The Christmas gift-giving season, now gaining steam after the shopping extravaganza over the past week, always offers the opportunity to "gift" a stranger -- clients of nonprofits that are a lifeline to many. In the spirit of this week's Giving Tuesday, the fairly new cousin to Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, we now have an annual reminder that selfless gifts bring blessings by serving the greater community.
Giving Tuesday is but one day while nonprofits operate year-round, dependent on the goodwill and generosity of people in all corners of the community. Southwest Florida's commitment to a much longer fundraising campaign for nonprofits is appropriately called Season of Sharing, a 15-year communitywide partnership between foundations and businesses, including the Manatee Community Foundation and the Bradenton Herald.
There are many remarkable tales about giving, big and small. One concerns a homeless client of Turning Points, which operates the Bill Galvano One Stop Center in Bradenton. The organization's many services include homeless prevention and employment assistance. This particular client landed a low-wage job and returned to the center -- with a bighearted cash donation. That kind of self-sacrificing generosity is indeed awe-inspiring.
There are hundreds of nonprofits in our region deserving attention this holiday season. These are two:
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Also known as the Community Coalition on Homelessness, this organization provides a place for the down-but-not-out to shower and get their clothes washed (10 items per week, per client); get a haircut and eat lunch; receive mail and emergency phones; obtain reading glasses and clothes; apply for jobs and benefits; seek medical and dental care; and even receive assistance with rental and utility bills. Veterans services are also available as are bus passes and bicycle repairs help keep people mobile.
The Daily Break food pantry and the Open Door Resource Center operate here under the Turning Points umbrella. Some 30 to 40 volunteers work at the One Stop Center daily -- many homeless who are giving back to the community. Anyone who has ever visited the One Stop Center has seen staff and volunteers devoted to helping others, and clients grateful for the assistance.
Donations: tpmanatee.org; 941-747-1509; 701 17th Ave. W., Bradenton, FL 34205
Southeastern Guide Dogs
Southeastern Guide Dogs trains service animals for clients with vision impairment with a special program for blinded veterans. Plus, exceptional dogs inapt for guide work serve veterans suffering from post traumatic stress, and therapy dogs are placed in military hospitals to help wounded warriors heal.
Since opening in 1982, the nonprofit organization has trained and teamed dogs with more than 2,800 clients.
Operating on a 35-acre campus with a park-like setting, three kennels, nine student rooms and more in Palmetto, Southeastern Guide Dogs is in the midst of a fund-raising campaign to build a new $7.5 million student center -- and thus expand its capabilities. The aging and cramped dormitory holds nine student rooms, and the program requires 26 days of live-in training on the campus. The need for a modern and larger central activity building is great, and the new facility has rooms for 12 students. The organization is $2 million shy of its goal.
The cost to raise and train a guide dog stands at about $60,000. The cost to an individual recipient of a service dog, which includes lodging, meals, instruction and equipment, is zero.
A gift to Southeastern Guide Dogs is a life-changing gift of greater independence and joy between an individual and a dog.
Donations: guidedogs.org/studentcenter; 941-845-1871; 4210 77th St. E., Palmetto, FL 34221
Season of Sharing
This annual effort provides a lifeline to individuals and families from Manatee, Sarasota, Charlotte and DeSoto counties on the brink of homelessness, allowing them to remain in their residences. Donations help people with rent or mortgage payments, utility bills, child care, transportation, food vouches and other critical expenses.
This benefits places like Turning Points by keeping people in their homes.
Donations: https://www.cfsarasota.org; 941-556-2399; Season of Sharing, c/o Community Foundation of Sarasota County, 2635 Fruitville Road, Sarasota, FL 34237