Many of them have lost their jobs. Some have been evicted from their homes because they couldn’t afford rent. Others are struggling to keep their child in daycare while working to put food on the table.
Season of Sharing is a 10-year, community-wide fundraising partnership created by the Community Foundation of Sarasota County and the Herald-Tribune Media Group that provides emergency, last-resort funding to families in Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte and DeSoto counties. Since its inception in 2000, nearly $4 million has been raised. This year’s Season of Sharing continues through the next two months.
The funding is used to help prevent homelessness by offering rental assistance, mortgage payments, utility payments, transportation assistance to and from work and critical medical and dental assistance.
Last year, the Community Foundation Board of Directors kicked-off Season of Sharing with a $200,000 grant. Public donations from $5 to $500,000 were augmented by gifts from businesses, organizations, private foundations and Community Foundation donor advisors.
Although several media organizations formed a partnership last year to generate buzz for the event, this year, the partnership has expanded, giving Season of Sharing its greatest exposure to date. The Observer Group, which has partnered with the Herald-Tribune Media Group, The Bradenton Herald, Sun Newspapers, SNN6, Comcast, ABC7, Bright House Networks and Clear Channel, donated $5,125 from its Black Tie Bash event in October and, during the next several weeks, will be featuring stories about donors who have helped families in need through Season of Sharing.
The Patterson Foundation provided a $250,000 outright grant and a $250,000 matching challenge grant to Season of Sharing, which brought total Season of Sharing donations to $1.5 million in 2010. Those funds are distributed throughout the year to 13 agencies with direct case management services that are aided by Season of Sharing. Any 501(c)3 organization that meets the criteria may request Season of Sharing Funds for their clients through these 13 agencies.
Donations to the Season of Sharing fund may be made by check or credit card, payable to the Community Foundation of Sarasota or online at www.cfsarasota.org. For information, call 955-3000.
Brian Weiner has never forgotten the way his family struggled during his childhood. He remembers his father living paycheck to paycheck, and he remembers the day he was forced to put his college education on hold when his father lost his job.
“I remember how horrified and panic-stricken my dad was and how hard my dad worked,” Weiner said. “It didn’t take much to make life hell, and there was no system — nothing — to help us. I’ve always had a real sensitivity for people going through that crisis. Season of Sharing is there to bridge that gap, and that’s why I love it so much personally.”
Weiner moved in 2003 to Sarasota from Worcester, Mass. He has run One to One Gulfcoast for the past 20 years with his partner, Dana Place. Two years ago, the company became involved with Season of Sharing, helping to expand its donor base by donating funding to a direct-mail component.
Through the support of a benefactor, Weiner and Place had the component underwritten as an appeal. It provided a tremendous amount of impetus, growing the appeal from $559,000 two years ago to $1 million-plus.
“It was a great personal experience for me,” Weiner said. “My parents are both gone, but I feel my father would know I was doing something to make a difference. Season of Sharing has touched a chord in my life because it reminded me of my youth.”
Last Christmas, the One to One Gulfcoast staff donated a monetary gift to Season of Sharing in Weiner and Place’s names.
“It was the first year I cried at a Christmas party,” Weiner said. “It was the best Christmas present I’ve ever received in my life. It’s a very cool thing that the people who work with you every day — they heard, they got it.”
By The Numbers
13 — agencies receiving SOS funding
$3,933,817 — funding SOS has received from 2001 to October 2010
$235,350 — funding each agency received from SOS in December 2009 and January 2010
1,111 — number of families aided by SOS in 2009
Contact Loren Mayo at email@example.com.