Almost 7 years. Can you believe it? It has gone so fast, and together we have done so much. As I think back, you might first be drawn to the gifts you have given in the monetary form…over $10,000,000 in fact! But in reality, you have given me so many gifts much more lasting than monetary or tangible gifts. You have me given personal gifts that truly have made me a better person.

The gift of friendship.
My first task here, since I knew literally NO ONE, was to get to know you all. I had no idea who you were, what was important to you, and, well, vice versa. But when I called, you all (almost all) said yes when I asked if I could come and visit with you. You were warm and shared about your life with me. As a result, we became friends. Over the years, you shared more, I shared more, and our friendships deepened. I am profoundly proud to say that you are my friends.

The gift of honesty.
I said earlier that “most” of you said yes when I called to ask for a visit. I recall one resident who said no. He did not have any interest in the foundation or in giving to the foundation. He was honest, not mean, but honest. I thanked him and said I would still like to meet him and get to know him. He agreed, and one-and-a-half hours later, we each had a new friend. I knew that he was not interested in supporting the foundation, and I knew why, and we didn’t have to avoid each other at all. The gift of honesty is so important, because without honesty, you can never have trust.

The gift of trust.
People have asked me what I feel is the most important ingredient in fundraising. Without a doubt, it is trust. How could you ever expect someone to make a gift if they didn’t trust that the gift would be applied correctly, thanked correctly, and recorded correctly? Trust gives us all courage, commitment, and integrity. You have trusted me, and for that I am most grateful, because it makes me want to be a better person.

The gift of forgiveness.
No one is perfect, and I fully admit that I am far from it. I have made mistakes for which I am truly sorry. There are several examples I can think of, but one jumps to the top in my memory. A couple here had shared something about support for a project that I misunderstood. I was embarrassed and very sorry for having misinterpreted their intentions. I asked to meet with them and apologized for my mistake. They could have been angry and standoffish, but they were remarkably forgiving. It takes a strong person to forgive. I learned from that experience that forgiveness is a great gift to share. The world would be a better place if we all learned forgiveness.

The gift of generosity.
It takes a village to make things happen. Perhaps it is because of the way Plymouth Harbor was designed in colonies, but residents here are generous of their time, their wisdom, and their assets. The projects that the Foundation has been successful in supporting have come from the time and wisdom of residents, who think through the possibilities and ramifications of a project, and if feasible, end up generously supporting with their own assets. Friends and neighbors follow, and the result is something wonderful…a new wellness center, performance venue, educational scholarships, or a premier memory care program. Your generosity is overwhelming, and it makes Plymouth Harbor a better place.

The gift of compassion.
It is no secret that our residents here have experienced substantial financial success throughout their lives. It is also safe to say that most of our staff have modest means, and some struggle to pay the bills. Some have lost their homes or possessions to fire or hurricane. Some have lost their loved ones. Whatever the case, Plymouth Harbor leads with heart and comes to the rescue of those less fortunate or who are experiencing a catastrophic event. Two of our staff lost their homes to fire, and residents pooled their funds and helped to get each family back on their feet. Hurricane Irma left us all temporarily homeless for a short period of time. Residents and staff came together in nothing short of a miracle and survived 48 hours of anxiety, not knowing what the storm would leave behind. Everyone pulled together with a show of courage and compassion. I learned that together we can survive most anything if we allow compassion to be our guide.

The gift of empathy.
A lot can happen in 7 years. Our two sons have graduated from college (one is in graduate school), met the loves of their lives, are gainfully employed, and one has produced a beautiful grand-daughter for us. Alas, Paul and I have decided to return to our roots, Michigan, where our family grows. Given all that I have said earlier, you could be angry and claim that we are not being true to our Sarasota and Plymouth Harbor home. But, you haven’t. Many of you have taken a moment to talk to me and/or Paul and have expressed your well-wishes for us, understanding that family is important. For the empathy that you so graciously show us, we are ever so thankful.

Whomever replaces me will have new ideas and energy to make Plymouth Harbor better, stronger, and more fun! I know you will all help them get started, like you did me, building friendships, honesty, trust; forgiving shortcomings or unintended mistakes; and showing your generosity, compassion, and empathy for the gifts they have to share.

We will miss you, and we will visit. Sarasota has become our home away from home, truly.
Thank you.

-Becky Pazkowski