I’ll never forget a story I once heard about a single mother in Bradenton who couldn’t pay her rent. She had just gotten on her feet and could finally afford an apartment of her own. Waiting tables in a nearby restaurant, she had enough money to scrape by and cover rent, electricity, the car payment and food for herself and her son.
One evening she came home to an argument with her boyfriend, and during the altercation, he broke her arm.
You might imagine that it’s impossible to lift a heavy tray of food with a broken arm. And if you know anyone living paycheck to paycheck, you realize that missing work for even a couple of days means there won’t be enough at the end of the month to pay the bills. Envision this stress added to the fear of more domestic violence.
Despite the hopelessness of this situation, the mother in the story and her son were able to remain in their apartment thanks to a program called Season of Sharing. I learned about them from Adell Erozer, executive director of Turning Points, the one-stop center that provides a vast array of services for people who are homeless or on the verge of homelessness.
Turning Points is one of the nonprofit agencies in Manatee County that employs case workers who access Season of Sharing funds, providing one-time emergency assistance for those who qualify.
In mid-December, we are deep in the midst of this year’s Season of Sharing campaign. Every year, the campaign inspires media partners and foundations to cross boundaries and pull people together who can give $5, $50,000 or anything in between to help families that are one small step from being homeless — a situation none of us can visualize our loved ones, colleagues or neighbors experiencing.
Like the mother in the story, many recipients of this safety-net funding have suffered an unexpected illness, injury or job loss.
If we can work as one community to support our vulnerable families, we not only save individuals, parents and children from the unbelievable emotional and physical expense of losing their homes, but we save precious resources. It is eight times less costly to keep families in their homes than it is to undo homelessness.
Manatee Community Foundation works to share the impact of Season of Sharing with our community of donors and partners. Our sister organization, the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, dedicates hundreds of hours of time to process charitable donations and provide impeccable oversight to the distribution process. Dollars are given directly to pay for services such as utilities, car repair or rental assistance. And fewer than 20 percent of Season of Sharing recipients return for help the following year.
Each year when I make my personal donation to Season of Sharing, I think about how many people I have the opportunity to meet through my work. I know that within this circle, some are destined to find themselves in serious need due to economic situations beyond their control. It’s the power of my gift combined with many others that is so uplifting.
Together, we help people whose faces we will never see, but I imagine they look a lot like my neighbors, your neighbors.
Please consider making a tax-deducible gift to Season of Sharing this month. You can direct your gift to impact people who live in Manatee County. Give online at www.CFSarasota.org or mail your check to 2820 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton, 34205. Be sure to add Season of Sharing to the memo line.
If you are seeking a different charitable cause for your year-end gift, Manatee Community Foundation can also help direct you to an organization that speaks to your passion. We understand the local nonprofits that work in various human service and education missions, animal welfare, visual and performing arts, and the environment.
Every week, we connect compassionate people to organizations that are achieving results to move the needle on issues they care about in our community. Some people also choose to open donor-advised funds, receiving an immediate tax deduction and gaining the ability to make grants from their charitable funds throughout the year.
Susie Bowie is the executive director of Manatee Community Foundation, a charitable foundation that strengthens the community through philanthropy, education and service — for now and for the future. Email: SBowie@ManateeCF.org.