As I complete my first year as your Grants Committee Chair and reflect on the Foundation’s 2023 grantmaking season, I feel that one of our greatest strengths is our ability to be decisively responsive. We are so closely connected to the organizations we fund through our site visits and because we live in the middle of the communities we serve. This allows us to identify immediate needs and respond to have the greatest possible impact.
It is a privilege to help guide team efforts that direct your contributions toward issues and populations that we have identified as most in need of assistance.
This year, 96 site visitors working on 12 teams awarded 69 grants totaling $3,796,512.
Here are a few grants from the many important projects we evaluated and funded. These are not our largest grants or even the ones that serve the most people. They are grants that I hope illustrate how our work helps to creatively address some of the most pressing problems facing our community.
Children’s Home Society of Florida
Safe Harbor is Palm Beach County’s only facility for runaway youth, aged 10-17, most of whom are escaping abusive situations, some of whom are literally running for their lives. The home is a voluntary residential unit with 12 beds that allows for an average stay of 10 days in a safe, nurturing environment while case workers and mental health professionals work with their families to access support, therapy, and other local resources that can help these children address the crises they’ve experienced. During a stay at the shelter, youth engage in daily activities designed to build life skills, attend school, and work with staff toward reunification with a family member, if that is a safe and viable option. Safe Harbor serves 147 young people annually but the obvious wear-and-tear on a building of this nature has resulted in well-worn facilities in need of renovation. Our grant helps fund new flooring and updates to the kitchen and bathrooms to create a more welcoming space for these children impacted by trauma.
Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies
The services of Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies are available to any pregnant woman in the County. The organization nurtures healthy births and families by meeting the physical, emotional, economic, and social challenges of pregnancy and infant wellness. These services are crucial to an area like Riviera Beach where the Infant Mortality Rate is 8.3 per 1,000 births, almost double that of the County at large (4.3/1,000). The organization provides direct service to over 10,000 pregnant women each year. The ages of those served ranges from 14-55. Our grant helps them purchase appropriate furniture and office equipment to establish their new office space so clients, workshop participants, volunteers, and staff can enjoy a clean, fresh atmosphere as they address issues associated with infant care and wellness.
Pearl Mae Foundation
Approximately 181,000 people in Palm Beach County face food insecurity every year. The Pearl Mae Foundation is just one of the smaller agencies that works with the Palm Beach County Food Bank to focus on a particular vulnerable population – 1,704 low-income, food insecure seniors in Jupiter. Each week, the organization’s clients receive three bags of food that include dry goods, fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables, eggs, and butter, and fresh meats. Distributing these fresh food items safely in the Florida heat requires logistical expertise and coordination. Our grant funds high-caliber coolers and storage bags which allow volunteers to visit with their assigned seniors as well as simply delivering meals thus becoming a consistent and reliable part of their lives and providing a social connection many older people so desperately need.
Florida Fishing Academy
Florida Fishing Academy changes the lives of young people by using marine-related activities to teach healthy lifestyle choices and constructive hobbies while guiding them away from drugs and violence. The program engages underprivileged youth in efforts to preserve Florida’s fragile natural resources and introduces them to the marine industries as a potential career path. The Academy’s “Charting a Course in the Marine Industries” will serve 121 students annually. Each class will offer a strong dose of character-building, confidence-boosting, emotional management, responsibility, empathy, initiative, problem-solving, critical thinking, teamwork, and stress-relief activities. Career-path options include basic woodworking, sewing, navigating a vessel, vessel maintenance, competing in fishing tournaments, designing and building rods, repairing reels or building lures. Recent program alumni have been hired by nearby marine industry organizations. Our grant funds the equipment needed to facilitate marine skills and careers training.
I hope these few examples illustrate the innovative approaches local nonprofits are using to meet the needs of people in our community. Our Annual Fund, 100% of which goes directly to grants, is our way of amplifying your individual giving to have a more significant impact. We’re grateful for every dollar we can leverage. In addition to our Annual Fund, we continue to spearhead the Riviera Beach Literacy Project and the Riviera Beach Health Initiative. We look forward to sharing more detail with you on these endeavors in our Annual Report this fall.
I would like to thank retiring Site Visiting Team Captain Tom Cleveland for his years of service on behalf of the Foundation.
Thank you for your ongoing support and engagement. I look forward to continuing this important work together next season.
Grants Committee Chair