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An Open Shelf

An Open Shelf

The first home my husband and I bought together was a 1920s bungalow just a couple blocks off Daytona Beach.

It had hardwood floors hidden under carpet and many other quaint features that were covered with layers of paint, wallpaper and drywall.  A few years of our lives were spent uncovering the treasures of this house.

The first time we looked at our future home with a real estate agent we noticed the living room built ins were filled with keepsakes you wouldn’t normally find displayed in that setting.  A well-worn baseball cap, stacks of folded paper grocery bags and an assortment of fly swatters.  They weren’t thrown haphazardly on the shelves but were arranged as a display that seemed to hold meaning.

Long after we moved in and had filled the shelves with our own brand of memorabilia we would wonder out loud about the meaning of the eclectic tokens of the previous owners.

We created stories about the items and imagined how they made their way to a place of honor on the main room shelves.

When is the last time you took inventory of the things displayed on bookcases, mantels or shelves in your home or office? For the most part we reserve those places for things that hold memories, special meaning or inspiration.

Recently my son cleaned off some shelves in his bedroom that were filled with youth sports trophies, various certificates, collectibles and souvenirs from family vacations.

When I noticed the cleared out space I asked him what was up with the redecorating.  I knew a number of the things packed away had meant something to him over the years.

His answer was short and to the point.  “I am just making room for what is coming next,” he said.

I turned around, closed his door and went to find a few shelves of my own to clear.

The team at the Southwest Florida Community Foundation has recently been refreshing and sharpening our strategy on how to support donors, stakeholders and our nonprofit partners in cultivating change in our region.  Although we have 40 years of experience in philanthropy and change making, we realize that we always have to make room for what is coming next.  The next community need or opportunity and the next donor with their own unique story and vision for giving.

Many of our proverbial shelves will be filled in perpetuity with the generous keepsakes of those who came before and established funds to care for the community.

But we will always keep an open shelf, an open door and an open mind to what comes next.


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 or call 239-274-5900.









Sarah Owen
Sarah Owen

Sarah Owen, President & CEO of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, leads a passionate and diverse team dedicated to driving regional change for the common good. The Foundation is committed to engaging the community in conversations and action that creates sustainable positive change and provides the funding to make those changes a reality. More