One Year Later: The Stories That Keep Us Going

Guest Correspondence

This week marked an anniversary that many of us either celebrated or quietly let pass.

It was 365 days ago this past Monday when we were told to stay home unless our job was considered “essential.” Essential typically meant someone tirelessly working in a hospital intensive care unit, a first responder making sure our lives were safe, or someone working the front lines of a grocery store or pharmacy to keep our families fed and medicated. 

Over time, many of us adjusted to the changes, despite how drastic they might have seemed. But for tens of thousands of our neighbors in and around Sarasota County, the COVID-19 pandemic literally upended their lives, as businesses closed, jobs were lost and school was transformed. Whether they were striving to provide for their families, better themselves, or nurture others, these community members—through no fault of their own—suddenly found themselves in dire situations they never saw coming.

Like “Jessie,” a disabled, single mom who lived in a hotel room with her five children for nearly three months. Even when she found a place to move, Jessie couldn’t afford the security deposit and first month’s rent on top of the mounting hotel bill.

Or “Bill,” an older worker just settling into new a job a short bike ride from his apartment when the pandemic hit. Soon Bill was furloughed, along with hundreds of fellow team members, when Goodwill Manasota locations were forced to shutter. With no time off accrued yet, Bill wasn’t sure how he’d pay his rent or buy food and medicine.

And “June,” a foster mom caring for a girl who turned one during the pandemic. June said it was hard keeping her foster daughter home “with the same people, the same toys, and the same books day in and day out.” I can only imagine...

As a community leader, our role at Gulf Coast Community Foundation was to find a way to make sure the Jessies, Bills and Junes of our region got the help they needed to overcome those challenges. Thanks to the many donors at Gulf Coast and our friends at Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation, we have invested millions of dollars into COVID-19 relief. Our nonprofit partners responded with creativity and courage that has positively impacted thousands of lives.

For Jessie, Family Promise of South Sarasota County was able to cover that security deposit and first month’s rent for her family’s new home. The agency even sent a taxi to get them there because Jessie doesn’t drive. And after learning that the family had slept on the tile floor the first night because their belongings were still in storage, Family Promise bought air mattresses and bedding for them the next day.

After Goodwill Manasota had to furlough over three-quarters of its workforce, a grant helped the agency quickly hire back five GoodPartner Coaches. Normally these mentors help Goodwill staff plan and achieve financial and life goals. Now they served as navigators and counselors to help their furloughed colleagues access unemployment assistance, food, housing, and healthcare. Shirley was Bill’s coach, as well as his advocate, motivator, and friend. She helped him secure the benefits to which he was entitled until he could safely return to work.

The Safe Children Coalition knew that unanticipated needs would hit foster families hard. With a grant from our initiative, the agency supplied gift cards to every foster family in the 12th Judicial Circuit. June used hers to buy books with push buttons for songs, lullabies and animal sounds to nurture her foster daughter’s mind and spirit. “She loves them and has begun ‘dancing’ and perfecting her moves,” June told us.

Those are just three examples of thousands of stories that have played out in our community. The grit and compassion of our region’s nonprofits has been astounding. The heart shown by philanthropists has equaled it. The positive things we have learned and built will only help us moving forward. Even amid our forced separation, we have proven, once again, that we are better together.

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

To see a complete list of grants awarded from Gulf Coast and Barancik Foundation’s joint COVID-19 Response Initiative, go here.

« View The Saturday Mar 20, 2021 SRQ Daily Edition
« Back To SRQ Daily Archive

Read More

It's Time to Get The Jab, Folks

It's Time to Get The Jab, Folks

Jacob Ogles | Jul 31, 2021

Politics Makes All Vulnerable

Even when you hold one of the most powerful political positions in the state, politics makes all positions vulnerable ones. For a couple hours this week, it seemed a few words could unseat Joe Gruters as chairman of the Republican Party of Florida. In truth, a wild accusation that

Jacob Ogles | Jul 24, 2021

Marking a Mental Health Milestone

Marking a Mental Health Milestone

Mark Pritchett | Jul 17, 2021

Buchanan Seems Safe; Could Resentment Still Lift Hyde?

Buchanan Seems Safe; Could Resentment Still Lift Hyde?

Jacob Ogles | Jul 10, 2021