Over the past few weeks I have been telling anyone who will listen that it’s great to be 40…again!
Those that know me roll their eyes while those who don’t are left wondering how to tell me I am not aging well. Clearly I have not discovered the secret to turning back the clock but have been enjoying celebrating the Southwest Florida Community Foundation’s 40th anniversary.
It has been interesting to consider that I am serving in an organization that was created around the time I was approaching my teenage years. Just like people organizations grow up, mature, learn valuable lessons, change and build relationships.
I think anyone will tell you that it is impossible to look 40 years into the future and predict what will happen to a person or an organization. At the Community Foundation we are very fortunate to have founders, John Sheppard and Tom Smoot and many of the early supporters and trailblazers, still actively involved in our work. They would be quick to confirm that when they launched the Community Foundation here they could have never predicted the opportunities and challenges that would be facing our region 40 years in the future.
As people and organizations grow up they mean different things to others along the way. Anniversaries and birthdays give us the chance to reflect on the relationships that have mattered in our lives.
In 1976, the founding year of the Foundation, I turned 12 and distinctly remember having a party in which one of the gifts was an autograph dog. It was a stuffed animal made of material that allowed you sign it with a special marker. At the party all my friends wrote one word that they felt best described me. At the time it seemed just a fun pre teen exercise but I found I hung on to that dog filled with my words all the way through college. Those words mattered to me because they reminded me of the relationships I had and how others perceived me at that time in my life.
Words are powerful and when choosing just one to describe someone or something you have to give special consideration to how you feel.
For the Foundation’s 40th we were presented with a very special gift from Commercial Photographer Brian Tietz. He is well known throughout the state for his editorial portraiture. In keeping with the spirit of giving and philanthropy Brian donated his talents to us to capture the “Faces of Philanthropy” an exhibit that features nearly 100 philanthropists from across the region.
But we didn’t just capture their images. We also asked them for a word – one word that represented what the Southwest Florida Community Foundation meant to them. The Faces were nominated from the community at large and ranged in age from 8 to 90. Some of them had been closely associated with the Foundation, as donors and fund holders while others knew of us through their charitable work in the region. It was great to get a diverse perspective.
Just as I treasured the words from my friends, my hope is that our Foundation will carry these words with us for the next 40 years, while creating new ones all along the way.
Effective, Loving, Exciting, Caring, Innovative, Life Changing, Endowment, Service, Satisfaction, Focus, Hope, Legacy, Supportive, Wow, Great, Amazing, Outstanding, Knowledgeable, Happiness, Generosity, Beneficial, Outreach, Responsive, Clarity, Comprehensive, Multifaceted, Like-minded, Giving, New Thinking, Forever, Kindness, Responsible, Connectivity, Powerful, Futuristic, Amazing, Enabling, Comprehensive, Catalyst, Opportunity, Joy, Yes, Awesome, Embracing, Engaging, Fantastic, Stewardship, Give Back, Reliable, Exemplary, Committed, Organized, In Good Hands, Ultimate Philanthropy, Warmth, Enormous, Heartwarming, Facilitator, Philanthropy, Unique, Progressive, Encouraging, Broad, Effective, Trustworthy, Leverage, Valuable.
We’d love to know what you think about our work now and your hope for the future in celebration of our 40th anniversary, so please go to our website at www.floridacommunity.com/your-word and tell us. There you can tell us your word, and also see short videos that will be posted every week from our many “Faces.”
Sarah Owen is president & CEO of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation and can be reached at [email protected], on Twitter @ListeninginSWFL