Nonprofits across Southwest Florida rely on the generosity of supporters and philanthropic organizations to fund vital programs and services, and ultimately their missions.
At the end of each year, many organizations make a strong appeal for financial support. This funding is critical to give nonprofits a running start heading into the new year. For supporters, year-end donations offer a much-appreciated tax break.
The Guardian ad Litem Foundation, 20′ Judicial Circuit, was among those Southwest Florida nonprofits making year-end appeals in 2022. The community’s swift response to that appeal evoked many emotions – appreciation, joy, gratitude and even a few tears.
The focus of the Foundation’s year-end appeal was the story of a young woman in Fort Myers. The court had taken away her children because of her poor decisions. She had been working hard to regain custody of her children, though, maintaining her sobriety and demonstrating personal accountability. She moved into a new home and the court awarded her custody of the children in September.
Then Hurricane Ian hit Southwest Florida, obliterating her family’s home and everything in it.
“I didn’t know metal could shred,” she said. “The home I worked so hard to bring to life is just gone.”
The family’s belongings were scattered through the neighborhood. Her children only had the clothing on their backs, and days turned into weeks. That’s when the Foundation stepped in, providing gift cards so the family could purchase clean clothing and other essentials. The Foundation also helped provide something else… hope. With the future bleak and stress levels peaking, the mother didn’t turn to alcohol and drugs. Instead, she turned to the Foundation and a support network that includes volunteer child advocates and donors.
Response to that story was immediate and impactful. People wanted to help her and families like hers, and they wanted to help a local organization with its boots on the ground providing hope, comfort and resources during a period of incredible need. First Horizon Bank offered a $20,000 donation. Members of the Foundation’s Board of Directors, which so graciously donate their time and expertise in advisory roles, offered a collective $20,000 match to inspire other community members and businesses to donate. And they did, providing another $41,214 in monetary contributions.
All told, the year-end appeal raised $81,214. To a small nonprofit, that’s a difference-maker. Because Hurricane Ian hit right before the start of high season, the Foundation decided to cancel several fundraising events, including the signature Voices of Hope Gala. Proceeds from these events help the Foundation accomplish its mission of ensuring that every abused, neglected or abandoned youth in Southwest Florida has a voice as they navigate the judicial, education and child welfare systems. The nonprofit also raises funds that help meet a child’s health, educational and social needs.
Now, with another year underway, we need to continue rallying around vulnerable children who simply need people in their lives who care about them. Things like an afternoon of mini-golf and ice cream with a volunteer child advocate might not seem like much, but it is to these children. A pair of clean socks, shorts and a T-shirt are often taken for granted, but not for the mother and children whose home and livelihood were destroyed.
Donations at any time of the year, for any charitable cause, make a huge impact in Southwest Florida. We are blessed to live in a community that doesn’t just respond to challenges; we overcome them.
About the Author: Jessica Stanfield is Executive Director of the Guardian ad Litem Foundation, 20th Judicial Circuit.
Featured In: This article was featured in Florida Weekly.