Keys to Sarasota County's 2013 All-America City journey

Keys to Sarasota County's 2013 All-America City journey

Posted on June 22, 2013 by Debra Jacobs, president and CEO of The Patterson Foundation

Sarasota County’s 2013 All-America City journey starts and ends with everyone in our community. From our five outstanding youth, each ever-so-conscientious and impressive, to our older adults who are accelerating innovation for our world through the Institute for the Ages.

While a 2013 All-America City designation wasn’t in the cards this year, the smiles from the delegation’s homecoming tell you more than words alone.

As you’ve heard us mention before, The Patterson Foundation builds connective tissue to create new realities. It’s connecting others and ideas to grow new possibilities. For us, the 2013 All-America City process was too enticing to miss. It would be too many opportunities for our community to connect if we hadn’t helped accelerate the application and community team-building processes.

With “veterans” being one of the judging themes for this year’s awards, and our partnership with the  National Cemetery Administration (NCA), this was an opportunity to share possibilities with other finalist communities.

Working with others to craft both a worthy application, a showcase video, a quilt square, Youth Award process, Community Marketplace, and a most exhilarating 10-minute presentation provided a connective tissue opportunity locally and beyond.

1.  While the 26 delegates didn’t know each other when we began, each has new friends & perspectives from different orbits in our community.

2.  The three-minute video has been viewed by more than 4,400 folks…locally and beyond.

3. Thanks to the Herald Tribune’s outreach and selection process, Treyvon Thomas was chosen as the Youth Award competition nominee, representing our community with confidence and depth.

4.  Sarasota’s quilt square is now part of a 20-community quilt that will tour the nation.

5.  Numerous local organizations contributed to our Community Marketplace

6.  The All-America City Awards has its first-ever keynote speaker in Undersecretary for Memorial Affairs Steve Muro.

Via All-America City, we wove a few more threads into our vibrant Sarasota County tapestry.

Keep reading for reflections from the Sarasota delegates.

Florida Studio Theatre Education Director by day and creative All-America City maestro by night, Beth Duda, a member of the delegation who worked tirelessly to ‘direct’ Sarasota’s presentation, had this to say:

We stand tall and return to Sarasota County with a love of each other, a true appreciation for the extraordinary community we live in, a deep gratitude for The Patterson Foundation for facilitating our connections and new realities, and a certainty that Sarasota does indeed transcend.

For me, Sarasota County’s participation in the All -America City Awards in Denver delivered an array of unexpected gifts. While we were not awarded one of the 10 titles given at the final ceremony, arguably, our take always will have a lasting importance which surpasses that of a title on a paper certificate.

The gifts? Let’s start with unwavering integrity. Although their research indicated that the awards were often given to cities with home-spun presentations focusing on hardships, extreme challenges, or tragedies, Debra Jacobs and Carol Lipp of The Patterson Foundation encouraged us to tell the “real” story of Sarasota County.  The delegation delivered. We presented as intelligent, caring, diverse, talented people with a real love of the paradise we call home.

Our delegation also received the priceless gift off authentic connection. As the team was being assembled there was a real focus on diversity. Our team had high school students, senior citizens, and everything in between. Different ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations, professions, life experiences, and vocations were invited on board.

At first glance, it would seem unlikely for such a group to bond and blend, but that we did. Through our rehearsal process and the purity of our intent to show the world the wonders of Sarasota, we created a family. Rehearsals led to conversations. Conversations led to commonalities.  Commonalities led to understandings. Understanding led to real friendships. In the “show biz” world we often hear the phrase, ” Love ya’ baby, but the season’s over”, indicating the transient nature of friendships, but it is very unlikely this group will lose track of one another. Our calendars are already full of dates to reassemble. We share a history and own a sense of purpose…our connections are honest and true.

Perhaps the gift of pride in a job well done is the greatest take away.  In a world where children get trophies just for showing up and corporations have been forced to create employee of the week awards, we have accomplished something real that we can forever be proud of.  I’m not just talking of our ten minute presentation, which was resoundingly complimented, warm and wonderful. I’m talking about our team effort which set the example. On time, looking sharp, supporting every other team? That was Sarasota County. From workshop participation to social media to breaking the ice at large events, the Sarasota County delegation led by example.

While the final outcome wasn’t what we had hoped — and many other delegations expressed their surprise — we were genuinely applauding for the cities that were honored. When we took the stage, we gratefully accepted our finalist certificate to the standing ovations given to us from every other delegation. Sarasota County was the only group to receive a standing ovation as we entered and exited the stage. Proud?  Oh, yes…we are proud.

The motto we adopted for our presentation was “Sarasota Transcends.”  One meaning of transcend is to exceed all expectations. I believe our participation did transcend, and I expect Sarasota County will long feel the impact of 26 regular citizens who have a renewed sense of love for our county, coupled with a sense of purpose for our continued growth and transcendence.

Dr. Lonnetta Gaines

It was enlightening and informative to listen to the presentations from the other cities. We heard from hundreds of committed citizens who presented their real-life solutions to issues that affect all cities nationwide. Their solutions represent the combined efforts of government, the private sector, and community members working together to make things better for everyone. At our all-city orientation, we were promised a life-changing experience by members of the organizing committee. They were right! It was an honor to participate in this gathering of idealistic activists! I am feeling both inspired and transformed.

Chuck Sidlow

As I reflect on just the "program" competition part of the collaboration of our outstanding delegates from Sarasota, I ask the question from the brilliantly written script and the announcer who says, "Sarasota county presented a flawless, well-developed, informative, educational, entertaining, amusing, and heartfelt program, meeting all required rules of the competition, showcasing their community with outstanding diverse individual personalities that came together thru their love and pride of Sarasota. Although they came in as past winners in 2006, sadly they did not get selected in the top 10 this time......WORRIESOME or WONDERFUL?" As the program was written, the contestants from Sarasota should/would, and will always answer: "WONDERFUL!!!!” Following up with something like, "We in Sarasota, are very proud to have had the opportunity to share our story, our heart, and the passion of how we do everything in Sarasota at the highest level of professionalism and excellence with the other Real All-American city delegates from around the nation. The honor was to BE HERE. WE ALL READY WON!!! Thank you all for allowing Noriko and I to be a part of this!

Bill Wagy

Sarasota was not selected as a winner of the All-America City Awards this year. However, I can assure you that the Sarasota delegates showed class, vision, engaged in discussion with delegates from other cities and participated fully in all the events. The judges selected: Peoria, Illinois; Dubuque, Iowa; Norfolk, Virginia; Owensboro, Kentucky; Birmingham, Alabama; Downey, California; Montrose, Colorado and three cities in North Carolina:Dunn, Thomasville and Garner. While congratulations certainly goes to those cities for the positive change they've made in their communities, I reminded myself how fortunate I am to be a resident of Sarasota County and to be part of this very special place in America. The Sarasota delegates formed a bond that will most certainly contribute to the success of future projects in our city and county. To all the Sarasota delegates and the staff of The Patterson Foundation: Job well done and be proud of the way you represented Sarasota with dignity and positive energy. You were FIRST CLASS.

Sandy Parent

After a Meeting at Institute for the Ages: "Please see me in my office."

"Oh boy, What did I do?"

"Go to Denver for AAC supported by The Patterson Foundation."

Me! Why me? Many others are equally deserving. But I am flattered, excited, anxious.

A call to attend a photo shoot at Phillipi Estate.

Meet a delightful couple, Bill and Dot Millner.

It's a beautiful morning.

Sit for an hour in rocking chairs enjoying the view while our pictures are taken.


First Meeting at Selby ....

Who are all these people?

Bill M. comes in -- Ah, a familiar face.

Meet Carol Lipp ( As I write this in the present, haven't I known her forever?)

Beth and Kelli take "command."

Early lesson in stage protocol.

Tough love--works well--usually--we love to talk.

Roles assigned -- first read through.

Is this really going to work?

We're just a group of amateurs.

Days progress - It seems all our "spare time" is filled with rehearsals.

We begin to understand and see the flow and pattern of the script.

Songs to learn and (for many) lines to memorize.

We learn the dimensions of the stage in Denver.

Where am I supposed to be and how do I get there?

Oh, and then I move again?

By now we can call one another by name.

Most of us like to be in charge.

Beth, Kelli and Carol keep control--usually

After more rehearsals we leave for Denver.

By now we are "family".

Spirits and hopes are high.

We arrive safely. Are oriented. Rehearse again. Eat. Rehearse. Eat. Etc.

We meet other teams, fun, friendly, equally hopeful teams.

Performance day arrives. We watch and cheer others, then perform our best.

A line dropped -- not obvious -- other teams loved us.

And then -- The Awards Ceremony -- hopes high.

By 5th or 6th award we see a pattern -- hopes diminish. No award for us.

The family comes together. We love one another and our community


Kelli Karen

June 13,2013 4:45am

To some 13 is an unlucky number but today is a lucky day. I'm about to get in a plane and meet my team for the All-America City Awards in Denver. In Sarasota, Debra is personally talking to the ticket agents, security guards etc connecting and talking about the competition.

Made it to Denver and went to Celestial Seasoning, an art museum and ended the day in a quaint village getting lemonade.

June 14, 2013

The love and friendship that this team has created is magic. Team Sarasota we've laughed, cried, prayed and bonded throughout our weekend together. Tomorrow we do Worrisome or Wonderful for the judges.

June 15, 2013

Today is the day we all worked so hard for our presentation is within the hour...We did it! Sarasota Transcends. We did a great job. Photo shoot and all. We continue to bond. We danced with clown noses tonight. Such fun.

June 16,2013 Father's Day

The excitement was high as all the cities entered the ballroom. Many cities cheered like a pep rally before the awards began. Finally one by one the cities were named. #1 not Sarasota County, #2 not Sarasota County 3,4,5 not Sarasota County. My breath escaped my body. I began to focus lucky 7. I thought that will be us they called #6 and #7 not Sarasota County. I began to feel the disappointment enter my body. I heard #8 and #9 not Sarasota County. All of us held hands for the final award. #10 it wasn't us. My heart dropped but our delegation rose to our feet for our 10th standing ovation for the other cities.

Disappointed? Yes. But proud to be a part of a group of people that have a flame that shines for Sarasota County. We didn't get that award but we received so much more.

June 17, 2013

Up early to return back to Sarasota. The weekend will be imprinted in all of our hearts. We land in our city with family, loved ones and friends excited to see us and the delegation have the memories that will stay with us for our life time.

Places please...

Richard (Matty) Matheson

Privilege, honor, civic pride, and wonderful teamwork easily come to mind as I reflect on the weekend spent in Denver representing Sarasota County. The experience renewed my feelings that the United States of America is a land of generous and “Can Do” citizens, a fact that was so amply demonstrated by the 20 competing presentations.

I enjoyed all our team preparation work, the excitement of the trip, and the anxiety of waiting in the hall before making our presentation to the ACC jury. The moments of encouragement between our team members and those from competing teams was instrumental in allowing Sarasota to truly impress “One and All” with our outstanding presentation.

Our team’s moment of contemplation as we quietly held hands in a circle was certainly a positive emotional moment for me as we sent a squeeze of love and support to each other. It was impossible not to be impressed with the talent, loving support and seriousness of each member of our team to be the best that he or she could bring to the competition.

Although not selected as an All-America City in the 2013 competition, there is no doubt to all of us on the competing team, our supporters and all the folks living in Sarasota, that Sarasota County are truly “All American”. It is not boasting that this awareness is both national and international. It is a privilege and joy to live, to work, to play and to celebrate Sarasota.

Noriko Sidlow

I was born and grew up in Japan. The size of Japan is the same as California. America is big! Huge! In Japan they say, "When America coughs, Japan will catch a cold." America has that much affect to Japan.

When I was a child, I loved America's TV show "I dream of Jeannie" "Bewitched," of course, "Disney" and "Combat"(this is actually my father's favorite) I (we) can see The BIG America only from the TV program. I loved it! That was all I knew about America.

I 've never thought I could live in America. But I am here now in Sarasota! It is a beautiful place!! And I am so lucky to have had an opportunity to be a member of AAC and so blessed to get to know the delegation of wonderful people.

Also, because of this, I learned many things about America. I didn't know anything about "the Military" or "National Cemetery" or "Veterans." We don't recognize those who served. I found this to be a very important part of what makes up America. My father didn't go to War because he was too young. And when he told me the war time story, he always said American GI's were so cool and they were so nice to all children.

And my father learned some English from the GI’s. That was,"Give me chocolate" and “Thank you very much." Now he is in Heaven .. What would he think if he knew that I am in America, and I went to the AAC event to represent SARASOTA, Fla. USA? I am sure that he is very proud of me! Thank you for the opportunity.

Joan Haber

Performance Day in Denver – 6/15/13

I woke up at 4 am again, wide awake, yet still tired. I am anxious about the performance today, yet I believe it will go perfectly and it will be well received by the jury. I think Sarasota truly is an AllAmerica City already, we don’t need anyone to tell us that!

I got an email around 5 am from one of my colleagues at the Institute for the Ages reminding me that the team was behind me all the way. She included a picture of the team in the office from one of our birthday celebrations. That email meant so much to me and I had a good cry. Then another email arrived from someone who needed support regarding atrial fibrillation, which I also have. It felt good to respond with prayers and good wishes. It just makes me so aware of how interconnected we all are and what small gestures of love for one another can accomplish.

I am praying for the people of Denver and the surrounding areas affected by the wildfires. It puts things in perspective that’s for sure.

4:45 pm. WOW! What an emotional day this has been. I feel drained yet exhilarated. Our performance at 11:05 am was awesome. But before I write about that, I have to say how wonderful our breakfast meeting was this morning. Debra gave us a moving explanation of the life of Mr. & Mrs. Patterson and the legacy they left for Sarasota. I learned so much about them and their devotion to Sarasota’s community. It made me cry, which seems to be my theme for today!

Before we started our presentation, we all held hands and gave each other positive energy. Carolyn said a beautiful prayer, which again made me cry. We began and our show was perfect! The audience and the jury loved it and by the questions and comments we received from the jury, it seemed like we struck all the right notes.

I think the jury loved Bill, the accordion player the best, followed by Chucko and Treyvon. We all did great and it was so wonderful standing up there together representing our beautiful county.

Even though the jury didn’t ask any questions about the Institute for the Ages, I was so proud of Matty, Carolyn, Sandy, and Bill. They showed the world what positive aging is all about.

After we finished, we gathered for a round of pictures of our group. I can’t wait to see those pictures.

We went upstairs to have lunch and it seemed so special to be together. We all expressed our gratitude to Debra, Beth, Kelli and Carol and they gave such moving tributes to the team. Again with the tears!

Little did I know, I would be choking up and shedding more tears as the day wore on. I went to the ballroom and watched all the afternoon performances for:

1. Dubuque, IA – loved their shirts and their choreography was really sharp.

2. Owensboro, KY – over the top! The Japanese woman who was so hyper and kept saying,“We have a festival for that!”

3. Natchitoches, LA – they deserve an A for courage – just 3 women, very little in the way of props but they spoke from the heart.

4. Canton, NY – hmmmm – kind of a snoozefest, nothing remarkable

5. Dunn, NC – way over the top! 70+ people on the stage. It was quite impressive.

6. Garner, NC – awesome – very well done, huge group

7. Thomasville, NC – it made me cry yet again. They pulled out all the stops. What a story they told and very effectively.

5:30 – 7:30 – Civic Action Fair – it was great except it was difficult for me to hear in that room. The drummers from Peoria just about blew out my cochlear implants. Everyone was very happy and mixed and mingled with all the other cities. Chuck was a big hit as usual.

6/16/2013 – The Big Day has arrived and we learn which cities have earned the awards tonight. I am really excited about Treyvon winning the Youth Award tonight. He is such a charismatic young man.

This morning at breakfast we got to hear Coy recite his poem and it was so special. Bill Church made us all cry with his moving tribute about what this experience has meant to him. We attended the last four city performances this morning, and I liked Platteville, WI the best. They were last on the agenda. They really did a great job presenting 3 very different initiatives and their performance was very solemn and respectful. Go Wisconsin! (I was born in Wisconsin, so I am biased.)

Monday, 6/17/13

We’re on our way home. It’s surreal that we lost the award but we all really understand why we lost. I don’t think our story was as compelling as the rest of the cities. We didn’t tug at the juror’s heartstrings. The cities that won were able to do that. All 3 of the NC cities won, plus Birmingham, Downey, Dubuque, Norfolk, Peoria, Owensboro, and Montrose. We all held hands as a team after they had awarded the first 8 cities. I think it was finally dawning on us that we might not win. When we got up on stage to be acknowledged as finalists and not winners, we got a standing ovation. People were so impressed with our presentation, our polish and our enthusiasm. We did a great job of supporting everyone on the other teams. We learned so much from each other and from the other cities. This whole experience has affirmed that America is still strong and tenacious. The grassroots efforts that we witnessed were all so pure and positive and life affirming. After the awards were over, Bill Wagy interviewed many of us about our experience and our thoughts. It was so wonderful to be together, and hear each other’s feelings expressed so well.

Even though it was getting very late and I was exhausted, it was as if I didn’t want it to end. I stopped in the ballroom for a while where I saw Sarah and Treyvon kicking up their heels on the dance floor with all the other younger people and it made me feel like our country is in good hands after all. It is so easy to be cynical about the world’s dismal affairs but after spending this time with Sarah, Liz, Truth, Treyvon, and Coy, my confidence in the younger generation is renewed.

On the plane trip home, I would like to assign one or two words to describe each member of the delegation, (from my perspective, of course):

Debra The Real Deal

Carol Lipp Perceptive

Alicia Confident

Beth Tenacious

Kelli Our Soul

Arlen Intuitive

Sarabeth A True Lady

Lonnetta Enthusiastic

Sandy A True Sport

Matty Truly Kind

Carol Gilbert The Gatekeeper

Carolyn Great Smiler

Randy The Observer

Bill M Our Rock

Dotte M Sweet

Chuck A True Gentleman

Noriko Nurturing

Liz Genuine

Truth Our Heart

Bill W Tender

Coy Wise

Sarah Beautiful

Bill C Authentic

Bill B Calming

Treyvon Adaptable

Joan The Encourager

The best thing at the end of the day is that we are going home and our home is Sarasota, the greatest place on earth. We after all!

Carol Gilbert

The day I was called by Beth Duda, inviting me to participate on the Sarasota AAC Team, I was almost speechless (and that’s unusual for Carol Gilbert). I was overwhelmingly honored, yet uncertain: Who could have nominated me— trusted my abilities and had confidence in me to represent SARASOTA in such a critical venture? I was thrilled to hear Matty was also given this opportunity—We could represent the community we love, OUR HOME, which we enjoy daily with such pride and gratefulness.

I recalled: When, I commenced MY Sarasota experience with our “All-America City” I arrived by plane via a long walk across the tarmac at dusk…during a torrential rain…at an old, small-town airport in 1986. Though it rained all weekend that first visit 27 years ago, OUR COUNTY has never let me down—life here is sunny and always positive, I have been a student of our city, county and its surroundings. I know I love—the sun, the sand, the opera, the theaters….the activities….made my WONDERFUL SARASOTA LIFE! But, through this “AAC” experience with our fantastic cadre of citizens working as one: I am forever changed. In Sarasota, it is the PEOPLE WHO ARE MY BOUNTY!

I am so pleased to have said YES. I have emotional memories and new heart imprints from each member of our delegation. I will remember every moment we shared from stress-filled rehearsals to making the fantastic happening in Denver. I will remember five absolutely terrific young adults--who will achieve more grand things in the future.

I appreciate the artistry and love gifts from talented and fearless Beth and Kelli…the moxy and know-how of Carol Lipp, generous involvement of Debra Jacobs and support of The Patterson Foundation. No doubt we had the bestof communications--Bill Wagy, Steve Dawson, and Bill Church (and extend extra thanks to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune). Every participant, all the people, not just OUR TRANSCENDS TEAM, but -- all we met, those who cheered for us to be winners, who watched our “Transcends” video and voted, new acquaintances from Dunn and Peoria, the neighbors we will run into at the North County Library, friends who are aging who will say hello, and resilient neighbors who will visit our special Sarasota National Cemetery….ALL make this WONDERFUL SARASOTA a vibrant community for which we are so grateful to enjoy.

Matty and I accepted the challenge and, from that YES, we enjoyed every moment, relationship and experience –safely and successfully--from home to Denver: IT WAS WONDERFUL. We met interesting and welcoming folks and learned about 19 other locales. We know we have the best place to raise a family, run a business, retire—A WONDERFUL COMMUNITY to wake each morning…to create, resolve, love, and laugh! This was certainly what we showed the jury and they felt it! YES, Sarasota Transcends, but the Jury voted for those who had challenges which needed their support (more worrisome). Now, we will carry on as winning Ambassadors sharing Sarasota with others--each and every day that: SARASOTA TRANSCENDS!

Carolyn J. Mason

From the very first meeting of our group held at the Selby Library, I was skeptical of what was being proposed, after it was explained. While I knew of some of the people in the room, I did not know any of them with the exception of Debra Jacobs. I certainly left that initial session with this thought:

“What on earth did I sign on for?” Another thought that occurred to me was that I would never be able to, with my schedule, learn the words to the two songs and the lines I was assigned. A part of me thought I could do it but I couldn’t see the “how” part. However, after each rehearsal session, I was increasingly hopeful that this drill sergeant director and her stage manager might just be able to turn this motley crew into a success.

Getting to know each of the individuals who made up our group was an experience I will never forget. By the time we got to the first dress rehearsal, I no longer doubted my ability to fit into this production and welcomed the drill sergeant and able stage manager.

The final dress rehearsal was the ticket. This was the basting of the fabric. The trip to Denver and the four days with this amazing group of people was the glue that will bind this group together for life. From the high altitude to the daily team meetings at 8am to the rehearsals to meals and explorations of the city together, this amazing group of people is representative of the fabric that makes Sarasota County the outstanding place it is today.

Is it worrisome or wonderful? I say it is WONDERFUL. I thank you all for the opportunity.

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