NEWS

Back on Tour

Back on Tour

As previously mentioned in a number of my weekly missives, I come up way short in the musical talent department.  I did a stint in middle school orchestra but my secret desire was to be in a band.  Not the marching variety, but the load up the van with your fellow musicians and a case of Raman noodles to play gigs (yes I just tried to use some band lingo).

Unfortunately this is a dream unrealized as I am tone deaf and lately go to sleep way before any such gig would start.  To make matters worse our family has an actual professional recording artist in its ranks who is now out on tour on a regular basis.  Nobody in the family even knew he could sing until college.  I have begged him to take me on the road but the farthest I have gotten with that conversation is short visits on the super cool tour bus.  I have considered stowing away but they always kick me off long before they pull out for the next city.

There is just something about being on tour that signifies taking your message out on the road and sharing it with others.  Meeting people you would otherwise never come into contact with and building relationships no matter how temporary.

My favorite thing to hear a performer of any genre say is “I am getting ready to go back on tour.”  It feels as if something exciting and new is just around the corner.

So imagine my astonishment when several days ago a friend ask when I was launching my next tour.  For a moment my heart skipped a beat and I thought I may have possibly won some sort of fantasy band contest.  But what they were referring to was my listening tour.

From the moment I arrived at the Southwest Florida Community Foundation I promised that I would be diligent about listening and responding to the community.  I had forgotten in the early days I had used the cliché term of “listening tour” to describe my early efforts, and over the last three years have embarked on similar efforts around issues and topics that were impacting our region.

Most recently I shared with a group of community members that I would once again be intentionally listening and learning around the topic of sustainability.  In April the Foundation made an agreement with the Lee County Board of Commissioners to acquire the Sustainability Plan and although sustainability is in the fabric of all we do at the Foundation I know there is much to discover on this topic.

I am learning a great deal from members of the Foundation team who have worked for years asking countless rooms full of people what sustainability means.   Early on the answer was always different.  Today the answer is becoming more consistent with some variation of “meeting today’s needs without compromising the needs of future generations.”  This is significant progress.  If you Google “what is sustainability” you’ll see what I mean.

While the consistency of the definition seems to be resonating, it’s much harder to understand what sustainability means and, more importantly, how you do it.  That is the question and the work that allows me to the opportunity to finally say I am heading back out on tour.  This summer the Foundation team will be loading up the proverbial van and continuing this important conversation around sustainability.   We will share some of what we learn on this gig and our next steps in this space over the next few months and we look forward to connecting with some of you along the way.   See you out on the tour.  If you’re interested in joining me backstage, let me know by emailing me at iamlistening@floridacommunity.com.

 

 

 

 

 

Community Foundation’s Women’s Legacy Fund discusses grant focus areas at spring luncheon

 

FORT MYERS, Fla. (May 20, 2015) –More than 60 Women’s Legacy Fund contributors gathered at Gulf Harbour Yacht & Country Club on May 14 to discuss causes involving local women and girls.

A fund of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, the Women’s Legacy Fund is a group of women who foster the immersion of women in philanthropy and develop the region’s next philanthropic leaders. In just eight years of existence, the WLF has been able to provide $100,000 in grants to benefit people and communities in Southwest Florida. Currently, the Fund has nearly $400,000 in endowment that will continue to help fund local issues now and in the future.

Open exclusively to WLF contributors and Prima Donors, this year’s spring luncheon included facilitated discussions around the grant focus areas selected by the WLF grants committee, focusing more on the causes and specific needs. The causes included youth programs for girls, safety for women and girls, and improved access to goods and services in neighborhoods.

“We prepared for this grant cycle conversation by going to the end users, women and girls in Southwest Florida to hear directly from them the barriers they face in our community,” said Sarah Owen, president and CEO of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation. “This close-up research will allow the contributors to the fund to discern greatest need and then help us to inspire nonprofits to design programs to work toward creating change based on this research.”

Contributors to the WLF give a minimum of $250 each year ($100 for women under 25 years of age). The first half of contributions is pooled for the purpose of immediate annual grants, while the second half is pooled into the WLF’s endowment fund, which provides additional grants to be made both now and in years to come. Prima Donors are local women who have contributed $10,000 or more to the WLF endowment and are committed to making an impact in their community through charitable giving.

As leaders, conveners, grant makers and concierges of philanthropy, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation is a foundation built on community leadership with an inspired history of fostering regional change for the common good in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Community Foundation, founded in 1976, connects donors and their philanthropic aspirations with evolving community needs. With assets of more than $88 million, the Community Foundation has provided $61.2 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves. Last year, it granted more than $2.9 million to nonprofit organizations supporting education, animal welfare, arts, healthcare and human services. It granted $782,000 in nonprofit grants including more than $551,000 in regional community impact grants and additional $450,000 in scholarship grants.

For more information about the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, call 239-274-5900 or visit www.floridacommunity.com.

 

-30-

 

 

 

Contact: Melinda Isley, APR, m.creativepr, 239-274-7736, cell: 239-565-1630, melinda@mcreativepr.com

Isaiah’s Mom

Isaiah’s Mom

Every once in a while I will run into someone in the community that will ask if I am still a hungerfighter.  Because it sounds a little like a character from a Marvel comic book I always smile before giving my answer.

For a number of years I had the privilege of working with a great team of people who all considered themselves hungerfighters and were working to eliminate hunger and homelessness in Lee County.

At the Southwest Florida Community Foundation I still have the opportunity to support those efforts but when familiar faces from my past are asking about my hungerfighting days I know they are referring to the boots on the ground work that took up most of my waking hours for years.

Follow up questions most always come in the form of what I miss most about my earlier days in the nonprofit arena and my answer is always the relationships I had with people I was walking alongside as they navigated overcoming an obstacle or need.

When I spent my days interacting directly with families and individuals who were working to move through food insecurity I had the privilege of speaking with them, learning from them and being inspired by their perseverance and hopefulness.  A number of the people I met became friends and colleagues while others would be in my life for only a day but they each made a lasting impression.

Leaving the job didn’t signal an end to the issue or my desire to make an impact.    If I stay aware and open I see the need in most all the places I frequent in Southwest Florida.  By paying attention to those around me I can recognize a family or individual that needs a little extra assistance.  There is a look in their eyes that cries out for a way out of their current struggle.

Last Wednesday night I was on my way to meet a group of donors after work.  This group of women is particularly focused on helping other women and children in need so I was not surprised that before I made it to the location I received a phone call from someone in the group asking me to meet her in the parking lot before heading into the event.   All she said was, “I have someone here I want you to meet” and somehow I just knew what she meant.

As I pulled up to my colleague’s car I saw a woman in need with a stroller.  I quickly learned a lot about Isaiah’s mom.  I have found that when mothers are trying to feed their babies, they will move quickly to the point.  She had just arrived from West Virginia in an attempt to reunite with the children’s father.  It was to be a second chance at creating a family that quickly went wrong and former patterns of domestic violence emerged, leaving Isaiah’s mom stranded in a new city with no family, transportation, money or job.

She had spent the previous 48 hours looking for assistance, applying for jobs in her field as an RN and primarily trying to find food for her two young children.

I watched in awe as the friend who had made the call transformed into a compassionate hungerfighter.    She stepped in with immediate help to get her through the evening and we made plans for the next few days until Isaiah’s mom’s nursing credentials could arrive and she could get to work and back on her feet.

Watching my friend and meeting Isaiah’s mom reminded me that reaching out to others is not a job, it’s an opportunity in our daily lives.  The next time someone asks if I am still a hungerfighter, I will just say yes.

I would love to hear stories from you about times when everyday life has provided you with the opportunity to reach out to someone in need. You can reach me at iamlistening@floridacommunity.com.

 

 

 

 

 

She is a Mother and a Grandmother

She is a Mother and a Grandmother

Part of being involved in the community includes the honor of attending funeral and memorial services for community leaders, and local philanthropists.  For a brief moment in time, groups of otherwise disconnected people come together in the common bond of a mutual friend.

I have been struck by many things as an onlooker, but mostly by the photographs of these loved ones that are projected on the wall or giant screens as we all sit in reflection before the service begins.   I often blur my eyes and imagine what it was like the day the photo was taken, or sometimes I even remember being the one who shot it.

It usually features a younger version of the person being memorialized shown surrounded by family, friends, sometimes wearing funny hats, blowing out candles on birthday cakes, posing next to national monuments, holding babies, hugging graduates or simply enjoying their favorite pastime such as boating, playing cards, or reeling in a big fish.  Photos dissolve into another showing a more recent version of the honoree in a most familiar setting, where we have become used to seeing him or her over the years.

The moment that a photo is taken, we do not realize that the only time anyone outside our close circle is going to see it is at the funeral.  Now with Facebook and other social media, much of life is captured to share with friends, but the rare collection of shots at the funeral becomes a highlight reel of an intimate roadmap of that person’s unique and special life.

At a recent service of a Foundation supporter and dear friend, the images of her at numerous nonprofit fundraisers and ribbon cuttings, groundbreakings and donor walls started to blur together into one big giant festival of a life of giving.  She was shown with auctioneers, celebrity masters of ceremonies, at arts events, soup kitchens and homeless camps.

We get to remember all the good times all over again, and wax on about the goals reached and good that was accomplished.  And when the service is all over, we leave, and go on about our day.  Sure we miss our friend and colleague and wonder how weird it is going to be to not get the phone calls or see her at the next concert or fundraiser.

But if not for the poignant words of her son at the closing of the service, we would have all left our seats, said our good-byes forgetting, or remembering only as an afterthought, that above everything else, she was somebody’s precious and beloved mother and grandmother.

So this Mother’s Day, let’s celebrate women who take a place in history not for their great achievements, but for nurturing and loving their families first.

Please send us a picture, or post a photo and tribute to a special mother in your life on our Facebook page or send us a tweet @SWFLCFnd and use #RememberingMomSWFL

What Are We Going to Do About This?

What Are We Going to Do About This?

“So Sarah, What are we going to do about this?”

For several years this was how Betty Bireley would begin every conversation with me.  Whether it was on the phone or in person she would greet me exactly the same way.  At the time of these interactions I was leading an organization that fought hunger and homelessness in Lee County and Betty would reach out to me on a regular basis to find out what was happening in our community around those issues.

Betty would literally lose sleep thinking about families who were experiencing homelessness.  She would wake up in the middle of the night thinking about it and call me early the next morning.  She didn’t want to rest until she figured out a way to get the families out of the woods and into some sort of housing. With her background in real estate and generous philanthropy coupled with pure will she was certain she could design some sort of solution.

On many occasions she would join advocates for these families on trips to homeless camps in the woods to deliver blankets and food.  The trips to the camps served as reminders to her that these mothers, fathers and children were out there without a home.

Her calls to me were not just to ask how to help but also to offer up ideas such as:

– Working with Habitat for Humanity to build houses specifically for families experiencing homelessness.  Betty had been very involved in funding Habitat houses and she thought there might be a way to change the model to solve this issue
– Purchasing an abandoned camp that still housed some out buildings and small cabins that could be converted into housing
– Faxing (Betty never emailed, always faxed from a machine in her home) all of the foreclosure listings in Fort Myers each week during the height of the recession and asking me to see if there were any opportunities to purchase some of these homes
– Issuing a $100.000 challenge to local nonprofits and guaranteeing the dollars if someone would come up with an idea that made sense to her.  Trust me as the leader of a nonprofit I tried to come up with something, but none of the ideas I had were sustainable and I did not feel right about accepting the money for a short term solution.

Those are just a handful that I can remember off the top of my head.  The point is not the ideas themselves but the notion that she never stopped thinking, dreaming and imagining.  She believed with all her grit that a solution was out there and we had to find it.   If an idea didn’t work she would start researching the next one.

I remember when she heard I was changing lanes in my career and moving to the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, she called right away.  For the first time ever she altered her opening line.  “So Sarah, we STILL have to figure out what to do about this.  Just because you are going to the Foundation does not mean this is going away.  Hopefully there will be more resources there and we can get something done.”

The last time I spoke to Betty she was still asking me about the families in the woods.  She reminded me they were still out there and wondered if I had figured anything out yet.  I told her no but promised as always that I would keep working at it.

Our community lost Betty recently but I will never lose sight of her vision or her voice in my head.

Betty is gone but the issue is still very much with us.  So, what are we going to do about it?

If you are interested in continuing the conversation Betty started, email me at iamlistening@floridacommunity.com

 

 

Sarah Owen is president & CEO of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation.

As leaders, conveners, grant makers and concierges of philanthropy, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation is a foundation built on community leadership with an inspired history of fostering regional change for the common good in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Community Foundation, founded in 1976, connects donors and their philanthropic aspirations with evolving community needs. With assets of more than $88 million, the Community Foundation has provided $61.2 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves. Last year, it granted more than $2.9 million to nonprofit organizations supporting education, animal welfare, arts, healthcare and human services. It granted $782,000 in nonprofit grants including more than $400,000 in regional community impact grants and additional $450,000 in scholarship grants.

For more information about the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, call 239-274-5900 or visit www.floridacommunity.com.

 

 

Responding to the Nepal Earthquake

Responding to the Nepal Earthquake

On Saturday, April 25th, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal in an area between the capital city of Kathmandu and the city of Pokhara. With more than 4,400 people confirmed dead and 8,000 injured at this time, the relief work in affected regions involves complex and overwhelming challenges.

Below is compiled information from the Center for Disaster Philanthropy. As they do whenever a major disaster strikes, the Center for Disaster Philanthropy puts all its energy and resources at the service of donors who want to know how their giving can make a long-term impact.

Among the Center for Disaster Philanthropy’s current activities:

 

  • A robust information page about what has been learned about the earthquake and how international nongovernment agencies and donors are responding.
  • Because we have learned from past disasters such as Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, the Typhoon Haiyan and the South Asian Tsunami, that it will take many years for Nepal to fully recover, the Center for Disaster Philanthropy has activated a Nepal Earthquake Recovery Fund. Money raised will support medium- and long-term rebuilding and recovery.
  • Along with the Council on Foundations, the Center for Disaster Philanthropy is holding a webinar at 2:00 pm, Friday May 1 to discuss the needs and donor opportunities in Nepal.
  • Visit the Center for Disaster Philanthropy’ Facebook page and Twitter feed for current with links to news reports and other updates.

 

And the Crowd Went Wild

And the Crowd Went Wild

The Lee County Board of County Commissioners meeting was filled to the rafters last week and it caused me to wonder what had prompted the large turnout.

I was there to support an agenda item relating to a partnership between the Southwest Florida Community Foundation and the County but I knew that the crowd had not assembled on account of that matter.

My first thought was I had overlooked a heated or controversial issue on the agenda.  Many times when a BOCC meeting is packed with citizens and county staff it is an indication of topic requiring much public comment and discussion.

I asked a few people around me if they were part of this crowd but they too were perplexed by the masses.

It didn’t take long for my mystery to be solved as the Commissioners moved quickly to the topic that had garnered so much attention.  The anniversary celebrations of Lee County employees.

This is not a novel idea- many companies acknowledge team anniversaries, but what struck me was the wide spread support and enthusiastic mood of this celebration.  The crowd was not there to debate or discuss, but rather to cheer.  The Commissioners and the Lee County administration were not  just going through the motions handing out 5, 10, 15 and 25 year pins, but rather were fully engaged in recognizing the employees.

One by one the public servants made their way down the Commission Chamber aisle towards the dais. As their names and departments were announced loud and energetic cheers rose from their friends, families and colleagues.  They were greeted with pats on the back, smiles and congratulatory handshakes.  It had a bit of a red carpet feel as photographers captured shots of the honorees as they made their way toward the receiving line.

Family members of one of the 25 year recipients were sitting just ahead of me and they were bursting with pride as their loved ones’ names were announced as the employee made his/her way forward to accept a pin.  Suddenly I found myself becoming emotional. I came to the meeting for a business issue and was now moved to tears.

Animal Control, Human Services, Public Safety, Waste Management, Parks and Recreation were just a few of the departments represented and it struck me that the people being honored had played a major role in our community, most had committed well over a decade to me and the  other residents of Lee County.

In the world of philanthropy we often talk about private/public partnerships between government and the private and charitable sectors to create a vibrant community, but we can easily lose sight of the men and women who work tirelessly day in and day out to carry out those projects.  Those days turn into years, decades and careers and our community owes them a debt of gratitude.

As soon as the ceremony was over, most of the room cleared and the agenda moved ahead, but I knew all of the cheering section and honorees were back at work making a difference in Lee County and for that I am so grateful.  Keep up the great job.

If your team has a special way of acknowledging employees or volunteers for their service I would love to hear from you at iamlistening@floridacommunity.com.

Community Foundation’s new exhibit features PanAmerican Alliance artists

Community Foundation’s new exhibit features PanAmerican Alliance artists

Art reception scheduled for April 30

FORT MYERS, Fla. (April 23, 2015) – The Southwest Florida Community Foundation continues the spring season with another new exhibit in its 2014-2015 Art & Community exhibition series featuring work from the PanAmerican Alliance for Art, Culture and Industry, Inc.

The new exhibit includes more than 45 art pieces of varied mediums such as pastels, watercolor, acrylics, jewelry and more from Irma Backelant, Elizabeth Jaramillo, Jefferson Jones and Annie St. Martin, and more. The exhibit will run through May 28 and is available for public viewing hours Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. To schedule a tour, call Kim Williams at the Community Foundation office at 239-274-5900.

In honor of the new exhibit, the Community Foundation will hold a reception on Thursday, April 30 from 4 to 6 p.m. at its headquarters located at 8771 College Parkway, Building 2, Suite 201 in Fort Myers. Reservations may be submitted to Jacqueline Ehlers at jehlers@floridacommunity.com.

4-24 Elizabeth Jaramillo  Hibiscus 4-24 Annie St  Martin  Roseate Spoonbill

As leaders, conveners, grant makers and concierges of philanthropy, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation is a foundation built on community leadership with an inspired history of fostering regional change for the common good in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Community Foundation, founded in 1976, connects donors and their philanthropic aspirations with evolving community needs. With assets of more than $84 million, the Community Foundation has provided $61.2 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves. Last year, it granted more than $2.9 million to nonprofit organizations supporting education, animal welfare, arts, healthcare and human services. It granted $782,000 in nonprofit grants including more than $400,000 in regional community impact grants and additional $450,000 in scholarship grants.

For more information about the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, call 239-274-5900 or visit www.floridacommunity.com.

Robert Rauschenberg Foundation Fund announces local grant recipients

Robert Rauschenberg Foundation Fund announces local grant recipients

Nearly $250,000 awarded to Southwest Florida organizations providing critical community programs 

FORT MYERS, Fla. (April 22, 2015) – The Robert Rauschenberg Foundation and Southwest Florida Community Foundation announced today that six local nonprofits will receive support through their new granting partnership. The two foundations have collaborated to create a vibrant grant program that will enable and support critical social innovation in the region of
Southwest Florida.

Awards include $46,350 to the Laboratory Theater of Florida for its Give Youth the Stage program, $48,800 to the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation for its Combining Arts and Sciences to Improve Water Quality in Southwest Florida, $46,325 to Goodwill Industries of Southwest Florida, Inc. for its Community-Based Bicycle and Walking Audit program, $32,000 to the Human Trafficking Awareness Partnerships, Inc. to enhance its ARTREACH program, and $26,500 to Jewish Family Community Services for its Music Makes Memories program. The Alliance for the Arts was also awarded a $50,000 challenge grant for its Campus Enrichment Plan.

“The Rauschenberg Foundation grant allows Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation to broaden its reach for informing people about the critical nature of water quality in the Caloosahatchee, the estuary and around the islands,” said Kristie Anders, education director of the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation. “By using a multi-modal approach integrating the arts and science, we will attract an audience that may not currently be reached by SCCF’s standard communications. Using music, community art and brief talks in a more festive atmosphere and in a variety of venues, we hope to increase people’s desire to engage in conversation with one another and decision makers regarding one thing that brought many of us to Southwest Florida: the water, and at the interface of land and sea, the beaches.”

Projects and programs of particular interest were those led by nonprofits that are collaborating to address the region’s pressing issues, from youth development to climate change and environmental stewardship to equitable access to public services. The Southwest Florida Community Foundation facilitated the granting process, which culminated in a portfolio of projects submitted to the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation for its consideration.

“Since its founding in 1990, the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation has been committed to supporting the Southwest Florida area,” said Christy MacLear, executive director of the Rauschenberg Foundation. “Our goal was to deepen that support as well as encourage the most progressive ideas and high-impact organizations within the region.”

Since 2012, the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation has invested approximately $3.5 million into the local economies of Southwest Florida and its surrounding environs. The collaboration with the Southwest Florida Community Foundation was introduced to make the grants competitive and cross a wide range of services of need to the local population.

“This collaboration is a great example of funders working together to bring resources to our community, and we feel honored to work with the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation as it continues its legacy of giving in Southwest Florida,” said Sarah Owen, president and CEO of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation. “We are looking forward to continuing to work alongside the foundation as it brings both a focus on innovative solutions and critical funding to our region.”

Nonprofit organizations interested in applying for support through this new grant program were first required to participate in a daylong workshop open to anyone wanting to learn more about collaborative program design called iLAB. The event was developed to prepare nonprofits to be more competitive for this and other grant opportunities, and to expose regional leaders to great ideas and best practices. Participants learned how to design a collaborative project with peer institutions as well as how this collaborative approach can lead to both additional funding and community change.

“Kids have powerful things to say about human trafficking and with targeted art instruction, students will have more tools and skills to get their messages across,” said Nola Theiss, executive director of Human Trafficking Awareness Partnerships, Inc. “The Rauschenberg grant will strengthen the ARTREACH program, increasing the impact of the young artists’ work. We look forward to putting the talent and insight of many local artists and instructors to work toward the empowerment of the young people we serve.”

As leaders, conveners, grant makers and concierges of philanthropy, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation is a foundation built on community leadership with an inspired history of fostering regional change for the common good in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Community Foundation is celebrating its 39th year of connecting donors and their philanthropic aspirations with evolving community needs. With assets of more than $80 million, the Community Foundation has provided more than $60 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves. Last year, it granted more than $4 million to more than 100 different organizations supporting education, animal welfare, arts, healthcare and human services, including more than $400,000 in regional community impact grants and $450,000 in scholarship grants.

The Robert Rauschenberg Foundation fosters the legacy of the artist’s life, work and philosophy that art can change the world. The foundation supports initiatives at the intersection of arts and issues that embody the fearlessness, innovation and multidisciplinary approach that Robert Rauschenberg exemplified in both his art and philanthropic endeavors. Since 2012, the foundation has broadened its philanthropic efforts including making grants to 170 organizations across the U.S., loaning more than 100 Rauschenberg artworks to 26 exhibitions globally and converting Rauschenberg’s home and studio on Captiva Island into a dynamic residency program for emerging and established artists.

For more information, visit www.rauschenbergfoundation.org or www.floridacommunity.com.

What a Difference a Day Makes

What a Difference a Day Makes

This morning my husband greeted me on the way to my first cup of coffee with a high five.  I was still half asleep but I did mumble something about feeling as if I was in a high school locker room instead of my kitchen.

Once  fully awake I asked a few more questions to find out if he was just being extra encouraging or if there was hidden meaning behind the midair hand slap. He informed me that it was National High Five Day.  He had plans to celebrate this homage to high fiving all day long.  I urged him to reconsider.

But then he reminded me of my recent obsession with National Pancake Day, National Hot Dog Day and National Donut Day which I took equally seriously.   So I sent him off to work with a sweet kiss on the cheek and an extra enthusiastic high five.

Clearly we need some hobbies, but it did get me thinking about days outside of traditional holidays that we set aside to advocate, honor and draw attention to issues or ideas that are on our minds.  There is something meaningful about setting aside a day and naming it in order to give it special importance.  Sometimes we need to be intentional about our thoughts and actions in order to advance an idea.

Of course I understand that some of the more trivial days are there for pure fun or to promote a specialty food item, but other earmarked days have been the catalyst for movements that create meaningful change.

April 22, 2015 marks one such day.   It is the 45th anniversary of Earth Day.  Calendars in the late 60s and early 70s were not nearly as packed with special interest days as they are today but an early pioneer in the world of environmental protection, Senator Gaylord Nelson (D) from Wisconsin spent a number of years trying to find ways to encourage his fellow citizens to take notice of green issues like pollution and deforestation.

Senator Nelson did not set out to start a global movement, but rather wanted to provide individual communities the opportunity to focus on the environmental concerns in their own backyards.  He had taken notice that local grass roots organizations were making more headway than larger national efforts.

He took out an ad in the New York Times announcing the first Earth Day and across the country over 20 million people responded.  45 years later they are still responding.  Just take a look around Southwest Florida and there are weeklong rallies, activities and celebrations for all ages to mark the day.  It is a global movement with a focus on local solutions.

At the Southwest Florida Community Foundation we see environmental advocates who embrace the message of Earth Day 365 days of the year- no special day on the calendar is needed.    We interact with donors and southwest Floridians that are asking about our region’s most precious resources and are seeking ways to learn more about our community’s land, air and water.  This was Nelson’s goal. Individuals being made aware of an issue and responding to it in order to effect grassroots change that would then collectively impact a nation and the earth as a whole.

That is a day we can all get behind- maybe even throw in a high five for fun.

If you would like to learn more about environmental efforts you can support all year long in the spirit of Earth Day please reach out to me at iamlistening@floridacommunity.com

I would also love to see pictures or hear stories of your 2015 Earth Day celebrations.

 

 

image from sites.psu.edu