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I Am Not Alone

I Am Not Alone

I found out last week that I am not the only one with a storied past.  If you are a regular reader of this column you know that I share personal anecdotes from my life and tie them to my work in the community.  Sharing stories from your past can draw a wide range of reactions and I welcome the feedback I receive as it connects me to the residents the Foundation is committed to serving on behalf of our donors.

Some tales I tell get more attention than others and I discovered after sharing a not so proud moment of grade changing with a ball point pen, that many of you were hiding the same secret.  I was astonished to learn that I was not alone in my grade school antics.

My grade changing past played out with a struggle in Math, but readers shared stories of desperation in Science, English and Social Studies.  Most all of you revealed you were also caught and changed your ways as you matured, but I really enjoyed reliving those moments with my fellow miscreants.  Thanks for coming forward, and remember it’s never too late to confess to your family at the next reunion!

It’s interesting to learn how our worlds are always colliding in our global communities.  Our life experiences and future hopes and plans bond us together in simple things like common stories and more complex ways when we discover something we have been thinking or in my case writing about presents itself in unique ways.

Most recently I was considering “out of nowhere” moments in our lives that catch us by complete surprise.  I did a bit of writing on the topic and then a few days later saw that a small community foundation in Wisconsin had received a record breaking 100-million-dollar endowment gift.

I get gift alerts from other foundations all the time, we like to encourage each other and share good things that are happening in our communities.  But on the heels of my “out of nowhere” musings, this article caught my attention in another way.  The gift was given by a couple who had never given a donation to that community foundation in the past and had not been connected to them in any way.

The 100-million-dollar gift was a complete surprise to the organization. The couple had lived in the community most of their lives and were dedicated business and education leaders who died within months of each other.  This gift will now generate millions of dollars in grants every year to the causes that were important to the couple.

It was actually their estate attorney who had suggested the community foundation to them when they were curious as to how to make a charitable impact.  The advisor had been involved with the foundation over the years and knew of their work in the region.

The stories the attorney shared with the couple created a connection that will impact their community forever.

So let’s keep sharing and talking and connecting with eachother over the big and little things happening in our lives.  Who knows what it will create in the future?

As always, I am listening and would love to hear from you at iamlistening


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 $5.4 million in grants and programs to the community. With assets of $115 million, it has provided more than $71 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. Currently, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation’s regional headquarters are located off College Parkway in South Fort Myers, with satellite offices located on Sanibel Island, in LaBelle (Hendry County) and downtown Fort Myers. For more information, call 239-274-5900 or visit


For more information about the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, 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