Gulf Coast Community Foundation Celebrates Transformation with 2024 Better Together Event

The Giving Coast

Pictured: Origami butterflies and hearts were created with the help of Megan Howell of Second Heart Homes as part of the 2024 Better Together. Photo by Barbie Heit.

State Street was rocking on April 4, when Gulf Coast Community Foundation (Gulf Coast) presented its Better Together Block Party, a free, fun-for-all-ages party bringing together philanthropists, nonprofit partners, and the public to celebrate all the ways we transform our community together. The event featured live music from the gifted Florida Reggae Band Jah Movement and activity booths representing Gulf Coast’s Focus Areas: arts, education, environment, and health and human services.

Some special highlights of Better Together 2024 included an interactive activity to improve water quality with Oyster Boys Conservation and a science experiment with Suncoast Science Center’s Faulhaber Fab Lab. In keeping with the event’s theme of community transformation, there was also a beautiful butterfly release with Cathleen Strong and friends, butterfly gardeners/enthusiasts with the Lakewood Ranch Garden Club, and magical bubble acts with Bubble Artist Blaise Ryndes, who has broken world records and appeared on America’s Got Talent.

Event attendees were also given a hands-on opportunity to create love-inspired origami with Megan Howell, the the executive director and founder of Second Heart Homes, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing permanent housing to those with mental illness who have experienced or are at-risk of homelessness. Howell started the nonprofit in 2019 after helping one gentleman get off the streets and into a home back in 2015. Today, Second Heart Homes has grown to include ten homes and 62 beds across Sarasota and Manatee Counties, ten full-time employees and about 35 volunteers, providing housing support and love for homeless single adults who have a mental illness. Working with Ringling students to design special folding paper for the event, Howell shared her personal mental health hobby, origami, with Better Together participants who created butterflies and hearts that ultimately came together on a canvas as a collage. “Origami is like storytelling,” explained Howell. “You have to share it with others for it to live on.”

Pictured: Origami butterflies and hearts were created with the help of Megan Howell of Second Heart Homes as part of the 2024 Better Together. Photo by Barbie Heit.

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