Editor's Note: Organizations mentioned in this blog represent choices of students who participated in The Future of the Philanthropic Sector – Experiential Learning with The Patterson Foundation, rather than preferred status with The Patterson Foundation relative to all the excellent organizations that participated in the Giving Challenge.

While the Study Away course with The Patterson Foundation (TPF) was reformatted to a virtual experience due to the COVID-19 pandemic, students still gained a meaningful and educational learning experience. Once the class ended, in the spirit of philanthropy, TPF extended a "Pay It Forward" opportunity that allowed us collectively, as a class, to determine how to allocate a total of $2,500 to nonprofit organizations with a profile on The Giving Partner website. Guidelines included that no allocation be less than $500, that distribution need not be even, and our selection could include as many as five organizations.

With little more than a week to search the database of more than 700 organizations, each Study Away student selected at least one nonprofit they felt deserved to win the Pay It Forward Award. Then we came together virtually to talk about the organization(s) and the reason(s) why.

Several of us selected the same organization(s) while others suggested different ones. Ironically, the one common reason we all shared for our selections was that each organization served populations that are vulnerable and heavily affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Once we discussed each organization, we voted and quickly came to a decision. TPF's 5 C's: caring, connecting, collaborating, contributing, and creating was the foundation for our decision making. Many of us also relied upon the information we learned from TPF and its community partners to help guide us. With an allocation of $625 each, we selected the following four organizations:

  • South County Food Pantry — With so many people out of work now, food pantries are struggling to provide food for those in need.
  • Coastal Behavioral Healthcare, Inc. — During this pandemic, it is becoming known that self-isolation is causing an increase in people with Substance Use Disorder(s) relapsing.
  • Early Learning Coalition of Sarasota County — With schools going to a virtual/learning at home format, many asset-limited students already struggling in school are finding it more difficult now due to a lack of access to resources and support.
  • Humane Society of Sarasota County — With so many people out of work and financially struggling, some pet owners are having a hard time keeping and caring for their animals.
As a class, we were thrilled and honored that TPF allowed us to be influential in such a major decision. We are grateful to help make such a positive impact on those in need during this unprecedented and unexpected time.

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