Like clockwork, a few weeks before Halloween the holiday decorations began creeping onto store shelves.
It seems as soon as employees crack open the boxes of the latest tinsel and ornaments, a proverbial unifying sigh is heard across the land and people cry out, “Not yet. Too early.”
I find myself avoiding those aisles at all cost. I keep my head down, eyes averted and cruise right on by. If Christmas music is playing I just hum quietly to myself to block it out.
The day after Thanksgiving I take a deep breath, lift my head, open my eyes and start singing along and embrace the season.
Maybe I am breaking my own rule by even writing about this so many weeks out, but last week at the Southwest Florida Community Foundation I realized we had also begun to prepare for the holidays. Not with décor and eggnog but rather by readying ourselves for the generosity that accompanies the change of season and the holidays.
Many of our donors and fund holders reach out to us during the holidays to assist with contributions to organizations they support year round and special donations that happen only once a year. Many times first time contributors will reach out to us to ask for assistance in where to direct their gifts or will ask us to work with their children and grandchildren to select a charitable project for the family to take on together.
Corporate partners call on us to assist with holiday giving opportunities for their employees and professional advisors connect with us as they are assisting clients with year-end giving and estate planning.
Our preparation at the Foundation gave me a new insight on holiday planning. It is never too early to think about others. And helping others is as much of tradition as anything we find on store shelves this time of year.
My father-in-law shared a story a couple of weeks ago that I was surprised I had never heard before about the founder of the Salvation Army.
Every Christmas the founder of The Salvation Army in London, England, General William Booth, looked forward to addressing the crowd at the Army’s annual convention. He loved seeing the faces of those who were dedicated to the charity and were passionate about its mission to serve.
But on Christmas in 1910, General Booth’s health was poor and he knew he would not be able to attend the convention in person. When the thousands in attendance were told that he would not be present, a wave of sadness and disappointment swept over the crowd. General Booth’s speech every year was the highlight and something everyone looked forward to all year round. However, Booth had sent a telegram to be read. As the moderator opened the telegram the thousands waited in anticipation to hear his message. His telegram was then read out loud to the crowd:
So no matter what holiday tradition your family observes over the coming months, it is never too early to consider how that will be manifested in helping others. If the Foundation can help in any way please let us know, we are ready.
With that in mind, I say let the holidays begin!
The Southwest Florida Community Foundation, founded in 1976, cultivates regional change for the common good through collective leadership, social innovation and philanthropy to address the evolving community needs in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. Last year, the Foundation partnered with individuals, families and corporations who have created over 400 philanthropic funds. Thanks to them, we’ve invested $5 million in grants and programs to the community. With assets of $93 million, the Community Foundation has provided more than $67 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves since inception. The Foundation is the backbone organization for the regional FutureMakers Coalition and Lee County’s Sustainability Plan. Based in Fort Myers, the Foundation has satellite offices located in Sanibel Island, LaBelle (Hendry County), and downtown Fort Myers. For more information, visit www.FloridaCommunity.com or call 239-274-5900.