40 Years of Connecting Community

Guest Correspondence


Anniversaries are unique moments in a person or organization’s life that inspire reflection on what has come before and excitement for all that lies ahead. Like many joyous celebrations, anniversaries remind us all of something we value, resonating with meaning and importance that is individually tailored to each of our experiences. They can be tremendously personal while also being shared, as each person holds their own special date and reason to celebrate.

Before an anniversary arrives, however, there must be a beginning. In every situation, there are countless firsts, always evolving and gaining in significance as time passes. For the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, these firsts can take many familiar faces: the first donor connected to a cause, the first nonprofit partner awarded a grant, the first student impacted by a scholarship, and the list goes on. As these moments accumulated over the decades of our foundation’s history, a common thread appeared: the generosity and willingness of our community – public, private and nonprofit sectors alike – to deeply trust the Community Foundation of Sarasota County to be the bridge to bring people and causes together for the betterment of all.

Every person who has walked through the doors of the Community Foundation has a story, a passion, a drive, and this year we want to share those experiences with our generous community. Beginning this month, the Community Foundation will embark on a yearlong celebration of all the donors, nonprofits, local professionals and community members who have partnered with us over these past 40 years. Retracing our history of community impact goes hand-in-hand with highlighting the thousands of lives and memories that have defined and enhanced our commitment to uniting people and organizations to create opportunities for families across generations.

None of our achievements have occurred in isolation. Since our founding by the Southwest Florida Estate Planning Council in 1979, collaboration across sectors has been essential in fostering trust, confidence and connection to establishing a deep sensitivity and understanding of community needs. From this understanding grew opportunities to address emerging issues that were not largely recognized by the wider community, such as our 2Gen (two-generation) initiatives focused on helping children and their adults realize their greatest potential. These collaborative undertakings also allowed our foundation to expand beyond traditional grantmaking to tackle larger issues, including the threat of homelessness through the Season of Sharing campaign, which marks its 20th year this fall. 

Decade by decade, a unique culture of giving and sense of belonging arose alongside our foundation’s work in connecting community. Stemming from this development was our motto – “Be The One” – which still reflects our deeply-held belief that anyone can be a philanthropist and give back to the community regardless of means. The launch of the first Giving Challenge in 2012 built upon this premise and enhanced connectivity by creating a robust network of nonprofits and the caring individuals who support their causes.

While it is true that the Community Foundation is celebrating its 40th Anniversary this year, what we are truly honoring are the meaningful connections and relationships that have been strengthened along the way: donor by donor, nonprofit by nonprofit, community by community. Whether you are a longtime resident or relative newcomer, we hope you’ll join us for this yearlong celebration. After all, this anniversary is for all of us.

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

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