The public health crisis we’ve been facing for over a year means a future for our region that looks very different from what anyone expected. But within uncertainty lies opportunity. A new video series from Gulf Coast Community Foundation shares stories of such opportunity emerging from the nonprofit and philanthropic sector.
The Future of _____ is a five-part video series that looks at rapidly growing needs in our communities, alongside transforming norms of how inspiring nonprofit organizations are working to fill them. The videos spotlight the resilience, creativity, and heart of nonprofits that tend to major areas of our community life—think mental health, arts and culture, the environment. They introduce agencies and their leaders who have not only shored up their own staffs and operations, but also leaned into the dual health and economic crises and taken responsibility for finding solutions to unprecedented challenges.
“I think the work that the nonprofits did in our community, particularly in the early days of COVID, was amazing,” says Teri A Hansen, CEO of the Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation, in an episode on the future of COVID-19 response in our region.
“They made lemonade out of lemons,” responds Mark Pritchett, Gulf Coast’s CEO. “They took resources they didn’t have before and applied them in new ways.”
One example: The pivot last spring by Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota and DeSoto Counties and Venice-based SKY Family YMCA to offer emergency child care to first responders and essential workers. With funding from Gulf Coast’s and Barancik Foundation’s joint COVID-19 Response Initiative, the two organizations provided hundreds of workers on the front lines of keeping our community safe with the peace of mind that their own children were safe, too.
Perhaps one of the biggest changes we’ll see in the future is growing use and effectiveness of virtual services, for everything from primary and mental health care to supervised parent-child visitations and even performing arts. Low-cost health care provider CenterPlace Health shares how it seamlessly integrated telehealth into its services for behavioral health, helping “exponentially with patients being able to continue seeing counselors and psychiatrists through videoconference.”
Mental health, particularly for youth and young adults, is a huge issue right now in our region. In Gulf Coast Community Foundation’s last regional scan report, which charts key regional trends and measures progress, it was a top-two priority along with affordable housing. And that was forecast before the pandemic. The Future of Mental Health discusses the increasing importance of peer support, from navigators to help families traverse a complex system to kids and teens who can recognize the signs of a crisis in their classmates.
“The issues are much bigger than in years prior, and I attribute it to COVID,” says Allison Phinney, a Student Assistance Program specialist who works for First Step of Sarasota and is embedded at Sarasota High School. “That’s why it’s important we’re on campus.”
Phinney’s colleague Jamal Gaines, a Peer to Peer Mental Health Coordinator, teaches students Teen Mental Health First Aid. “I teach them about different warning signs of mental health issues that they can see in each other,” he says, “and whatever assistance they need, I help them get that.”
Other growing needs covered in the series include trauma-informed care (Resilient Retreat) and supportive housing and other homeless services (Harvest House, Family Promise).
Documenting these stories is meaningful for moving forward, as Boys & Girls Clubs CEO Bill Sadlo emphasizes. “I hear a lot of people say that 2020 is a year that we should forget,” he says. “But we have to think about everyone coming together and making a difference. That spirit of collaboration shows the future is bright for our children and our community.”
Gulf Coast Community Foundation has released two episodes in The Future of ______ video series. Up next: The Future of Arts. Go here to learn more and watch the videos.