Community Care, Just in Time for the Holidays

Guest Correspondence

Photo from Shutterstock

Symbols of the season popped up early this year as many of us were eager for the comforting images that come with the holidays. Amidst the appearances of faux snowflakes, sand snowmen (complete with sunglasses), reindeer, and more in emails and advertisements in recent weeks, I was surprised to see a very early arrival: Father Time. I know there are many of us eager to wave goodbye to 2020, but I would like to keep him around a bit longer and invite him to impart all the lessons learned from this year to cherubic Baby New Year of 2021. After all, we’ve learned a lot about who we are and how we want to live, and that is something I do not want to forget.

For example, our friends at Catholic Charities in DeSoto County introduced us to Maria and Mario, the young parents of three children and a baby boy fighting for his life after being born premature. Facing reduced hours at work and long back-and-forth commutes from the hospital, Mario reached out to Catholic Charities – part of the Season of Sharing network – for help with rent and utilities to ensure that when the baby returned, its home would be there to greet him. After many months between Tampa and Miami hospitals, their baby boy had a successful surgery and the family has since been reunited.

Lifechanging stories like Maria and Mario’s can be found all around us. Everyone has their own story to tell about how the coronavirus pandemic has impacted them. Those of us who were not deeply affected by previous troubles like hurricanes or other economic downturns cannot claim our lives haven’t been altered during 2020.

While you've heard more about Season of Sharing from me than ever before this year, there’s a reason for that. Because so many in our region are facing challenges they never expected, the usual funds raised along with emergency funds contributed this spring and summer that are here to help with rent and mortgage, utility bills, child care, transportation, food vouchers and other crucial expenses are on track to be depleted in just seven months.

Fortunately, our community is a caring one. Our partners at The Patterson Foundation are strengthening your generosity by providing $100,000 for every $500,000 raised by you, our community, towards Season of Sharing until January 31. These gifts of hope are often inspired by and given in honor of the precious relationships in our lives and can be “unwrapped” in Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte or DeSoto counties, going directly to those who need it the most all year long.

This brings me back to our old friend Father Time and the parable I shared earlier. Perhaps after a year unlike any other, Father Time should be encouraged to walk right alongside an eager Baby New Year, bringing with him the guidance and insights of the past to illuminate a more inclusive present and an even brighter future. Only time can tell how we will remember 2020, but as the enduring nature of Season of Sharing shows us again and again, community care is truly timeless.

While our greatest challenges will not vanish with a quick change of the calendar, neither should the abundance of resiliency, hope and unity that we have found within ourselves and our communities. This sentiment, along with the relationships that bring it to life, has the staying power beyond any one year to transform even the darkest of times into brilliant moments of caring.

To make a gift or learn more about Season of Sharing, please visit www.CFSarasota.org/Season-of-Sharing. Thank you for your generosity.

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

Photo from Shutterstock

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