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Underneath the Same Big Sky

Underneath the Same Big Sky

Recently, my six year old son received three sheets of glow-in-the-dark star stickers.  We spent an afternoon applying them to the ceiling in his bedroom while he shared everything he knows about the constellations and planets.  We were careful to spread them out like the magical night sky we’ve seen in places like Hendry County, where the lights from the Earth don’t mask it’s enormity and awe.  As I write this, he is tucked into his bed under glow of this mini universe, beneath the roof of our home in a city that is but a pin on the map humans have created under the endless night sky.

The sky can make us feel small.  Despite that realization in the enormity of the planet and universe, we all have an impact.  We change, love and learn from one another.  We work and play and often show kindness and try to make a difference.  We make choices everyday that make impressions.  Choices that change the people and places around us and ultimately have an impact on the world regardless of how small we are in the grand scheme of things. We’re all connected and those connections cannot be underestimated.

In my role at the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, I spent a few days a couple weeks ago with professionals doing good work in philanthropy from throughout the state and country the Florida Philanthropic Network 2018 Summit.  The theme was What Drives You?.

Together, we drew invisible but real lines between our passions, goals, and the work we do from our diverse communities.  We explored some of the biggest challenges we face in our neighborhoods, communities, regions, and beyond.  We even wrote a poem together that was read by five of our partners to a captive audience.  Our connections, despite our usual distance from one another and our differences stopped us in our tracks.

I had the opportunity to share our work in Southwest Florida as it relates to our region’s plan for cultivating greater sustainability.  We discussed the scope and breadth of our challenges and how even the smallest organizations and efforts create impact at the local, regional, and state level. Light bulbs went off like little stars in the dark room.  What a loss it would be if we didn’t make every effort to connect our ideas and work.  The connections and the ability for all of us to be able to link our work in and across sectors is what creates meaningful change in lives, systems, and quality of life.

Measuring our collective work allows us to adapt when we aren’t getting results.  Mapping how the region’s work is linked and where we can reinforce and scale the things that show gains in areas like education and workforce development, equity, and health creates opportunities for meaningful partnerships and increased funding.  It puts everyone on the map and helps us work better for Southwest Florida.  The plan creates constellations and alters the way we discover solutions.  I’ve seen it create awe when we build trust and realize results together, like the awe of the night sky my little ones are sleeping under in our home tonight.

My partner in life and best friend cultivated this fascination with the stars in my kids.  He talks about it in ways that inspire awe and changed the way we look at the sky.  Realizing how small we are doesn’t diminish our impact, though.  Working together gets messy and takes unwavering commitment to our shared goals. The alternative though comes at too great a cost.  Regional change for the common good grows from the connections we make to each other, between our organizations, and across real and perceived boundaries.

How can we help you measure your contributions to the world and rest easy knowing you’ve had a positive impact on something bigger than yourself?

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



Tessa Lesage
Tessa Lesage