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SRQ DAILY Mar 6, 2021

"Is it possible that our challenges are preparing us to reach new heights?"

- Jennifer Vigne, President and CEO of the Education Foundation of Sarasota County

[Community]  Personal Touch to Family-Based Philanthropy
Roxie Jerde, roxie@cfsarasota.org

In this time when connection means everything, a personal touch is always appreciated. We’ve all experienced it, the glow of a smile when a handwritten thank you note arrives in the mail or an impromptu phone call – or Zoom invitation – graces your day. There’s no telling how many unexpected moments of gratitude these thoughtful interactions can create within others. And for generous families who call our region home, this personal touch often finds new meaning through their own philanthropy and the causes they hold dear.  

Over the last 10 years living in Sarasota, I’ve been honored to work alongside many of these families as they build their own giving traditions. It’s a process (and journey) I wholeheartedly look forward to: identifying family values, discovering areas of shared concern, and ultimately creating a lasting charitable legacy. This rewarding dialogue gives a better understanding of what a family stands for and unites family members across generations by defining why and how they give.

These strategic elements of clarity bring closeness within a family and ignite possibilities outside of themselves.

When I first met Florida native and local philanthropist Lee Wetherington, his philosophy to charitable investments stood out to me as it seemed a very embodiment of these principles. As Lee would describe it: “We strive to give others opportunities to get out of bad situations and provide a bridge to move up in life. After all, all of us want to help another be successful.”

Lee approached the Community Foundation of Sarasota County nearly two decades ago, establishing his family foundation – the Lee Wetherington Foundation – with an initial gift of $1 million. Ever since, Lee and his wife Caroline have connected and supported a myriad of causes in Sarasota, Manatee and DeSoto counties: Spearheading the campaign to reimagine transitional housing for formerly homeless families at Harvest House; founding a college scholarship fund and remodeling facilities at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota and DeSoto Counties; and partnering with Friends of Oscar Scherer Park to construct a handicapped accessible trail and purchase acreage to protect its surrounding environment. And the list goes on. One can only imagine the countless lives touched and yet to be impacted by this generosity.

And yet like so many who provide financial support, Lee and Caroline’s altruism goes far beyond just a signature on a check. They are volunteers, board members, and visionaries at many of the nonprofit organizations that capture their hearts, including our own, with Lee having served as the Community Foundation’s board chair from 2008 to 2010 and an early proponent of our two-generation approach.

It’s with this spirit to do more that, earlier this year, the Lee Wetherington Foundation has surpassed $2 million in grants, a momentous milestone. It was humbling to hear from Lee that knowledge and services provided by our foundation had helped guide his charitable investments to new heights.

“Support from the Community Foundation through thoughtful coaching and awareness of community needs helps ensure we’re making the best investments possible with our giving,” said Lee. “My wife Caroline and I like to be involved in projects, and make sure that our money works the best for everyone taking part. Thanks to the Community Foundation, I know our giving is well managed, balanced, and has a purpose.”

As Lee and Caroline exemplify, philanthropy is always personal. It’s a remarkable thing, how the life and experience of one family can inspire others, across time and distances.  Family-centric giving is a hallmark of our region’s unique culture, and it reminds me that within all of us is the potential to transform the personal into the perpetual, a bridging legacy to a more connected and supportive community.

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

Photo of Lee Wetherington courtesy Community Foundation.

[Education]  From Obstacle to Brighter Destiny

C.S Lewis wrote: “Affliction is often that thing which prepares an ordinary person for some sort of an extraordinary destiny.”

In every ordinary school year, we witness scores of “ordinary” students and teachers doing extraordinary things.

They meet and overcome personal, emotional and physical challenges. Along the way, they develop resilience, grit and determination. They show curiosity and a thirst to learn more and keep aiming higher. They learn to adapt gracefully, turning unforeseen trials into unexpected opportunities. 

The events of the past year in particular brought the extraordinary people among us to the forefront. We saw many of them in January at the first virtual event of the annual Teacher of the Year celebration.

Now we’re at the time of year when our attention turns to another group deserving of our admiration: our students—specifically those juniors and seniors who have overcome significant obstacles in improving their lives.

We call these overcomers “STRIVE” students. Their stories are powerful, their grace in the face of adversity is inspiring, and their gratitude for being recognized is humbling. In past years we hosted a luncheon to honor them, but that, too had to be adapted, and we continue to find new ways to recognize and encourage them to keep going toward the next level of their education.

These examples of individual students and teachers tapping into their ability to reach their potential during extraordinary challenges led me to reflect on a macro level how our community and country are demonstrating resilience and strength, while I also reflected on a micro level how our organization and even I, as a human being, can demonstrate determination and resolve not only to survive but to thrive during this challenging period of time.  

I curiously wondered what lessons we might be learning along the way? Is it possible that our challenges are preparing us to reach new heights? Is it reasonable to consider how anyone can fully appreciate the exhilaration of an epic mountaintop if one has not yet experienced the throes of being in the valley?

Could it simply be that the obstacle is the way?

Author Ryan Holiday posed the question in “The Obstacle is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph”, which is the audiobook I currently am listening to while running.

I’m inspired by the teachers and students who press through the obstacles they face and leverage those obstacles to reach their full potential. It’s fascinating to see people who become better not in spite of their circumstances but because of their circumstances.  

As each of us is the individual owner of our beliefs, it is appropriate that we consider carefully how we answer these questions as our answers reflect what we choose to believe. 

A well-known quote attributed to Mahatma Gandhi emphasizes the importance of holding fast to our beliefs:

 “Your beliefs become your thoughts, your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, your actions become your habits, your habits become your values, your values become your destiny.”

Jennifer Vigne in president and CEO of the Education Foundation of Sarasota County. 

[SOON]  SEMINAR: Virtual: The Ringling: Gallery Conversation: Humor in the Collection , April 1, 10:30am

It’s April Fool’s Day. Come laugh with us as we look at the silly side of the collection and add our own jokes to favorite objects virtually on Thursday, April 1 at 10:30am. This event is $5 for non-members and free for members.

[SOON]  SEMINAR: Virtual: The Ringling: New Perspectives on Women & the Historic Circus: Kristin Lee , April 6, 10:30am

In a series of virtual presentations by Circus and Cultural Historians whose research has brought them to The Ringling, learn about the experiences, contributions, and documentation of women in the circus and allied arts. This particular edition, with Kristin Lee, will take place virtually on Tuesday, April 6 at 10:30am. This event is $5 for non-members and free for members. Tickets for Virtual programs are available 30 days prior to each program.

[SOON]  SEMINAR: Virtual: The Ringling: Parks, Promenades, and Plants: Bertha Palmers Garden and Gardening Books , April 13, 10:30am

Few people have been as influential in Sarasota’s history as Bertha Palmer: early pioneer, wealthy philanthropist, Chicago socialite, art collector, cattle rancher, and successful businesswoman. As the widow of Chicago multi-millionaire, Potter Palmer, she moved to Sarasota in 1910 and built an elegant home on Sarasota Bay in Osprey. The gardens Bertha Palmer created there were inspired by her many European travels and the excellent collection of gardening books she owned, now housed in The Ringling’s Art Library. This virtual program will occur on Tuesday, April 13 at 10:30am. It is $5 for non-members and free for members.

[SOON]  SEMINAR: Virtual: The Ringling: New Perspectives on Women & the Historic Circus: Amelia Osterud , May 20, 10:30am

In a series of virtual presentations by Circus and Cultural Historians whose research has brought them to The Ringling, learn about the experiences, contributions, and documentation of women in the circus and allied arts. This particular edition, with Amelia Osterud, will take place virtually on Thursday, May 20 at 10:30am. It is $5 for non-members and free for members. Tickets for Virtual programs are available 30 days prior to each program.

[SOON]  GALA: Fashion Funds the Cure for Pediatric Cancer: Fashion Show , March 6, 6pm

Fashion Funds the Cure brings the exciting world of runway fashion together with the dreams of pediatric cancer patients for an upbeat fashion show and silent auction at The Mall at University Town Center on Saturday, March 6 at 6pm. Guests will enjoy high fashion, delicious foods catered by Season’s 52, and a cocktail reception. This is the perfect opportunity to show support for the National Pediatric Cancer Foundation and make a difference in the lives of children battling cancer. Join us by supporting an event where dreams never go out of style.

[SOON]  HEALTH: Bay Park Yoga , March 6 – March 27, 9:30am-10:30am

Join yoga instructor Erin Hurter every Saturday morning March 6 through March 27 from 9:30am to 10:30am on the lawn outside of the Van Wezel. Relax, stretch and enjoy a fulfilling yoga session on Sarasota’s scenic bayfront while instructor Erin Hurter guides you along the way. Participants should plan to bring their own yoga mat. This event is free and open to the public.

[SOON]  SEMINAR: Virtual: Bookstore1Sarasota: Zoom PoetryMic , March 7, 2pm

PoetryMic is a series that presents an array of varied and talented poets. This month’s poets are Linda Albert, Mike Kozubek, Robin Rapaport and Linda Goodman Robiner and it will take place on Sunday, March 7 at 2pm. Linda Albert is an internationally published poet, essayist, and former theater director. Also, a certified Jungian Archetypal Pattern Analyst and communication coach with a Master Certification in Neurolinguistics. Linda’s poetry is influenced by her interest and academic training in those areas as well as by the values of her faith tradition, the changing roles of contemporary women, and her personal joys, struggles, and insights. Mike Kozubek: After retiring from practicing law, S. M. Kozubek spends more time now writing poems. He has published over 150 haiku, tanka, and haibun in many anthologies and was awarded a second prize in the International Section of the 2018 Mainichi (Japan) Haiku Contest. Robin Rapaport, a Holocaust survivor, spent more than three decades as a high school English teacher and served as president of the National Education Association of New York (NEA/NY) from 2003 to 2007. A member of the Ringling Poets group, Robin has had his poetry published in The English Journal, 2River View, Radar Poetry, among others. Linda Goodman Robiner hopes readers will find in her new poetry collection, Chrysalis, not only a memoir, but a door opening into their own lives. She has developed and implemented an artists-in-schools program, produced programming for public television, taught at northeastern Ohio colleges and universities, and facilitated writing workshops. There is no charge for this event. There is an optional fee of $7.00 to help defray the cost to the bookstore. Reservations required for Zoom link.

[SOON]  GRAB BAG: Jack Down Book Signing at Mattison's City Grille , March 7, 3pm-5pm

Jack Dowd has made a name for himself as one of America’s foremost artists and sculptors. His series of life-sized figures, ranging from well-known celebrities to locally known folks, take on an affectionately satiric interpretation that is unmistakably Jack Dowd. These unique creations have been viewed in museums and galleries nationwide. Jack has been recognized by Who’s Who in American Art and his work has been collected by private, public, and corporate patrons from Florida to Australia. Crossing over from artist to author, Jack Dowd has put down his sculpting tools and picked up a pen to write his first book, “Illuminating the Human Condition”. Without giving too much away, his first foray into the writing world is about. Join us at Mattison’s City Grille on March 7 from 3pm to 5pm for a book signing and conversation with local celebrity, national artist and now, published author, Jack Dowd.

[SOON]  PERFORMANCE: Virtual: Van Wezel: Dwight Yoakam: One Time Live , March 7 – March 28, 9pm

Dwight Yoakam presents the first 3 episodes of his new livestream series “One Time Live” at 9pm on March 7, 14 and 28. In each episode, Dwight and his full band will perform one of his iconic albums, start to finish. Episode 1 – Sunday, March 7: Dwight and the band perform Dwight’s debut album Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc. (released 1986) featuring hit singles “Honky Tonk Man,” “Guitars, Cadillacs,” and “It Won’t Hurt.” Episode 2 – Sunday, March 14: Dwight and the band perform Dwight’s No. 1 album Hillbilly Deluxe (released 1987), featuring the hit singles “Little Sister,” “Little Ways,” “Please, Please Baby,” and “Always Late with Your Kisses." Episode 3 – Sunday, March 28: Dwight and the band perform Dwight’s revered third album Buenas Noches From A Lonely Room (released 1988), featuring the hit singles “Streets of Bakersfield,” “I Sang Dixie,” and “I Got You.”

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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