The Joy of Giving

By staff September 1, 2005

Here's a situation most communities yearn for: Sarasota County is overpopulated with nonprofit organizations-60 percent more per 100,000 residents than the rest of Florida, according to the National Center for Charitable Statistics.

With well over 900 nonprofits, not including religious institutions, Sarasota is rich in resources and volunteers who work selflessly to preserve the environment, nurture the arts, and help house, feed, clothe and care for neighbors who can't help themselves. In fact, Debra Jacobs, president of the William G. and Marie Selby Foundation, calls Sarasota the philanthropically richest county in Florida.

Last spring, watching the documentary produced about the Selby Foundation on the occasion of its 50th anniversary, I was struck by the joyful acts of giving demonstrated by countless good people. What truly makes a community vital, I thought, is not how fast its property values rise or how many new shopping malls it boasts, but rather how willing its residents are to pitch in-financially and with good old-fashioned sweat equity-to make it a better place.

In a powerful moment at the recent Family Law Connection luncheon, Jack Levine, who for 25 years was president of Voices for Florida's Children and now has his own consultancy business in Tallahassee, asked a room full of strangers to join hands and repeat the Advocacy Oath: "Thou art my child and my elder, I love thee best. But could not love thee half as much, loved I not all the rest."

"We measure the love we have for our own by that which we're willing to do for others in our community," Levine told us later. "That makes the love for ours whole."

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