Two years ago, when Roxanne Jerde moved from Kansas City, Mo., to Sarasota to fill the position of president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Sarasota, one of the first things she noticed about her new home was its giving nature.
“I’d never even been to Sarasota when I got the position,” she said. “I’ve worked with community foundations across the country, and to see the generosity and caring of this community was unparalleled. People really want to help.”
During the holiday season, when the struggle felt by families on the verge of homelessness can be especially trying, this generosity manifests in the form of the community-wide Season of Sharing campaign, which gives funds to local nonprofits to help those in need.
“People often talk about this town as paradise,” said Jerde. “But, this isn’t paradise for everybody. This is an opportunity to help others, and it’s really valued by our community. It’s great to see that in action.”
For the 13th year, the Community Foundation of Sarasota County will kick off its annual campaign, through which thousands of at-risk families in Sarasota, Manatee and DeSoto counties will benefit from funds for rental assistance, utility bills, child care, food vouchers and other expenses.
The philanthropic campaign is a collaborative effort between the Community Foundation, the Patterson Foundation, the Herald Tribune Media Group, the Observer Media Group, the Bradenton Herald, Sun Newspapers, Sarasota Magazine/Biz 941, Clear Channel Stations, SNN Local 6, ABC 7, Comcast and Bright House, who work together to benefit 13 area nonprofit agencies.
“There are a lot of people in our community on the verge of homelessness,” said Jerde. “A lot of the time, it’s due to unforeseen circumstances, and people fall behind on rent or their utilities. This is intended to be an easy way for people to help those in need.”
Jerde says one of the best things about the campaign is that it allows anyone to be a philanthropist. With a pledge by the Patterson Foundation to match new and increased donations, up to $500,000 total, even the smallest contributions will go a long way. Last year, Season of Sharing raised $1.7 million and provided assistance to 2,600 families, and Jerde says results like that make her proud of the community.
“I like to think of that family that we really did help stay in their home and not need more social services and care,” she said. “The fact that so many are willing to partner, from the media, to the Patterson Foundation, to the nonprofits, is a vivid example of everyone working together.”
How to help
To donate to Season of Sharing, call 556-2399 or go online to CFSarasota.org. Fla., 34230-6587.