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Big Numbers

Big Numbers

When it comes to anniversaries and birthdays some numbers just seem to be bigger than others. Decade and half decade markers get the most attention and provide fantastic opportunities for recognition and celebration.

Over the last ten years I have enjoyed my share of parties to usher in someone’s 30th, 40th and 50th birthdays or wedding anniversaries marking a couple’s quarter century together. These are events worthy of celebration.

But one trend I have found particularly interesting is our desire to reframe these numbers. When I turned 40 everyone told me not to worry because 40 was the new 30. When I turned 50 those same encouraging souls explained that 50 was the new 40 and a friend of mine who just hit 60 explained that she was really just hitting what used to be considered 50.

On one hand this confuses me greatly because now I don’t actually understand how old we all are but I also realize that we view aging through a different lens than generations before us.

Society used to see increasing age as the ultimate wisdom, credibility and experience quotient. Our elders (notice the name) were revered and held in the highest esteem. I never remember my grandmother sitting down with me when she was in her 80’s offering loving advice and expressing she was actually the new 60. I admired her for the age she really achieved and understood she knew what she was talking about.

The Southwest Florida Community Foundation is celebrating its 40th anniversary this week. This big number provides us the opportunity to thank those who have helped guide us, support us and lead us over the last 40 years. We are extremely fortunate that our founders John Sheppard and Tom Smoot are still actively involved as Senior Advisors and that many of our donors who helped us pave the way to where we are today will be on hand to help us celebrate.

To mark the anniversary, we unwrapped an early gift from a new philanthropist to the foundation, Commercial Photographer Brian Tietz. Brian spent much of last year photographing nearly 100 people who represent philanthropy and the love of humanity in Southwest Florida. His one-man photo exhibit will be featured at our anniversary celebration. What Brian was willing to do for us captures the spirit of the last 40 years at the Foundation- individuals giving of themselves individually and collectively to create change. We will reflect on that history and moments like the way the Foundation assisted in Hurricane Charley relief efforts, the establishment of the Women’s Legacy Fund and the Fund for the Arts in Southwest Florida, and the achievement of all-time grants exceeding $63 million and assets growing to an all-time high of $93 million.

When organizations get older often there is a comfort that they are more established, on strong footing and have a greater depth and breadth of experience to call on. This is certainly the case with the Community Foundation.

But, I have to admit I was tempted to put “Join us in celebrating our 40th- the new 30th” on the anniversary invitation. Not because I wanted the Foundation to appear younger, but to signify that we are honoring the past but still pursuing new ideas, change and innovation with the exuberance of an up and coming organization. We are now hosting compassionate shark tanks, researching community needs and opportunities by talking to those most affected, offering donors 24-7 access to their funds via our website, working with millennial donors, and more.

Community Foundations are tasked with listening, learning and changing with a community. Our founders will be the first to tell you that our region is much different today than it was 40 years ago and today’s trustees know they are visioning and planning a course for the foundation for the next 40 years and beyond.

So as we take time out to mark what has gotten us to where we are today, we will also be looking ahead to the future.

And, by the way, Brian Tietz’s photo exhibit will be on display in the Foundation office, the Community Hub, from April 15 through the summer. It is a gift to our community that we hope to share with many. We would love to include you in all of our future celebrations. Please join us, it’s never too late — we are all just getting younger!

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 $93 million, the Community Foundation has provided more than $63 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves. Last year, it granted more than $3.2 million to nonprofit organizations supporting education, animal welfare, arts, healthcare and human services, as well as provided regional community impact grants and scholarship grants.

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