Hardship inspires heart-warming action

Guest Correspondence

Photo courtesy The Patterson Foundation.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been more than a month since Hurricane Ian slammed into the Suncoast, upending lives and wreaking havoc on our region. As with most disasters, the catastrophic damage Ian unleashed has inspired the collective will of so many caring people to help restore our community. Whether that looks like volunteering, giving to relief and recovery organizations, or checking in on neighbors impacted, the generous people of this community have stepped up. 

As a response to Hurricane Ian, the Community Foundation of Sarasota County has activated the Suncoast Disaster Recovery Fund, the result of a conversation between Debra Jacobs, President/CEO of The Patterson Foundation, and me. With The Patterson Foundation’s initial generous gift of $500,000 and matching funds up to $750,000, givers were inspired. We hoped it might become a $2 million fund to help address long-term recovery for our communities, supporting a macro-level approach that would help deliver strategic remedies to challenges that may not be top of mind now, but will reveal themselves in time. Unbelievably, the fund has gained enormous attention and giving, and astonishing generosity has helped us raise $3.5 million to date.

The outpouring of support will provide the Community Foundation with resources, along with convening our nonprofit and government partners, to investigate and implement lasting systemic solutions. We’re confident this will significantly contribute to our community’s recovery, so we can rebound from Ian and weather the next storm more successfully. 

In the immediate aftermath of that disaster, though, there has also been tremendous acute need. Our neighbors’ lives have been upended by damage to their property, or the suspension of their jobs, causing unanticipated expenses and an interruption in paychecks. We are so fortunate to have had the time-tested, trusted safety net of Season of Sharing in place to help those facing potential crises. I am thankful for the nearly 23 years of Season of Sharing and all those who have paid their good fortune forward to ensure that their neighbors can survive emergency setbacks with dignity. 

Even before Ian, hundreds of families in our region were just one paycheck away from facing homelessness, one mishap away from making heart-wrenching decisions about whether to purchase food or pay the electric bill. Ian exacerbated the potential for individuals to face that type of acute crisis, especially our neighbors in south Sarasota, Charlotte and DeSoto counties whose lives were turned upside down in just a few days. 

Season of Sharing has answered the call for help since its inception, delivering flexible, emergency financial support for more than 41,000 households. This ability for so many to regain stability comes from caring neighbors—nearly 55,000 individual gifts have been made to the vital safety net over the years, the very illustration of “paying good fortune forward.” That is deeply inspiring, and I appreciate each person who has made that commitment to our community.

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

Photo courtesy The Patterson Foundation.

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