Counting Every Voice in Our Community

Guest Correspondence

As with each New Year, many in our community are looking to the future with a healthy dose of optimism mixed with a dash of reality. Through a handful of New Year’s resolutions and festive gatherings, we hit our metaphorical reset button that refreshes our momentum, and each of our commitments to improving our lives and those around us. While each year brings a reasonable balance of opportunities and challenges, we cannot escape the reality that families across our community—and beyond—are gripped by heavy feelings of anxiety and caution with the start of this new decade.

Regardless of your personal beliefs, 2020 will be a trying year. With a political barrage of presidential and local elections paired with the 2020 Census, the temptation to stress our individual differences rather than our shared commonalities will be overbearing, and some will find refuge in turning inward to avoid these challenging situations. The question then remains: how can we best overcome this as a community? Yes, we should vote. Yes, we should ensure our voices are being heard. But while taking part, we need to resist any pressure to divide ourselves. I encourage all of us to transform anxieties into energy for unity by focusing on what we can do locally to build the community we all want to live in.

While daunting, accomplishing this feat together requires each and every one of us to adopt a renewed sense of tolerance to engage civilly and respectfully with one another. Embracing tolerance is an important step on the path to better understanding each other by turning outward and resisting the urge to isolate ourselves.

In this spirit, the Community Foundation has offered support in the formation of and activities related to the City of Sarasota’s Complete Count Committee in preparation of the 2020 Census. The importance of ensuring a fair and accurate count in Sarasota County cannot be understated: if just 10% of our current population is not counted (estimated to be 40,000 people), as a community we lose $40 million a year in federal funding, or $400 million over the next decade. This could affect the future hiring of teachers, important resources for 12 Title 1 schools, Pell grants for students in need, budgets for infrastructure and the list goes on.  

All of us have a civic responsibility to ensure our growing community has the resources needed for the decade to come. There are countless ways to extend a helping hand: assisting a neighbor in completing their census; taking a flexible, part-time job as a census taker; or encouraging organizations you interact with to dedicate resources—internet access being chief among them—to ensure as many residents of Sarasota County complete the census. We all have a stake in this, so let’s ensure everyone’s voice is heard and valued.  

As we progress from one decade to the next, I encourage all of us to embrace the New Year, with all its inevitable opportunities and challenges, with an open mind and open heart. I am confident there isn’t anything we cannot overcome together. 

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

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