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Sowing Seeds of Kindness Can Render a Great Harvest of Good

Sowing Seeds of Kindness Can Render a Great Harvest of Good

by John Sheppard, senior advisor trustee and co-founder, Southwest Florida Community Foundation 

I grew up Fort Myers in the depths of the Depression. The stock market crashed in 1929, but Florida economy had crashed 3 years earlier in the Florida Land Bust. The 30’s were hard times. Our family was blessed to have regular, if frugal meals.

Mother bought groceries at Mr. Goggin’s Grocery Store Downtown Fort Myers at Main and Hendry streets. If Mother didn’t have cash, Mr. Coggins would take an IOU, and send a bill at end of the month. He trusted in prompt payment. I liked to go to Goggin’s Grocery with Mother. Each time after a wink to Mother, he would smile, pat me on my head, and with a word of encouragement or praise, put a small sucker in my hand.

Mr. Goggins died in the early 1940, and his grocery closed. My parents attended his service. They told us that it was packed, standing room only. Though he was gone, the legacy of his life lived on through his lessons of trust, a “hand up” kindness and giving to the many who knew him.

Today, 80 years later, I have never forgotten Mr. Goggins. At my early age, he made lifelong impressions on me of kindness, a gentle touch, a smile, a word of encouragement or endearment and with others in trust. He was poor, by the world’s terms. But he was rich in living and giving. When there was no money, he gave credit, trust loans, a smile, a life series of gifts to a little boy, never forgotten. All of this, just being Mr. Goggins.

Mr. Goggins life story was like that of the story of the poor widow who dropped 2 small coins in the offering plate. The MAN looking on from a distance, said she gave more than all.  She gave all that she had. So did Mr. Goggins.

As only Heaven knows, without generous donors, this community could not have built so many life and health-giving programs and projects without super generous donors. There would not be the “shining healing city on the hill,” the Golisano Children’s Hospital but for the hundreds of benevolent people giving magnificently generous amounts, totaling more than $100 million, and thousands of hours of helping time of many volunteers. Those who had more to give, gave more.

Recently a philanthropic couple challenged the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, offering a gift up to $2.5 million if the Foundation could secure gifts and pledges of a like amount within 3 months. The couple would then gift an equal amount to assure the continuance for many generations to come of a cutting-edge program that will benefit the community’s ability to create change through collaboration. With 100% participation of the trustees, senior advisors, and staff of the Foundation and scores of Foundation and community donors, the goal was met and surpassed.

There are countless numbers of others who continue to give sacrificially of that which they are able to give, as Mr. Goggins did many years ago. Nothing can replace the exponential gift-giving persons who give of their time, talent, kind words and demeanor, generous trust, a hand up, a smile, or a candy sucker to a young boy who never forgot.  All are priceless and irreplaceable gifts of those who share what they have to give.

So, in this holiday season of giving thanks, joy and good will—let’s extend the sacrificial giving. We may never know but what a hand up, a smile, a kind word – one little thing could change a life. To paraphrase a 19th century philanthropist, “What we do for ourselves dies with us, what we do for others, carried on, is eternal.” Anyone who gives what they have to give, will receive back many fold what they have given. May it be so for us.


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





John Sheppard