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SRQ DAILY Mar 21, 2020

"We are now getting a reminder about why business is so important to our lives here."

- Christine Robinson, The Argus Foundation

[Argus]  Businesses are the Lifeblood of Our Community
Christine Robinson, Christine@argusfoundation.org

We had forgotten. We forgot about the bad economic times from the great recession. 

We had over 12% unemployment in 2010. We lost restaurants and stores and construction just about totally shut down. Affordable housing was abundant in terms of single-family homes due to foreclosures and people just moving away. Government had restricted businesses so tightly that some of the ones that could brave the economy couldn’t brave the bureaucracy.

It took 10 long years for us to recover from those horrible times. Sure, we had significant blips of pain along the way, like red tide, but we very slowly came out of it. So much so that the businesses that supported our quality of life were beginning to feel like the bad guy as they became targets for no-growthers. In the no-growth mind set, less businesses meant less people.

We are now getting a reminder about why business is so important to our lives here. COVID-19 is causing businesses to be completely shut down, and therefore, residents are losing their jobs. We are watching small businesses owners stop paying themselves and trying to hang on as long as they can to pay their employees.

Many businesses are completely losing their most profitable month of the year– they may never recover and shut for good. Some of these businesses have been here for decades. Real estate transactions are coming to a halt. We are seeing restaurants forced to shut their doors and send home the last of what is in their coolers with their now unemployed workers. 

In spite of the chaos, we are also noticing the great things that businesses do to help our community at-large despite the hits they may be taking. We see businesses shift to answer the public needs from what is most profitable, to what will best serve their community in this crisis. When government is slow to act, we have businesses filling in the gap, like restaurants quickly volunteering to give free meals to kids who are on free and reduced lunch. 

Our business owners support our community. They are the sponsors of our non-profit events, the reason why we have philanthropy and they make an impact every day with their investments in our community foundations. They have been there supporting our work force and the neediest of our community.  

Now, it’s time we support them, because that support will be an investment in our community’s future.

Christine Robinson is executive director of The Argus Foundation. 

[Gulf Coast]  A Time To Do More
Mark Pritchett, mpritchett@gulfcoastcf.org

The coronavirus pandemic is testing everything we know and believe in. From daily routines to long-term plans, uncertainty and disruption are the new normal.

For philanthropy, the big challenge is responding effectively when knowledge and needs change more often than daily. Some of the most transformational initiatives we’ve built at Gulf Coast Community Foundation benefitted from diving deep into an issue, mapping the terrain, piloting the most promising solution and then scaling it for systems change. Right now, we don’t have that luxury.

Less than 48 hours ago, our Board approved Gulf Coast Community Foundation’s COVID-19 Response Initiative. It is a joint effort with Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation to strategically deploy philanthropic resources to help ensure our region’s immediate and long-term well-being. We aim to strengthen our health and social safety net to help those who are most susceptible to the devastating impact of this pandemic. We also will look to our donors to rise to this challenge with us. 

Initially, we will focus funding and other support on trusted partners among our region’s lead health, human service and safety organizations. The nonprofit and public agencies that coordinate these systems will face unprecedented strain. Many of the community members impacted by this crisis will be seeking health or social services for the very first time. Simply guiding them to the assistance available and helping them navigate the system will increase the burden on our partners. Together, Gulf Coast and Barancik Foundation will provide those partners with immediate relief and build their long-term capacity to continue providing critical safety-net support, even as the number of clients and complexity of their caseloads grow.

We are also leveraging the generosity of our Gulf Coast donors in this effort. Commitments to our initiative fund currently stand at $1.5 million, but we are challenging donors to match that total. At the same time, we encourage them to keep giving directly to their favorite charities, whether theater groups, animal shelters, tutoring programs, or other worthy causes. We encourage them to do more — to consider an additional gift, above what they are already giving — at a time when more is needed most.

It can feel paradoxical to invoke “community” right now, as we socially distance and circle the figurative wagons around those closest to us. But as a Gulf Coast Board member said it so well when we (virtually) met on Thursday to launch our initiative: “This is when being part of a community really matters.”

In that spirit, here are some more things we all can consider, in addition to charitable gifts to efforts like our COVID-19 Response Initiative or the Community Foundation of Sarasota County’s Season of Sharing Fund:

  • Heed the experts. Our local, state and federal public health officials are best informed to advise us on how to combat the spread of the coronavirus in our communities and our country.
  • Keep your tickets. Our arts and cultural organizations are being ravaged by the realities of the containment strategies we must follow. As performances and events are canceled, please consider foregoing any refunds for tickets or sponsorships and instead view those purchases as investments in the survival of the organization.
  • Self-sacrifice. From checking in on neighbors to buying a take-out meal for someone, there are countless ways — both simple and creative — to be a good citizen right now. Self-sacrifice is giving up something you may want for the greater good of everyone. Let’s view this as an opportunity to demonstrate that by doing the right things for the right reasons for each other, our community and our society will be stronger when this crisis ends.

Mark Pritchett is president and CEO of the Gulf Coast Community Foundation. 

[City]  The Air We Share
Tom Barwin, Thomas.Barwin@sarasotagov.com

On Friday, March 13, Sarasota was likely the first city in the state to declare a local public health emergency. At that time, Gov. Ron DeSantis and State Public Health advisors had “strongly recommended” social gatherings in Florida be limited to less than 250 persons.

The governor’s request and our quick local response helped facilitate the timely shutdown of the Farmers Market, the County Fair, all special events and a dozen busy and popular performing arts operations in the city. By last Tuesday, St. Patrick's Day, the state had shut down all bars and nightclubs and restaurants were required to reduce their capacity by 50% and space tables at least six feet apart. The President also pivoted, and urged all social gatherings be restricted to less than ten people, and suggested gatherings just be avoided all together. And now, a day most thought would or could never happen, happened, when City and County officials in south Florida and along much of the gulf coast announced that most gulf coast beaches would be closed by this weekend. Wow!

What's next? Well, the first order of business is to get through this as healthy as we can, with the second order of business being making sure we have business to get back to when the threat passes. It does appear, that for now, the vast majority of people are listening and social gatherings, which risk further transmission of COVID-19, have come to a screeching halt. On premise food sale restaurants have been temporarily closed by the State, with several local favorites converting to pick up and delivery operations as encouraged by the Governor. Your loyalty can help them keep people working. Many businesses that do not feature group gatherings are also converting to virtual operations, i.e. online, telephone and by appointment-only operations. Office type businesses, like our local governments, remain assessible over the phone and through the internet. The new general rule, whether you need medical care, a pizza or your car or watch fixed, call first.

As always during our emergencies, a tip of the hat goes out to all those people and their families who continue to support our basic needs, even in this time of a public health emergency. We can't thank our neighbors enough, who continue to go to work in our grocery stores, in our clinics and hospitals, our first responders in police, fire and EMS, and our utility workers who keep our water, sewer, electricity and streets functioning, and our sanitation workers who continue to remove our trash like clockwork. This challenge, more than most, should clearly remind us, once again, just how interconnected and interdependent we are here and around the world.

The air we share can transmit a life-threatening virus. The care we share minimizes our losses and will restore our health. As the twin towers fell during 911, I recall commentators predicting how 911 was going to change our lives, and it did. It's early, and we have a way to go, but COVID-19 is also going to change our lives. This time, once we get through this, as we will, let’s hope and strive to make this crisis an opportunity to learn and respond with changes for the good. In Sarasota, we are already working on our comeback. Once this is over, I will look forward to seeing you around town.

Please feel free to email me at Thomas.barwin@sarasotafl.gov.

Tom Barwin is Sarasota City Manager. 

[Higher Education]  SCF Resources Provide Student Success
Carol Probstfeld, presidentsoffice@scf.edu

If you want to measure the importance of a college to its community, talk to its graduates, they are our best credentials. At State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota, we can talk about our success rates and outstanding programs, but when our students and graduates do it, it becomes reality.

At SC,F we get to meet students like Yesica Lopez-Cabrera and help them achieve their dreams. Yesica is a 2019 graduate of SCF and is currently in the Tampa Bay Bridge to Baccalaureate Program on our Bradenton Campus, which is preparing her to transfer to the University of South Florida to major in biomedical science. She hopes to enroll in a physician assistant program after completing her bachelor’s degree.

A first-generation college student, Yesica took advantage of the resources SCF provides to minority and economically disadvantaged students to ensure she could attend college after graduating from Palmetto High School. The guidance and mentorship she received through the SCF College Reach Out Program (CROP) set her on the path to success.

CROP is designed to increase the number of students getting a college education.  Its objective is to motivate and prepare low-income students in grades 6–12 who otherwise would be unlikely to pursue a college education. Our CROP school-based programs are directed by site coordinators who serve as mentors at middle and high schools in Manatee and Sarasota counties. These programs provide students with academic enrichment activities as well as career and personal counseling. 

Yesica’s CROP experience at Palmetto High School earned her a Summer Bridge scholarship at SCF in 2018. Summer Bridge helps CROP students transition to college by allowing them to take two classes during the summer after they graduate high school. Each student receives a scholarship covering tuition, books, supplies, and lunches. For Yesica, this created a smooth transition to SCF as she began to earn college credits.

She shared that as a full-time student SCF gave her a great foundation for a career in science. Yesica found that the small class sizes at SCF allowed for more one-on-one communication with her professors, a great benefit the college provides all its students.

SCF has participated in the state’s CROP program for 28 years and is currently supporting 140 students in area middle and high schools. In our Fall 2019 term, 80 former CROP students and 53 Summer Bridge students were enrolled at SCF.

As Yesica prepares to transfer to USF, the Bridge to Baccalaureate program is providing her with the resources and tools she needs to motivate her to pursue a career in science. The Bridge to Baccalaureate program is focused on increasing the number of underrepresented minority students completing a bachelor’s degree in a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math program. Her participation led to additional in-state and national educational experiences.

Yesica is great example of how SCF can create educational opportunities that take students from middle and high school to college degrees. She understood the value of the assistance and resources that the college’s CROP, Summer Bridge and Bridge to Baccalaureate programs and how each could help her achieve her goals.

Yesica is a shining example of an SCF graduate and I have enjoyed sharing her story, but now allow her words close this column.

“What stands out to me the most about SCF is that they want nothing but to see their students succeed,” said Yesica. “SCF feels like a home to me and I am very pleased with everything they did for me.”

Dr. Carol F. Probstfeld is president of State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota. 

[KUDOS]  The Shelter is Closing, But Not Yet!

The Humane Society of Sarasota County (HSSC) will be open Saturday, March 21, from 10 am-4 pm. Then, starting at 4 pm on Saturday, the shelter will be closed to the public until at least Saturday, March 28. HSSC has spent all week promoting adoptions and doing everything in their power, including waiving adoption fees, to get animals placed in loving homes. Since Tuesday, HSSC has had 33 adoptions and 29 more are in foster homes. Thank you to everyone who adopted and stepped up to foster!  

Humane Society of Sarasota County

[KUDOS]  Meals on Wheels PLUS of Manatee Honors Volunteers

On Monday, February 24, 2020, Meals on Wheels PLUS of Manatee’s annual Volunteer Appreciation Dinner was held to applaud and recognize the important efforts of the organization’s volunteers. Volunteers supporting Meals on Wheels PLUS of Manatee’s programs and activities were celebrated. “Over 42,000 volunteer hours contributed to the advancement of our mission in 2019. We could not provide the critical programs of Meals on Wheels PLUS of Manatee without our volunteers. We appreciate what our volunteers contribute each and every day and tonight was about coming together to celebrate them,” said Maribeth Phillips, President & CEO of Meals on Wheels PLUS of Manatee.  

Meals on Wheels Plus

[SCOOP]  Meals for Students

Any/all children 18 or under will be provided meals starting on Monday, March 23. The meal service will run Monday - Friday each week until schools reopen. The following locations will be open for drive-thru meal service:

  • Booker High School – 3201 North Orange Avenue
  • Fruitville Elementary School – 601 Honore Avenue
  • Garden Elementary School -700 Center Road, Venice
  • North Port High School – 6400 West Price Blvd, North Port
  • Atwater Elementary School – 4701 Huntsville Ave, North Port 

Parents and guardians can pick up a meal for their child from 9:00 am until 1:00 pm during the day. Children must be in the car for staff to verify in order for parents and guardians to receive a meal. The meals will consist of a lunch, as well as a breakfast for the next morning. Parents and guardians should follow the signs when entering each of the school campuses. 


Sarasota County Schools

[KUDOS]  All Faiths Food Bank Responds to COVID -19 Crisis

All Faiths Food Bank, Sarasota County’s largest hunger-relief organization, has ramped up to continue serving our community throughout the COVID-19 crisis. All Faiths has taken extra precautions to assure the safe and continued supply of food for people in need during the crisis. Right now, the Food Bank is packing thousands of family size food boxes to help us provide food safely. Their mobile pantries and backpacks are being increased and they are working with partnering agencies to assess how they can further support them through the COVID-19 situation. For families in immediate need, food can be picked up at one of the Food Bank’s mobile pantry locations and partner agency distributions.


All Faiths Food Bank

[Modern Mexican Food]  Southern Renegades

Circo rebels against a predictable pairing to cultivate an unorthodox bourbon and taco scene downtown. 

Click here to read the full story in our March 2020 Home Edition of SRQ Magazine!

SRQ Media Group

SRQ DAILY is produced by SRQ | The Magazine. Note: The views and opinions expressed in the Saturday Perspectives Edition and in the Letters department of SRQ DAILY are those of the author(s) and do not imply endorsement by SRQ Media. Senior Editor Jacob Ogles edits the Saturday Perspective Edition, Letters and Guest Contributor columns.In the CocoTele department, SRQ DAILY is providing excerpts from news releases as a public service. Reference to any specific product or entity does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation by SRQ DAILY. The views expressed by individuals are their own and their appearance in this section does not imply an endorsement of them or any entity they represent. For rates on SRQ DAILY banner advertising and sponsored content opportunities, please contact Ashley Ryan Cannon at 941-365-7702 x211 or via email

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