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Christina Russi speaks at the Community Foundation

We are proud of our own Christina Russi, who was invited to speak at the Community Foundation of Sarasota County's Season of Sharing wrap-up event. Around 35% of the program's annual $2.1 million budget is processed through her and the of the rest of our team. Those dollars are going directly to people in need.

She spoke passionately (as always) about the work she's been doing at Glasser/Schoenbaum as a fiscal agent for the Season of Sharing program. To learn more about the program, read here:
https://www.cfsarasota.org/Impact/Season-of-Sharing

Season of Sharing fund tops $20 million in 19 years

By Barbara Peters Smith 
Staff Writer 
Posted Mar 6, 2019 at 7:31 PM, Updated Mar 6, 2019 at 10:08 PM  

Annual drive to help residents undergoing hardship meets a constant need

The latest Season of Sharing campaign has raised more than $2 million, keeping a consistent pace with the last five years and bringing the total of home-grown donations to $21,103,982 since this annual holiday ritual began in 2000.

In that first year, when the Sarasota Herald-Tribune partnered with the Community Foundation of Sarasota County to help local residents fend off homelessness, the fundraising drive brought in $121,436.

More than 3,000 recipients were assisted in 2018, Community Foundation CEO Roxie Jerde told a celebratory gathering of donors and service providers Wednesday. And the fund has now been replenished by 2,800 donors so that the support can continue in 2019. Individuals and families who need one-time assistance with an unexpected emergency like a car repair, overdue utility bill or rental expense are eligible for up to $1,000, distributed by a volunteer network of more than 60 social agencies. While the official Season of Sharing campaign runs from Thanksgiving to the end of January, the collecting and giving go on throughout the year.

One significant support has been The Patterson Foundation, established in 1993 but greatly expanded in 2008 after the death of Longboat Key resident Dorothy Patterson. Combined with individual gifts from Herald-Tribune readers and other philanthropic sources, $4.2 million in Patterson grants have helped Season of Sharing become a reliable community force in the ongoing effort to address the region’s gap between high housing costs and low service-sector wages.

Matt Sauer, general manager and executive editor for the Herald-Tribune, described The Patterson Foundation as “the bridge that has for years raised this community’s generosity, step by step.” Its history since 2009 of contributing $100,000 for every $500,000 raised from local donors, he said, “speaks to the power that The Patterson Foundation clearly sees in Season of Sharing to change the world — or at least a small corner of it.”

Another major resource has been the William G. and Marie Selby Foundation, a faithful contributor every year since 2003, for a total of nearly $800,000. And Wednesday’s program included a tribute to the late philanthropist Gerri Aaron, who passed away this year, after bestowing gifts that came to $200,000 in 2017 and 2018.

Jerde said Aaron told her she felt compelled to make a gesture to help ensure that “this was a community that all of us wanted live in. What a wonderful legacy of caring that she leaves for all of us.”

But the heart of the Season of Sharing fund, said Christina Russi of the Glasser/Schoenbaum Human Services Center, lies in the open invitation to all Southwest Floridians to give what they can, and be part of this expansive communitywide undertaking.

“They never tell you how much to give; they just ask that you do give. That allows everyone to be a donor,” Russi said. “The effort that’s put forth every year is a gift, never a given.”

As one of 10 fiscal agents who distribute the funds each year, Russi remembered “the early days, those roundtable meetings, those heated discussions, those debates that we had about Season of Sharing.” The result, she said, was “a well-conceived, well-executed and highly effective resource” that other communities wish they had to help combat homelessness.

Sauer called Season of Sharing “the ultimate pay-it-forward proposition,” in which community members can help others and also be helped if they’re ever in need.

“It’s not continuing aid for the individual; it’s very specific,” he said. “It’s getting our neighbors over a steep bump in life.”

The Herald Tribune
By Barbara Peters Smith 
Staff Writer 
Posted Mar 6, 2019 at 7:31 PM, Updated Mar 6, 2019 at 10:08 PM  
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