What Makes Sarasota Great: What I Learned About My Hometown Through the Community Foundation of Sarasota County
By Reagan Seyer
My name is Reagan Seyer and I am a rising junior at Furman University, majoring in Communication Studies. I have lived in Sarasota my whole life and would consider myself to have known this place almost like the back of my hand. Recently, I have discovered I did not know my hometown as well as I had originally thought. From weird weather to incredible art, history, and beautiful beaches, Sarasota is unique. However, that isn’t all there is to this area. For the past twelve weeks, I have been interning with the Community Foundation of Sarasota County and, during my time here, I have learned more about my hometown than I ever thought possible.
What I discovered about Sarasota County is this community is incredibly philanthropic. Before working at the Community Foundation, I was familiar with the Giving Challenge and the impact it made on my rowing team. What I didn’t know was the measure of philanthropic good. For starters, if you can think of it, there’s probably a nonprofit for it. There are more than 600 nonprofits in Sarasota and surrounding counties, $11.7 million raised from the 2018 Giving Challenge, and about $2 million is provided in scholarships. Whether you are good with numbers or not (like me), those are some impressive figures. And the philanthropic bug reaches from one end of the county to the other.
It is incredible to learn about how neighbors are helping neighbors, and strangers are helping strangers. To those outside of Sarasota County, the culture of giving that has been created here is intriguing, and they want to be a part of it. What’s fascinating is that it’s not just a group of people with the desire to give back to the community: it’s everybody, of all backgrounds, of all ages. Younger generations are including themselves in the conversation about how they wish to bring about positive change. As a community, the members of Sarasota County know the kind of impact they can make and what one small act of kindness can do.
The steps taken to create solutions are productive. Homelessness has been an issue in our community, but what I never fully understood was just how many families were only seconds away from losing their homes. Season of Sharing has played a significant role in helping these families, giving them a second chance. It costs eight times more to bring someone out of homelessness than it does to prevent it. People who receive assistance from Season of Sharing are able to avoid homelessness before it happens.
The way this community works to help others is driven by gratitude. Sarasota is filled with people of all different skills and talents. The members of Sarasota County use their gifts to their full potential when they use them to serve and give back to others. This is what gratitude is: to appreciate what you have by returning kindness to the community. This experience has taught me gratitude and showed me that I have the tools to pay it forward as well. Anyone, including myself, has the power to make a positive impact on others, to work towards a better tomorrow.
As a community, Sarasota is aware of the problems it faces. We know that there is always room for improvement. The community has a desire to make Sarasota better, better than we found it. With that, we look deeper into the issues facing our community and seek out ways to address the causes that aren’t always at the surface.
Over the course of this summer, I have researched the past 40 years of Sarasota County. I read about the good that came throughout those years and one thing I noticed was that the Community Foundation was there along the way. It was there to address the problems and work with donors and nonprofits to find solutions, and the Community Foundation will be there for the for coming years as well. Sarasota is always changing. Although I’m still upset that the Tea House is no longer here, change is for the good. We will always continue to find ways to make our home a better place and the Community Foundation will be there with its support.
No matter how bad the humidity gets, Sarasota is a great place. As someone who was born and raised here, Sarasota will always mean so much to me. I am incredibly thankful for my experience here at the Community Foundation of Sarasota County. I am thankful for the experience I have been given and the lessons I’ve learned. Most importantly, I am thankful for the Community Foundation’s, as well as all your, hard work to make Sarasota better each day. Take a moment to be proud of the good that’s been given throughout our community. Besides, no one knows how to rock flip flops year-round better than we do.