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Greetings That Stand the Test of Time

Greetings That Stand the Test of Time


It has been four years since I sent a family holiday card.  Around October my expectations and intentions reach a pinnacle and I believe that a festive greeting and a card worthy photo are within reach.

Then November rolls around, I forget to take a family snapshot at Thanksgiving and as December rounds the corner my hopes are dashed.  As the organized, superstar families’ cards start rolling into my mailbox I wonder how they pulled it all together.

When my kids were young and not adults with lives of their own, I had a more captive audience for the holiday photo shoot and the cards went out on an annual basis.    My family still laughs at all the fussing and feuding that would happen right before I snapped the picture that displayed a happy loving utopia of yuletide bliss.  They would often threaten to expose me as a less than perfect mother if I wasn’t able to contain my stress trying to get the shot.

For many years I would save the cards we received from friends and family and we would pull them out with the decorations and comment on how much the kids had grown or reread the notes and well wishes. And for a little elfish mischief making along the way, we would select a photo card we had received the prior year, and send it to someone with a personalized greeting from the family they had never met in hopes that they would spend a good bit of time trying to figure out who they were and where in the world they knew them from.

Words and images from the past help us hold on to memories and emotions from a specific point in time.  It’s always interesting to look back at the words and images that have been preserved in family, community, national and global archives.  They shed light on what was important to that personal or community in that moment.

At the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, we take time to capture, curate and save notes, photos and letters from our donors.  I can’t tell you how amazing it is to share the story and legacy of someone who established a scholarship with the student receiving the funding, or for a nonprofit to know the history of the donor that cared so deeply for a cause that they made provisions to fund the issue forever.

Storytelling, plain and simple, connects people across space and time.  It’s why I want to send and receive the traditional holiday greeting.  I want to share a little piece of my story with you once a year and hear a little piece of yours.

I understand that social media allows this on a daily basis, but a greeting from my house to yours just feels a bit more intimate and intentional.

My love and nostalgia for stories and words prompted me to invite our foundation trustees and team members to share their thoughts on our newly constructed Collaboratory floors before the carpet went down.  I wanted to capture what they were thinking and feeling in the moment and imagine what will happen over time as the carpet is replaced and people who never knew us see our messages to them and the community.  I also wanted the current team to feel the uplifting and encouraging words underfoot each day as they went about the work of the community.

Today, I put the finishing touches on our 2018 family holiday card and sent them off to the printer, old school style and look forward to sending my greeting off to friends and family (if I can get them addressed and put in the mail before 2019). Since I can’t send each of you a card, let me leave you with the words memorialized on the Collaboratory floor by one of our founding trustees, John Sheppard:

What we do for ourselves dies with us!
What we do for others, who in turn make gifts to other “others” – your gift can be carried on and be eternal –
That is the Southwest Florida Community Foundation – May God bless this place and all who use its space
– – Johnny
John Woolslair Sheppard

Now that’s a greeting that will stand the test of time.


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 $6.8 million in grants and programs to the community. With assets of more than $126 million, it has provided $79.9 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 satellite offices located on Sanibel Island, 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