Photo: Participants in The Patterson Foundation's Sparkle event

Heart Work in Times of Adversity

Posted on January 14, 2021 by Abby Rolland, TPF Fellow 2020/21
This isn’t the blog post that I planned on writing about January 6.

Over the past couple of weeks, as I was envisioning the Sparkle event that honored and celebrated Season of Sharing fiscal agents and community agencies, I thought I would write a different post. One that talked about how planning for this virtual event felt like wedding planning.

Between the logistics of finding email addresses and sending invitations, collecting RSVPs and figuring out physical addresses, preparing surprise packages and assembling a team to deliver them, and making sure everyone had the Zoom link, it felt very similar to planning my wedding (besides the lack of a white dress, in-person gathering, and all that).

A blog post related to that topic and about connecting and sharing was in me, until about an hour before our Sparkle event, when I learned about the storming of the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. And that blog post is still in me, but I’m saving it for another day.

Because there are other things I want to share, and I feel called to do so.

Honestly, until participants started coming into the Zoom waiting room, I didn’t know how I could focus on Sparkle and sharing and collaboration and helping others. I was distracted, anxious, sad, and devastated. An event I’ve thought about for a month, and even dreamt about, faded in contrast to the shock of events unfolding in D.C. How could anything else compare?

But then, at 3:55 pm, things started to change. As we started opening the Zoom room to these wonderful people, my feelings and emotions changed. Here we all were, and unbeknownst to them, we were about to give more than $450,000 of unrestricted funding to these organizations and staff who give so much of their time, talent, and treasure to helping our neighbors survive and thrive.

For the first 30 minutes, I engaged in our sparkly fun – opening the package with everyone, laughing at the Season of Sharing-focused trivia game, listening intently to Debra Jacobs (The Patterson Foundation), Roxie Jerde (Community Foundation of Sarasota County), and Matthew Sauer (Sarasota Herald-Tribune) discuss Season of Sharing and the importance of the fiscal agents and community agencies. I felt relief and happiness just by being there.

Around 4:30, we asked guests to share a momentous memory about Season of Sharing. From that moment, I felt joy because these dollars and the work that these people do matter. Dollars given by donors, distributed by fiscal agents, and case managed by community agencies, fill necessary gaps. The Season of Sharing stories, shared by the Community Foundation and the Herald-Tribune, shine a light on our region that emergency assistance is available for immediate basic needs such as payments for utilities, childcare, and rent. It’s not just about the dollars either – so many people give of their time and their talent to serve people in this region, and to help make Season of Sharing happen. As representatives shared stories of tragedy and hope, I could feel tears welling in my eyes. I realized our world has much to do to respond to need.

Then, Glasser/Schoenbaum Human Services Center’s Christina Russi said in the chatbox that what they do in Season of Sharing is “heart work.” “We share our hearts with our case managers, social workers, home liaisons, clients, donors, and fellow nonprofits.” That got me. Forty-plus organizations and hundreds of people commit to Season of Sharing because of its life-changing impact. One tear dropped from my eye before I blinked it away.

There’s more to the story – the agencies’ reactions to the unrestricted honorariums, how we ended on a note to continue to do well, etc.

But on a day of struggle, of doubting human nature and where we stand as a country, I found myself so blessed to be in a (Zoom) room full of amazing individuals, and to be able to work for an organization that could honor their wonderful, caring heart work.

No doubt, there will be days I (and probably we) struggle and question what difference one individual can make. When I do, I hope I envision that wonderful screen, with so many people who care and give their hearts to the people in the Suncoast region.

It’s not always easy to commit to community, especially in times of adversity. It’s an uphill climb, but we demonstrate through our work and our actions that we humans are inherently good and that we can truly do heart work that matters.

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