Early in my family’s history we moved numerous times. For a few years we moved so often due to job transfers my kids’ friends thought we might be in the witness protection program. As a result of landing in new locations, we had opportunities to be tourists in our hometowns.
You might think that our tourist season would be underway when we first moved to a new city, but actually it would happen just as we were about to depart for another location. When we first landed in a new place we spun right into new jobs, new schools, new meetings and new activities, but upon departure we realized all we had missed and would frantically begin visiting museums, monuments and points of local interest.
I actually think we did 3 Smithsonian visits and the Cherry Blossom Festival in DC in 3 days prior to a move. So it has been pure joy to live in Southwest Florida for over a decade, moving only once across a bridge. And as I have written about in this column on numerous occasions, we have made a point to enjoy all that the region has to offer. I ventured out to Gatorama in Glades County a few weeks ago, and this was not triggered by an impending departure. I am simply taking advantage of the amazing attractions, places and events all around me in a leisurely and enjoyable pace.
Over the past few weeks I have experienced a different type of urgency that reminds me of my days as a last minute tourist. This time it happened with people instead of places.
As our wonderful winter residents began their preparation to head back to their summer hometowns my phone, inbox and calendar were packed with activity. I don’t know about you, but from my vantage point it seems that our friends just arrived and now it is time to say good bye again for a few months, which is tough. I am going to miss them.
At the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, many of our donors, community advocates and volunteers are seasonal residents. They arrive on the SWFL scene ready to roll up their sleeves and create change in this corner of the world. Over the past several months I have watched our part time friends raise millions of dollars, contribute countless hours and create positive change in our region. It is amazing to watch a family care deeply about more than one community and to adopt their second hometown in significant ways.
As the calendar heads toward spring, I am trying to find ways to connect with my winter friends one last time before they head out of town. There always seems to be one more detail on a project, or a last minute report on the nonprofit program they funded and in some cases the beginning conversations on their charitable giving strategy for next season.
Getting together face to face for one last meeting with these special people has allowed me to say thank you for joining forces with our equally generous full time residents and show my gratitude for all they have done together as a community. Thank you for helping to build a new Children’s Hospital, funding nonprofits who serve our neighbors, supporting students through mentoring and scholarships, protecting our environment, and being patrons of the arts.
These are great memories I will carry with me as inspiration all summer long. Winter friends, I will see you in October, and please know a dynamic group of “full timers” will be working hard while you are away. And don’t forget, you can always just call, Skype, Facetime or email me at [email protected].
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. The Foundation partners with individuals, families and corporations who have created over 400 philanthropic funds. Thanks to them, last year the Foundation 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.