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SRQ DAILY Apr 6, 2024

Saturday Perspectives Edition

Saturday Perspectives Edition

"For many high school seniors, April can be an exciting time when they decide which pathway they will pursue after graduating, be it a technical or community college, university, the military or a career"

- Jennifer Vigne, President and CEO, Education Foundation.

[Community]  Giving Challenge 2024: Ready. Set. Give!
Roxie Jerde, roxie@cfsarasota.org

The world is gearing up for the 2024 summer Olympics, and soon athletic pageantry will captivate many on screens large and small. But we know that for the athletes, the journey to the Big Games has been one of long-term tenacity, intense training and trials.  Some contests will last just seconds, but the national pride and marvel of human’s capacity for greatness will continue to inspire for generations to come. 

The upcoming Giving Challenge, from noon to noon April 9-10, bears some resemblance to the Olympics. As with the Games, the Challenge is fleeting, but leading up to the event, these 724 participating nonprofits have worked diligently to develop their fundraising and donor stewardship strategies. In doing so, they’ve gotten stronger. What’s more, the positive impact gained through the exciting giving opportunity will endure long into the future. 

As awe-inspiring as the Olympics are, they’d be just another sports competition without the eyes and energy of people from around the world joining in as spectators. The same is true for the Giving Challenge: it relies on the participation of all of us—in this case, not just as spectators, but as vital contributors. 

The Patterson Foundation will match all unique gifts $25-$100 dollar for dollar, so community members who’ve always wanted to make a difference can do so and have their donations doubled.  While it provides the chance to support important causes, the Giving Challenge also shines a bright spotlight on our nonprofit community and the many ways in which these organizations enhance the quality of life we enjoy on the Suncoast. To that end, several nonprofits are hosting Pop-Up Giving Stations, free, community-wide celebrations fostering connections and providing creative showcases and activities. 

This will be the ninth Giving Challenge the Community Foundation of Sarasota County has presented since 2012. Over eight previous challenges, this community has raised $75 million in unrestricted funding for nonprofits, delivering transformative results to our community. With its generous match, The Patterson Foundation has incentivized giving, while also contributing more than $30 million throughout Giving Challenge history. 

The Patterson Foundation’s match is one reason philanthropists Joe and Mary Kay Henson decided in 2022 to donate $100 to each of the 667 organizations that took part in 2022. The Hensons have committed to repeat that strategy for 2024, inviting others to join the so-called “100 Percent Club.” So far, three others have joined them, bringing “club” membership up to four. Advisors to the Frank G. Berlin Fund, trustees managing the H. Gladstone McKeon Trust and the advisor to the Sarah Greer Mayer Fund have all committed to giving $100 to every participating nonprofit. Their combined gifts of $289,600 will become $579,200 with the match—and the Challenge is still three days away.

What inspires their giving, aside from the matching opportunity and love of community, is the transparency provided through The Giving Partner, a searchable online database of charitable organizations. Each nonprofit taking part in the Giving Challenge has an updated profile in The Giving Partner, which maintains the latest information about and organization’s financials, leadership and mission, ensuring that all are in good standing with the IRS and in a position to fulfill their commitment to donors. 

Since the inception of the Giving Challenge, the Community Foundation of Sarasota County has not collected any administrative fees for presenting the opportunity; the only fee donors have the option of covering is the credit card transaction, a fee that more than 90 percent of donors over time have gladly absorbed. This is important to note because, ultimately, the people served are the most important factor among all of these impressive numbers. 

Come to think of it, here’s where the similarities between the Giving Challenge and the Olympics end. While viewers imbue the Olympics with mythological momentousness, it is the athletes who remain the heroes of the Olympic story. In the case of the Giving Challenge, although the spotlight is on our tremendous nonprofit organizations, each donor taking part has the chance to contribute to transformative change. And just think of the impact each donor makes on those that nonprofits serve while delivering on their mission.  The Giving Challenge offers each of us the true potential to be a winner for our community, making our community a brighter place for all who call it home, now and for generations to come. 

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

Graphic courtesy the Community Foundation of Sarasota County.

[Education]  This Spring, Champion the Power of Pursuing a Plan
Jennifer Vigne, jvigne@edfoundationsrq.org

For many high school seniors, April can be an exciting time when they decide which pathway they will pursue after graduating, be it a technical or community college, university, the military or a career.  

This year, however, for those considering universities or colleges, complications to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) have fueled uncertainty and led some seniors to put on hold plans for postsecondary education.

The FAFSA debacle is hardly the only force at work here; the decline in college enrollment started well before this year and before the pandemic disrupted our lives. This decline speaks to a larger, concerning trend of skeptical seniors graduating without a clear plan for their lives.

A recent study by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation illuminates an increasing wariness about the value of education after high school. The study found that of 1,700 high school students surveyed, 83% found higher value in on-the-job training to the 72% valuing a four-year college and 69% a two-year college.  

The National Center for Education Statistics found that “undergraduate enrollment was 15% lower in 2021 than in the fall of 2010.” And, as Dr. Larry Thompson, president of Ringling College of Art and Design, discussed in these very pages last month, boys especially are falling behind.  

The armed forces, as noted by Jim Garamone at the U.S. Department of Defense, are also experiencing a long-term decline in enlistment, with only the Marines and the Space Force meeting their recruiting goals in 2023.

The reasons that more and more high school students, especially boys, are foregoing education after high school or military service, many with no plans or specific ambitions, are myriad and complex, and the results are concerning. 

The Florida College Access Network finds that by 2030, 72% of jobs in Florida will require a degree or credential. Yet today, only 53% of working-age Floridians hold either of those. On a state and national level, unless we can reverse these declines in attainment, we face the real threat of lost human potential and all the ripple effects that will have on their lives, our economy and our standing in the world.

For these students without plans, it’s important to remember that what they have experienced in the past few years has been anything but typical, with everything from a global pandemic in their freshmen year, to hurricanes, and now to a snag with the FAFSA. 

While it’s vital we understand and acknowledge this complex and unfortunate landscape that has led to increasing inaction, it’s also as important as ever to champion the value of identifying a passion and a pathway for life after high school—and not just identifying it but pursuing it. As a community, we must unite to create and champion viable pathways for students to go after something that excites them and develop into the next generation of leaders.

One place to start is through the stories we tell. Narratives are strong. Research bears out that with a degree or credential, adults increase their earning potential and their ability to weather economic downturns and adapt to changes. They can develop and hone creativity, critical-thinking and problem-solving skills that will help them in innumerable ways. The benefits of education after high school continue to outweigh the challenges. 

It is incumbent upon us to send a strong, resounding message about the power of actively pursuing a plan. This story, while not shying away from the current landscape, must continue to champion the many pathways and unique interests of young people—and inspire these students to step more confidently and boldly into the future, ready to achieve their goals and lead a fulfilling life.

Jennifer Vigne is president and CEO of the Education Foundation of Sarasota County. 

Image courtesy Pixabay.

[SOON]  GRAB BAG: Fresh Harvest Farmers Market at Wellen Park , June 25 – December 29, 9 am to 1 pm

Visit Fresh Harvest, the newly launched weekly farmers market in Downtown Wellen. Fresh Harvest offers a selection of local goods from nearly 40 local vendors. Fresh Harvest takes place every Sunday in Downtown Wellen from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Attendees can peruse different vendor booths and stock up on a variety of goods. Vendors will offer a wide variety of locally grown and produced food, including herbs, spices, cut flowers, teas, canned and preserved fruits and vegetables, syrups, baked goods, pickled foods, fresh seafood, meats, poultry, eggs, milk and prepared food and beverages. A limited selection of craft vendors also participate in the farmers market. For a listing of participating vendors and more information on Fresh Harvest Farmers Market, visit wellenpark.com/events/fresh-harvest-farmers-market. Downtown Wellen, 19745 Wellen Park Blvd., Venice.

[SOON]  PERFORMANCE: Sights and Sounds at Waterside Place , July 28 – May 31, 6 to 9 p.m.

Head out to Waterside Place for a rocking evening as part of the Lakewood Ranch Sights and Sounds Program. Enjoy a live concert in partnership with Easterseals and EveryoneRocks, featuring artists who are rocking their spectrum. This event is free and open to the public; there is limited seating at the Plaza, but attendees are welcome to bring their own seats. Food and beverages will be available from numerous Waterside Place merchants. For more information on shows, dates, and times, visit lakewoodranch.com/sights-sounds/. Waterside Place, 1560 Lakefront Dr., Sarasota.

[SOON]  BUSINESS: Lets Connect at Oscura in Old Manatee , August 31 – December 26, 8:30-10am

Connect with local business owners at every Thursday at Oscura. Lets Connect is a community of collaborative business professionals from the Manatee and Sarasota County areas. RSVP on Eventbrite to attend, admission is free.

[SOON]  BUSINESS: Collaborative Coworking Meetup at UTC , September 1 – December 27, 11am-4pm

Attention all business professionals, join us for a productive and inspiring coworking event at Panera Bread at the UTC Mall every Friday. Take advantage of this opportunity to network and collaborate with fellow professionals in a relaxed and comfortable environment. Limited spots available, so register now on Eventbrite. Panera Bread, 215 N. Cattlemen Road, Sarasota.

[SOON]  FOOD: Siesta Key Rum Distillery Tours , September 2 – September 30, Various times

Siesta Key Rum runs free year-round tours for guests to learn the story of the craft distillery, the awards they have won and the secret to how they make their rums taste so good. During our 30-45 minute tour we will discuss the following topics: history of Siesta Key Rum, an overview of the awards our small company has won, what makes our rums taste so good, the rum-making process from mashing and fermentation to distillation, barrel aging and bottling of our rums. After the tour, we welcome you to sample a freshly made Siesta Key Rum cocktail, stock up on your favorite rums and browse our gift shop. 2212 Industrial Blvd., Sarasota.

[SOON]  MUSEUM: Shinique Smith, Parade , January 4 – January 5, Various times

Enjoy the extraordinary opportunity to experience the work of contemporary artist Shinique Smith in conversation with the collection of European art at The Ringling. Unfolding across six galleries of the Museum of Art, the exhibition creates a series of unique stories that together form an abstract narrative of the parade as a metaphor for life. Well known for her monumental sculptures created from an array of materials, including luxurious textiles, personal clothing, dyed fabrics, ribbon, and wood, and for her abstract paintings of calligraphy and collage, Smiths work in this exhibition speaks to various facets of the European artistic tradition, such as classical drapery and religious iconography, while foregrounding notions of Black femininity and the history of the circus. Learn more at ringling.org.

[SOON]  GALLERY: Clyde Butcher: Nature Through the Lens , November 11 – August 31, N/a

Clyde Butcher: Nature Through the Lens will be on view through August 31, 2024 at the Historic Spanish Point campus. Selby Gardens is excited to present the extraordinary imagery of photographer and conservationist Clyde Butcher throughout the grounds of the Historic Spanish Point campus. Large-scale prints on aluminum of Butcher’s beautiful photographs of plants, animals, and habitats of Florida will be exhibited amid the natural landscape of the 30-acre waterfront preserve, enabling the public to engage with the artist’s work like never before. In the tradition of earlier landscape photographers like Ansel Adams, Butcher captures the beauty and majesty of America’s natural treasures in dramatic black and white. The unique environments of Florida have been subjects of particular interest to Butcher since the 1980s, when he was first introduced to the magic and mystery of sites such as Big Cypress National Preserve and Everglades National Park. Nature Through the Lens will include Butcher’s photographs of regional locales such as Myakka River State Park and Casey Key. This exhibition is presented in partnership with the Clyde Butcher Gallery & Studio in Venice, Florida. For more information, visit selby.org.

[SOON]  FOOD: Farmers Market at Lakewood Ranch , September 3 – September 30, 10am-2pm

Experience some of the best food and flavors of the region with more than 100, and still growing, curated vendors. The Farmers Market at Lakewood Ranch has fast become a favorite weekly tradition for people from all over the region seeking farm-fresh produce, delicious prepared foods, and specialty items and gifts. Aside from all the goodies you can shop at the Farmers Market, find your flow in a free yoga class or have the kiddos get creative during weekly-hosted workshops. 1561 Lakefront Dr., Lakewood Ranch.

[SOON]  SCIENCE AND NATURE: Family Saturdays , March 23 – May 25, 10am-12pm
Kids and kids at heart can enjoy fun art and nature activities on Saturday mornings, at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens on March 23, April 27, and May 25. Activities will run from 10 a.m. to noon each day, and participation is included in admission to the Gardens, which is always free for Selby Gardens members. These Family Saturdays celebrate the current exhibition on view, Yayoi Kusama: A Letter to Georgia OKeeffe. Several activity stations with different art-focused projects will be set up in the Ann Goldstein Childrens Rainforest Garden during each monthly event. The goal is to invite kids of all ages to explore the artwork of Yayoi Kusama and Georgia OKeeffe through activities that also connect them to the natural environment. Admission to Selby Gardens Downtown Sarasota campus is $26 for adults, $11 for ages 5 to 17, and free for children 4 and under. Tickets may be purchased online in advance at selby.org. Selby Gardens members always receive complimentary admission as well as discounts for guests. To learn more and purchase tickets, visit selby.org.

SRQ Media Group

SRQ DAILY is produced by SRQ | The Magazine. Note: The views and opinions expressed in the Saturday Perspectives Edition and in the Letters department of SRQ DAILY are those of the author(s) and do not imply endorsement by SRQ Media. Senior Editor Jacob Ogles edits the Saturday Perspective Edition, Letters and Guest Contributor columns.In the CocoTele department, SRQ DAILY is providing excerpts from news releases as a public service. Reference to any specific product or entity does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation by SRQ DAILY. The views expressed by individuals are their own and their appearance in this section does not imply an endorsement of them or any entity they represent. For rates on SRQ DAILY banner advertising and sponsored content opportunities, please contact Ashley Ryan Cannon at 941-365-7702 x211 or via email

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