Photo: a pineapple, Cheri Coryea, and Ashley Coone

Patience, Perseverance, and Pineapples

Posted on October 16, 2023 by Beth Duda, director of the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading
I attended the Solutions to Actions: Dive Into Discovery event in DeSoto County on October 10. More than 350 people gathered to learn, share, and propel positive change thanks to The Patterson Foundation's Aspirations to Action team. The evening was electric with possibilities, and I've been pondering pineapples ever since.

Pineapples?

Yes, let me explain.

At the height of the pandemic, while sheltered in place, I planted the top of a pineapple in a large container near our front door. I don't have a green thumb or any real experience gardening, but I thought it would be fun to see the plant grow to produce another pineapple.

The first few months were troubling. It appeared that nothing was happening. More than once, I thought about digging it up and replacing it. Instead, I continued to water, fertilize, and even talk to the plant.

After about six months, the plant was noticeably bigger. I continued to nurture the plant and was anxiously awaiting a pineapple. After a year and no sign of a new fruit, I was certain something was wrong with the plant and again considered replacing it with something else. A quick internet search told me it could be two years before the plant would be mature enough to produce a fruit.

And so, over the next year, I continued to water, fertilize, and position the plant for optimal sun. The plant grew larger and larger, and then, quite suddenly, it produced a flower that magically turned into a small pineapple.

I'm told it can take up to five months for the pineapple to be ready to be harvested, so I'm prepared to continue to exercise patience and perseverance before enjoying the fruit.

Why did the Solutions to Action event bring pineapples to mind?

Years ago, when The Patterson Foundation first started working in DeSoto County, it was a challenge to gather twenty people to identify shared aspirations. One of The Patterson Foundation's values is "being accessible and engaged with others," so several members of the Foundation's team nurtured relationships and looked for opportunities to engage with the community.

We didn't see progress immediately, didn't give up, and persisted in asking, "Who else cares?" Cheri Coryea and Ashley Coone embarked on community conversations, speaking to more than 480 residents. Momentum began to build and has continued to grow larger and larger.

Another value of The Patterson Foundation is "Striving to learn as we collaborate and share successes and challenges." Aspirations to Actions kept making connections, and soon, more TPF initiatives like Digital Access for All and the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading were engaged with DeSoto County residents.

The Solutions to Actions event at the Turner Center, attended by hundreds of excited, committed DeSoto residents, multiple foundations, government representatives, and scores of volunteers, seemed to me like the first magical pineapple appearing after many years of efforts.

Just a few days ago, I learned that the original pineapple plant will die after producing just one pineapple but will also produce shoots and runners that can turn into more plants. While a bit sad for the plant I've spent so much time with, I'm delighted that several new plants will have the opportunity to take root.

The Solutions to Action event is over. I can't wait to see the "runners and shoots" that will come from it, propagate, and grow.

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