06 Mar I Wish We Had 343 More
As a rule, I like to look at the things I have rather than the things I don’t. Focusing on gratitude can be a life-changing experience. I am fortunate in my work at the Southwest Florida Community Foundation to be surrounded by acts of generosity on a daily basis. Rarely is there a day I don’t leave the office feeling grateful for the outpouring of love I see in the world of philanthropy.
But today as I shut my office door behind me, I left feeling like there was something more I desired.
More scholarships. 343 more of them to be exact.
Last week the Foundation’s scholarship portal closed with 466 submissions. After months of work preparing applications for funding to make post-secondary life a reality, Southwest Florida students now wait to find out if they will receive one of our 123 awards.
The scholarships are as unique as the donors who establish them and include opportunities that are specific to a field of study, a school, or academic record. Some funds are directed to students with a B average, first in their family to attend college, or a passion for community service. Others are designed to honor a loved one who passed away before having a chance to go to college, a mentor, or someone that helped put them through school.
It is a special act of paying it forward when you consider scholarship donors set up funds to provide much needed education dollars to students they have never met. We gather and curate the stories of the donors to share with the recipient of the scholarship and the student reciprocates with letters and in many cases stays in touch for years to come.
Last year I heard from the widow of a donor who had set up a scholarship fund in honor of a landmark birthday. She had just heard from one of the recipients of the scholarship who reached out after learning of his passing. The young woman wanted the donor’s family to know how much his gift meant to her and she planned to honor him by working hard in school and finding a way to help another student somewhere down the road.
The challenge for our team and over 100 volunteer scholarship reviewers is not finding 123 qualified students, but rather making the very difficult decision of telling 343 amazing individuals no. Without fail, after the scoring is complete we all wish we had additional funding to distribute.
I wish we had 343 more because I know from experience how life changing it would be for both the giver and the receiver, and that would result in 686 very happy people.
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 $78.2 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 www.floridacommunity.com.