Photo: celebratory reactions on a Season of Sharing sparkly background

Celebrating Season of Sharing Sparkliness

Posted on January 30, 2021 by Abby Rolland, TPF Fellow 2020/21
COVID-19 threw a wrench into how we celebrate people, organizations, and communities. In-person gatherings? Not safe, and almost non-existent. Appreciation gifts? Need to be delivered differently. Spending time together? Figure out a creative virtual platform.

The reality of today means that celebrations are planned differently and occur in ways we would never have imagined before. That definitely doesn’t mean they shouldn’t happen. In the midst of giving back and making our communities better, it is so important that we come together and honor hard work.

With all of this in mind, fellow TPF Fellow Hannah Saeger Karnei and I met with The Patterson Foundation (TPF) CEO Debra Jacobs to discuss ways to celebrate the vital Season of Sharing fiscal agents and community agencies. These organizations, and people who work at them, give their time, talent, and sometimes even their treasure to 1) meet with individuals in need of Season of Sharing funds and then 2) deploy those funds to help those individuals address emergency financial concerns.

You can learn more about Season of Sharing and the work that these nonprofits do here, but one of the important notes is that all Season of Sharing donations from the community go totally to individuals in need. None of the funds address overhead expenses, and so nonprofits take on this program without any financial assistance for themselves.

TPF wanted to find a way to honor these agencies and their staff for their commitment to giving time and energy to this essential program. So, as the finale event for Honoring & Onward, the 10th anniversary of TPF’s founding, Hannah, Debra, and I put our heads together to figure out how we could celebrate these organizations.

The first was by giving each an unrestricted honorarium. To honor the 42 organizations who participate in Season of Sharing, TPF designated more than $450,000 in varying amounts (depending on the number of applications processed in 2019 & 2020) to the organizations.

If TPF gave more than $450,000 total to these organizations, why not find a way to celebrate and honor them together? We knew we could virtually, and we knew we could devise a method to design, assemble, and deliver surprise packages, so why not?

The kicker? It was to be a surprise!

So, we, The Ministry of Surprise, planned the Sparkle event! First, Hannah and I brainstormed themes – we deemed that “Sparkle” created the image we wanted and the environment we wanted to create on Zoom. The event began in a new, sparkly year after a challenging one. Also, we wanted participants to feel sparkly and warm about the amazing work they do.

After that, we worked with the Community Foundation of Sarasota County (CFSC) to pull together a list of names and contact information for people to invite. TPFer Nancy Henry created lovely virtual invitations to send out. Hannah and I identified, ordered (with Nancy’s help), and put together items and materials in our shimmering silver gift bags. We asked TPFers Joni Hansen, Mykenzie Johnson, Kelli Smith, and Marla Smith to deliver the bags to the participants who RSVP’d yes, and they all agreed. We asked each recipient to bring their gift bag to the virtual event, with no peeking ahead. We created a run of show with games, screenshots, a brief panel featuring Debra, CFSC CEO Roxie Jerde, and Herald-Tribune Executive Editor Matthew Sauer, and a time to share Season of Sharing moments scheduled.

Even with nerves and a few bumps on the road, the big day arrived. And while it was a challenging day in other regards, Sparkle went beautifully. We welcomed everyone to the Zoom room, opened gift bags, blew our horns to wish 2020 away, heard amazing stories about dedicated people, listened to how special both the community and Season of Sharing are, and realized (again) what a difference all of the people and nonprofits are to s many people.

And when we were all feeling warm and fuzzy from being together, Debra announced that emails were arriving in real-time, surprising the organizations with 1) the honorariums themselves and 2) the honorarium amounts. The reactions were swift. People expressed their deep appreciation and thanks for the gifts. But really, what mattered to us was that the nonprofits felt appreciated for their work! They are on the frontlines, making a difference for so many people in the Suncoast region.

Overall, it was a beautiful time to come together, to share, to demonstrate our appreciation, and to sparkle. As I reflect on Honoring & Onward and the official conclusion of TPF’s 10-year anniversary celebration, I realize there’s much more that everyone can do to work together to strengthen our community and realize shared aspirations and goals.

As we celebrate hard work and dedication, we commit to continuing to make the region and the world better. In other words, we’re honoring the past work and moving onward to do even more.

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