For two years, I have waited to tour Patriot Plaza at Sarasota National Cemetery, and it hit closer to home than I thought it would. With my grandfather Tom serving in the Navy in WWII and the Korean Conflict, I knew Patriot Plaza would be a special place. However, when my wonderful tour guide Linda Gould showed me the stone tablets by artist Larry Kirkland, specifically “Teamwork,” everything clicked inside me. It just felt like the perfect word to describe life right now.
The tablets themselves are a representation of teamwork. There are 16 in total, and each one contains  a photograph laminated in the center of a white marble plinth,  a quote from a veteran or family member of someone who served, and  an engraved drawing. Each element that makes up one stone tablet is created by a different person. That’s three people per tablet, meaning 48 people composed this magnificent expanse of art. Conceptually, it connects visitors with 48 people as the viewer interprets the meaning and reflects.
The Teamwork tablet reads:
“Teamwork has a horizontal cast to it.”
It definitely took teamwork to create Patriot Plaza, and The Patterson Foundation engaged an impressive set of team players. Since TPF was building this on the grounds of Sarasota National Cemetery, the foundation worked closely with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs National Cemetery Administration — the first time private philanthropy collaborated with the agency to complete an enhancement of this complexity. Through teamwork, together, they agreed on the design and construction of Patriot Plaza.
What started as an idea to provide shade and seats quickly turned into a space for the community to honor veterans, inspire patriotism, and embrace freedom – the artwork became a staple. In collaboration with the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County, TPF led the development of a program to train Patriot Plaza Guides, providing visitors with a deeper experience. Through EdExploreSRQ, an online tool tying community experiential learning opportunities for children in grades K-12 with state and national education standards, TPF created a Patriot Plaza EdExploration on EdExploreSRQ.com. As a gift from the foundation, TPF covers bus transportation for any school in Charotte, DeSoto, Manatee, and Sarasota. The universal element between these collaborations is teamwork.
The tablet continues to read:
“Teamwork causes each member of the team to rely on others, the guy next to you, to achieve success.”
This is exactly how it feels to work at TPF. We enter each day with The Five C’s, caring, connecting, collaborating, contributing, and creating, because this powers our ability to thrive. We connect daily on the staff zoom, starting off with a “question of the day.” We often collaborate on projects. We always contribute to others’ work, from being an extra set of eyes to helping someone simply find something. We continually create meaningful and memorable moments throughout the work day by appreciating each other and laughing with each other. Above all, TPFers care about each other -- which is why this part of the tablet spoke to me the most.
“The more you know and trust your buddies, the stronger the weave of the fabric of teamwork.”
At TPF, we call ourselves the TPF family. The reason it feels that way is because we take every opportunity to build connective tissue with each other.
With teamwork woven throughout Patriot Plaza, from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs National Cemetery Administration to the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County to Sarasota County Schools to the talented artists, Patriot Plaza feels like a welcoming home. The amphitheater and benches made of marble resist heat to create an inviting place to sit. The artwork provides a glimpse into service and sacrifice and allows us to reflect and honor veterans we know, veterans we don’t know, and veterans who have passed.
Architecture, art, engineering, and technology are woven through purposeful partnerships to create Patriot Plaza -- a welcoming outdoor museum. Philanthropy has the power to create meaningful change, especially when teamwork is centric.