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Community Strength Cannot Be Quarantined

Community Strength Cannot Be Quarantined

Like so many Southwest Floridians, I’ve been remotely working from home, as the Southwest Florida Community Foundation stands with all those striving to balance health and safety while remaining efficient and effective in our efforts to serve Southwest Florida.

One of the challenges throughout our region, and one we’re taking on together, is to find new and creative ways to maintain the ties that bind our community. It was in a swirl of thought as I considered this and the far-reaching impacts of COVID-19 that it suddenly struck me there was a time when, if I heard the word “zoom,” it would bring to mind the act of moving rapidly.

Now, although we may not be moving at the speed to which we were accustomed, when I hear the word Zoom, I think of a virtual video meeting. And I feel uplifted because it means I get to experience the reassurance that our community will make it through this outbreak together. My computer monitor has become a Brady Bunch-like checkerboard of faces reflecting the commitment, compassion and the downright will to persevere through these challenging times. That piece of hardware also embodies another realization: community cannot be quarantined.

Although times have rapidly changed, I’m grateful that one thing has not: together with the generosity of donors throughout the region and our tireless community partners, we continue to find ways to rally in support of our neighbors in need. We continue to be awed by our healthcare workers and first responders on the frontlines, essential businesses delivering vital services, and the nonprofit organizations throughout the region who continue their efforts to deliver aid to the most vulnerable among us. They have been hit hard by the effects of the pandemic and require food, shelter and other basic human needs.

Established in partnership with the United Way of Lee, Hendry, Glades and Okeechobee counties, the Southwest Florida Emergency Relief Fund is providing crucial financial resources to regional nonprofits serving those most affected. If you are interested in this neighbor-helping-neighbor effort, please visit

Additionally, we are humbled and grateful for the community’s participation in Collaboratory’s online COVID-19 Resource and Connections (CRC) initiative ( Such a collective effort would not even be possible were it not for the community’s forward-thinking support since the early planning stages of this regional resource. It was the shared Collaboratory vision among individuals, nonprofit partners, the commercial business sector, and governmental entities that today has resulted in the facility’s capacity to serve as a virtual connective space, one that helps support our mutual determination to take this challenging journey together.

Built with ongoing community input, the CRC program offers a range of comprehensive resources, from a repository of information about state and federal relief programs, information for nonprofits navigating these trying times, and the results of a flash poll to assess the most pressing needs of those served by Southwest Florida’s network of nonprofit organizations.

Also available as part of the CRC are “Collaboratory Chats,” brief video sessions in which community partners address areas of shared concern. Sessions so far include: coping with feelings of loneliness and isolation, tips and resources for nonprofit leaders and fundraising professionals to support their efforts to respond to the communities they serve, business strategies to adapt to a fluid economic environment, how students can improve job prospects during these challenging economic times, and more.

Recognizing it’s not business as usual for our nonprofit partners, local small businesses and entrepreneurs, we have assembled a variety of tips and tools to help find efficient and effective ways to stay connected to their teams, supporters and the communities they serve, including informational resources regarding relief grants and emergency loans.

Launched last week, our latest community-focused effort, “Thrivability by Collaboratory” draws on homegrown experts, partners and global gurus alike to support change-makers in developing themselves and their organizations. The inaugural interactive session for nonprofits and businesses focused on adapting programs to go virtual with the Zoom meeting platform, because facilitating successful virtual connections are critical to those serving Southwest Florida during these times of social distancing. To learn more about future sessions, I invite you to visit

Yes, these are trying times. But we have weathered past storms that rattled our lives and our spirits. Hurricanes, fires, recessions, red tide. They have all challenged us, but because we faced them together, we persevered. And we’ll continue to stand shoulder to shoulder through this latest challenge, whether it’s virtually, or the time we all look forward to gathering once more. Because community cannot be quarantined.

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About the Southwest Florida Community Foundation

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 more than 400 philanthropic funds. Thanks to them, the Foundation invested $7.7 million in grants and programs to the community. With assets of $134.9 million, it has provided $85 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. The Southwest Florida Community Foundation’s regional headquarters are now located in the historic ACL Train Depot at Collaboratory in downtown Fort Myers, with a satellite office located in LaBelle (Hendry County). For more information, call 239-274-5900 or visit

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