Hurricane Ian struck Southwest Florida with mighty force. A category 4 hurricane, Ian arrived with life-threatening winds, dangerous storm surge, and torrential rain. Waters rose to indescribable levels, destroying homes, buildings, and critical infrastructure. Many lost their lives. Volunteers, Coast Guard, Police, EMS, and other first-line responders set out to rescue all creatures, humans, and beyond. With so many left in devastation and livelihoods disrupted, the road to recovery will be a long and arduous one.

Throughout history, philanthropy has played an integral role in disaster response and recovery. While many foundations have their respective missions, initiatives, and grant cycle timelines, natural disasters strike when Mother Nature decides, without accounting for these funding structures. When emergent needs call for emergent response, funders like The Patterson Foundation (TPF) cope, adapt, and innovate.

So how did TPF do disaster philanthropy and recovery this time? First, the Foundation partnered with the Community Foundation of Sarasota County to create the Suncoast Disaster Recovery Fund. TPF kicked the fund into high-gear with a $500,000 initial grant. The funding put much needed fuel into the Fund to strengthen relief and recovery efforts for people, organizations, and communities impacted by Hurricane Ian.

Strengthening the power of the Fund was the first step in coping with the trauma of Ian. As communities adapted to their new realities, TPF considered innovative ways to inspire giving throughout the community to support recovery efforts around the region. To catalyze donor support, TPF offered an additional dollar-for-dollar match for all donations up to $750,000 — doubling the impact of every donor’s contribution. This support will generate $2 million to strengthen Hurricane Ian recovery efforts in Charlotte, DeSoto, Manatee, and Sarasota counties.

As word spread of TPF’s matching grant opportunity, organizations explored ways to collaborate to foster wide participation. A unique and special event emerged when the Van Wezel Performing Arts Center partnered with Sarasota Orchestra to host a concert on Friday, October 7th. All proceeds from the concert went to the Suncoast Disaster Recovery Fund. I was among the 1,200 members of the community that attended the magnificent performance.

Sitting in the audience, I could feel the warm, supportive energy that filled the room as the community came together to give. It reminded me of the ending of The Sound of Music, where the Von Trapp Family engages the Salzburg audience in Edelweiss. It is special moments like these where philanthropy can build and strengthen a community’s spirit and resilience in the wake of devastation and anguish. The attendee to my left blew kisses through her mask to the conductor and the orchestra as we gave them a standing ovation at the conclusion of the concert. We came together to laugh, cry, embrace our neighbors, and feel a sense of community and care. In the wake of disaster, we united to do something about it. It felt good.

Through ticket purchases, additional onsite donations, and online fundraising, the event raised $56,226.78. With the dollar-for-dollar match from The Patterson Foundation, that number doubled to more than $112,000. And within the first two weeks of accepting contributions, the Suncoast Disaster Recovery Fund exceeded $2 million in contributions, with support continuing to stream in via mail and electronically.

Philanthropy doesn’t just inspire giving, it inspires hope, builds community, and moves people to care. TPF’s Five Cs came alive in full force at the concert: Caring. Connecting, Collaborating, Contributing, and Creating. The community united to respond to a call for help to support the region. While hurricane recovery will take time, coping, adapting, and innovating can catalyze communal strength, care, and contribution to something bigger.

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