of everyone.

I can think of no better example of this than our scholarship committees at the Community Foundation of Sarasota County. Each year, groups of dedicated volunteers come together to review hundreds of applications and conduct thorough interviews for both our Traditional and Adult Learner Scholarships. This year, an impressive 85 community members volunteered to carefully review more than 700 applications. Ultimately, 535 students from Sarasota, Bradenton, DeSoto and Charlotte counties were awarded with an astounding $1.95 million in scholarships.

Our committees recognize the crucial importance education has on a student’s ability to succeed and accomplish their personal and professional aspirations. That is why of our 85 committee volunteers, more than 80 percent returned to invest their time in this noble endeavor. And of our 22 committees, 19 were external, comprised entirely of community members not affiliated with our foundation.

In some ways, you could regard these committees as microcosms of our community, reflecting the rich diversity present across Sarasota—and beyond—and intertwining multiple generations, ethnicities, races, languages, sexual orientations and genders together through a common purpose.

While our volunteer committees remain the heart of our Scholarships program, none of this would be possible without the charitable contributions of our donors. Their passion for education and commitment to investing in our future leaders provides the resources necessary to continue building a stronger community.

Through the tireless work of these individuals, our Community Foundation was able to award an average of $3,360 to each recipient. Through this investment, our students will be empowered to complete their degrees—whether it be a certificate program or four-year university—and progress to the next stage in their professional development.

Donor generosity working hand-in-hand with the dedication of our volunteer committees is just one way our Community Foundation is bringing together previously unrelated groups to meaningfully change our shared community.

So during this week of festivities, I encourage you to reflect on all the aspects that bring us together as one, indivisible community, and how we can create a sense of belonging where everyone feels like they play an equal and purposeful role. This is no simple task, but I know our community is up for the challenge.

While superficial differences can appear to divide us, our community has proven time and again that it can overcome these divisions and come together to create lasting impact. We all belong in this place we call home, and the Fourth of July reminds us all of that shared spirit.

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

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