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You’ve Got Mail

You’ve Got Mail

We all have certain things that pop up in our email stream that receive our immediate attention.  Sometimes it is the subject line, the time of day or the sender that catches our eye and our click.  Even with all the social media outlets available to us these days, there is still an unbridled attachment to our email accounts.  We carry them with us everywhere, on laptops, iPads and smart phones.  I currently have a number of mailboxes on my phone and I can open them all at the same time, which is simultaneously fantastic and horrible.

In recent years there has been some discussion about email becoming obsolete, but I still see too much action on my accounts to believe that is true.  I think our love affair with our email inboxes started in the early America On Line (AOL)  days when after waiting at least 20 minutes for the dial up connection to be complete a voice would greet you with the words “You’ve Got Mail” and your heart would skip a beat.  In the early versions of online communication, just getting an email delivered to your inbox was a big deal.  Once you got your first virtual connection, you were hooked.

I think if the voice announcements were still part of our email lives, we would dread it.  The voice would have to be more ominous and cautionary, “I am so sorry but you have tons of new mail, mostly spam or unpleasant issues that require your immediate attention.  You may want to check back later.”

In this season of email overload we are not looking for just any mail, instead we are focused on certain types of mail.  In my personal account I will open my inbox and scan for emails from my grown kids who live very far away and open those immediately.  In my work world, at the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, I have discovered the emails that get me most excited and eager to read are those that come to my [email protected] address.

I use that address for one purpose only – to connect with the community, more specifically to hear from the community.  I use the address in everything I write or send out, and I mention it every time I speak to a group of Southwest Florida residents.  I urge people to contact me and let me know what is happening in their worlds particularly as it pertains to giving and helping others in our region.

Emails sent to me at that address are the first I open in the morning and the last I check at night, and they have the highest priority in my responses.  Every time I receive one I cannot believe that someone cared enough to take the time from their own overloaded email boxes and lives to start a conversation or share a part of their lives with me.

Over the last couple of years, by checking that email, I have learned about nonprofits I didn’t know existed, amazing volunteers in our community, programs that solve problems the foundation has identified, untapped resources, individuals in need, and ways I could serve the community more effectively.  My iamlistening account has blown up on topics that I thought no one would respond to and sat silent on other occasions. Some of the mail has been positive while some has offered me constructive criticism and I have learned and grown from both.

I originally began the account to connect with the region in my first 90 days at the Foundation, but soon learned that I could not, should not and would not ever stop listening to the community.  That is the essence of a community foundation, listening to the community as they identify needs and causes, garnering the resources necessary, inspiring people to get involved and being the catalyst for change. It can all start with an email.  I am listening.


The Southwest Florida Community Foundation has been supporting the communities of Lee, Charlotte, Glades, Hendry, and Collier counties since 1976. With assets over $75 million, the Community Foundation has provided more than $57 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves. For more information, please call 274-5900, or visit our web site at

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