Sunday, June 23, 2013

Keys to Sarasota County’s 2013 All-America City Journey

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

by Debra Jacobs
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.

Click to read more on the Patterson Foundation Blog