Community Foundation of Sarasota County, Donors, Issue Nearly $4.5 Million in Grants in Last Two Months

The Giving Coast

SRQ DAILY FRIDAY WEEKEND EDITION FRIDAY MAY 15, 2020

The Community Foundation of Sarasota County, along with its many donors, have granted nearly $4.5 million in the last two months to support community needs provided by nonprofit partners for immediate, short-term and longer-term responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The $4.5 million will help address basic life needs, offer buoying emotional support programs to students and seniors, and improve community quality of life through cultural connections. Of that total, $1.86 million was granted through donor advised funds, an increase of 35% over the same timeframe the previous year, which reflects a larger national trend of increased charitable giving directed by donors via community foundations. 

“Our community’s capacity to heal is measured in our willingness to help one another, which is what this surge in philanthropy represents,” said Roxie Jerde, President and CEO of the Community Foundation of Sarasota County. “The important work being supported through our donors past and present ensure our community remains healthy, resilient, and united.” 

One such giving family, Joe and Mary Kay Henson whose foundation has provided $650,000, noted their family’s partnership with the Community Foundation offered them an opportunity to respond rapidly to immediate needs resulting from the pandemic crisis and it will continue to inform their giving in the weeks and months to come as community needs evolve.

“By far, the most important thing we can do as a community is assist those in need of basic kinds of support,” said Joe Henson. “At the same time, philanthropy has the opportunity to address deep equity and opportunity divides to improve the lives of those facing poverty who have the greatest needs.” 

About the Funds

Notably, Jerde pointed out, these recent grants are in addition to the abundance of giving that resulted in $18.4 million of gifts made to nearly local 700 nonprofit partners during the 24-hour Giving Challenge hosted at the end of April, as well as the more than $2.5 million raised in six weeks in support of the reactivated Season of Sharing, the 20-year-old community-wide partnership that assists individuals and families with rent, mortgage, utilities and childcare. Both these efforts were bolstered by our longtime partner, The Patterson Foundation, which provided generous matching and outright gifts.

COMMUNITY CARE: Health & Hunger

In March and April, there was a surge of giving in response to the area’s increased need for hunger relief and food donations.

The Community Foundation’s Vice President of Community Impact, Kirsten Russell, shared that the funding in this area will be critical to meet unprecedented need by people who have not previously accessed social support programs and services.

Supported organizations providing emergency food relief include All Faiths Food Bank, Feeding Tampa Bay (Manatee County), Harvest House, HOPE for North Port Community Development Corporation, Hungers End, Inc., UnidosNow, and Meals on Wheels PLUS of Manatee, among others.

“It is inspiring to work with so many donors and organizations who are ready to respond to immediate needs, and who are also looking to the future with forward-thinking, creative, and collaborative ideas,” Russell said.

EMPOWERMENT & SUCCESS: Mentoring & Lifelong Connections

Maintaining the motivation to develop a purpose-driven life requires support at all life stages.

Boys Town of Central Florida, which is the state’s major provider of quarantine needs of juveniles related to COVID-19, received funding to assist with these specific operations.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Sun Coast adjusted its outreach model to provide one-to-one mentoring during the pandemic.

Take Stock in Children of Sarasota County received funding to welcome additional rising sixth graders from Alta Vista Elementary into its multi-year program culminating in a Florida prepaid scholarship.

Adults in need of social and emotional support are being assisted through funding for Senior Friendship Centers to augment services in the wake of the coronavirus.

BELONGING & CULTURE: Cultural Development & the Arts

Several cultural organizations adjusted operations during the height of performance season amid the state’s Safer at Home orders. Funds were quickly provided to support program transitions and technology adaptations to reach audiences in new ways to the Sarasota Ballet, Key Chorale, The Hermitage Artist Retreat, and the Venice Symphony.

“The arts are paramount to the quality of life that draws so many to call this area home,” Russell said.

Additional grant updates will be provided monthly as the foundation shares the collaborative results of philanthropic support, Jerde said.

“As a community foundation, we exist first and foremost to serve our community as a trusted partner and inspire hope, especially in times of critical need,” Jerde said. “The future is unknown, and it likely won't be easy in the short-term, but it is up to us to create it. Together.”

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