United We Stand

Guest Correspondence

Image courtesy Pixabay.

As our nation prepares for Fourth of July celebrations, many will reflect on our national history and identity. This is the nature of birthdays, after all: to consider how all the individual experiences have accumulated to define a current character. 

Since the foundation of America, our national character has been described as a blending of many different ethnicities, cultures and traditions coming together to forge a cohesive identity, with shared values and common aspirations, both individually and collectively. Our nickname, the Melting Pot, reflects this notion. 

The ability to achieve the American Dream — to live with dignity and enjoy freedoms in a connected community — requires a collaborative will to protect our most vulnerable neighbors, propel those in need and support people during difficult times gives America a richness. 

In upholding our commitment to the vision of creating a community where everyone can thrive, June has been a busy month for the Community Foundation of Sarasota County. We’ve announced $1.3 million in grants to a wide variety of programs, with an additional $720,000 earmarked for future assistance. The programs supported are as diverse as the people who will benefit from them, but all bring us closer to our common goals of prosperity, dignity, stability and hope for achieving our dreams. 

Healing from a Hurricane

After months of fundraising, embracing best-practices guidance from disaster recovery experts, and listening to community stakeholders, the first round of Suncoast Disaster Recovery Fund grants were announced in early June, appropriately at the start of another hurricane season.

Nearly $1 million was granted to support ongoing issues stemming from last year’s Hurricane Ian, with funding priority given to hurricane survivor advocacy, mental and behavioral health support, and restoring educational programming to affected youth in hardest hit communities.

What we’ve learned in the months of seeking input is that disasters typically exacerbate existing disparities. The most disenfranchised citizens often are the ones for whom recovery takes longest, and these dollars support programming that will go far in helping our most vulnerable and affected neighbors.

Nurturing Neurological Health

In recognition of June as International Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month, our Community Foundation has granted nearly $150,000 to support brain research, early diagnosis medical services, facilities serving residents with Alzheimer’s and adult day programs to provide respite for family caregivers.

As our Baby Boomer generation ages, the need for committed efforts to mitigate the impacts of Alzheimer’s and dementia grows. Ensuring that our aging citizens can continue to participate as fully as possible in society and retain their dignity is a national priority. 

Bolstering Nonprofit Capacity

Also last month, our Community Foundation also awarded $120,000 towards capacity-building projects for nonprofits. Recipients of these dollars will use funding towards strengthening their operations, whether that be in enhancing communications and marketing capabilities, providing professional development opportunities for staff and leadership, or expanding programmatic reach.

Nonprofits who benefited from these grants range in mission from ending hunger (Mayor’s Feed the Hungry Program) to inspiring artists (SaraSolo Productions). Still, while they support a range of experiences, they are united by the thread of empowering people to achieve their version of fulfillment. 

When we can nurture individuals and give them tools to accomplish their aspirations, we provide a path to achieving the American Dream. The more of us who can participate in our national welfare with lives characterized by dignity, accomplishments, and independence, the more contributors our nation will have to its exceptionalism today, and for generations to come.

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

Image courtesy Pixabay.

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