United We Stand

Guest Correspondence

Photo courtesy Pixabay.

Aside from vibrant fireworks displays, the Fourth of July holiday provides the time to reflect on our nation’s many virtues. As Americans, we are bound by shared values, including the ideal that the youngest among us should have the benefit of a strong foundation upon which to build the skills that can achieve their potential.

We are fortunate to live in an area that’s home to several nonprofit organizations that provide critical support services to youth, especially during the summer months. For years, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Sarasota and DeSoto Counties have offered affordable summer programs for youth, which are free to families whose income qualifies them. Programs at the Clubs run daily, Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., and two meals are served each day to youth who attend. 

This year, the Lee Wetherington Club is piloting a staffing enhancement model that propels the program forward. With the addition of an enrichment director, academics director and wellness director, the Club will provide wraparound services that will help youngsters develop critical personal and academic habits. 

The new model addresses physical and mental wellness, enabling youth to build emotional resilience, a critical need in a time when nearly half of all middle- and high school students in Sarasota County report feeling “sad or depressed on most days.”  The academic piece will involve deeper collaboration with local schools and other partners, building a strong support network for students’ academic success at a time when academic performance, as assessed through standardized testing, is steadily declining in the county.  

These enhancements rely heavily on collaboration, showcasing the strength that comes when people work together for a common cause. Through these enhancements, the Clubs are transformed from being safe, dependable childcare for working parents, to being a destination that truly empowers youth, building a strong trajectory that can lead to positive outcomes down the road. The Community Foundation of Sarasota County is proud to sponsor this innovative initiative, which helps youth and families in our area.

This type of programming, and the unique, invaluable support it offers our neighbors, is one example of the strengths of our nonprofit community, according to findings from the Community Foundation’s recently published State of the Nonprofit Sector Report. Using data from The Giving Partner, an online database of nearly 750 nonprofit organizations serving Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte and DeSoto counties, the report analyzes several indicators of nonprofit well-being, capacity and ability to respond to the ever-changing needs of the community. 

In the final analysis, the report finds that our area’s nonprofits, with an array of organizations serving an astonishing number of causes, provide a vital pillar for our community, helping to create and safeguard the values we hold most dear. These values—which amount to building a strong community, now and in the future—are a reminder, as we celebrate our nation, of the principles that unite us.

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

Photo courtesy Pixabay.

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