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Community Foundation reaches out to surrounding area

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image Denise O’Brien, vice president of donor relations for the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay, met with Evelyn Lunsford at Beth El Farmworker Ministry in Wimauma March 7 to discuss grant outreach. Photo Penny Fletcher

If your non profit group is located in, or provides services to, the south Hillsborough County area you’re eligible to apply for a grant from the Greater Sun City Center Community Foundation of Tampa Bay Inc.

BY PENNY FLETCHER

If your nonprofit group is located in, or provides services to, the south Hillsborough County area you’re eligible to apply for a grant from the Greater Sun City Center Community Foundation of Tampa Bay Inc.

Founded in 1992 as an affiliate division of the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay, it has grown dramatically and has more than $22 million in assets.

Its grants have gone to support causes specified by donors and also needs randomly reported to the foundation that are checked out and found to be worthy.

The grant application process is available on line at http://www.cftampabay.org/greater-sun-city-center or by calling the local office at 633-6677.

“If we are all out of the office the call will ring into the Tampa office and we’ll get the message, so be sure and leave one,” said Chairwoman Evelyn Lunsford.

Lunsford meets regularly with Denise O’Brien, vice president of donor relations for the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay so they can compare programs from various areas of the counties served by the larger foundation and see if the South County area can use anything it does not now have.

Lunsford, who has been working with the Sun City Center-based foundation since its inception in 1992 and been its chairwoman since 2002, keeps the pulse of the local community and is also on the (parent) Tampa Bay Foundation Board of Trustees and chairs a Grants Committee for it.

This works well two ways, Lunsford said. “I can tell them about things we are doing here in South County that they might use in other places and also see some things that are going on in other areas that we could do here.”

“The reality is there are a lot of layers to what we do,” said O’Brien, who has been at her job for five years. “People can donate any amount to an existing fund, or with a $10,000 donation start a fund.”

Since the organizations are tax exempt 501(c)3, an added benefit for donors is that they can start donating towards a fund they wish to start with any amount and gradually build up to it, O’Brien explained. “It’s not like a commercial investment company. We can give them a lot of flexibility.”

Some people say things like “I want to help children,” or narrow it further with “I want to help abused children,” or foster children, or any number of specifics. Or they can have a real nonspecific idea, like “giving something to help animals” or the environment.

Others just want to help their community in any manner and have no strings attached to their donations at all, O’Brien said.
In most cases the principal isn’t used, just interest, allowing the principal to grow the fund.

The donations given to the Sun City Center-based branch stay in the area, Lunsford said. The exception to this is if a donor specifically wants to help out of the area, such as his alma mater or shelter in his or her former hometown.

In February, the foundation held a Woman’s Luncheon, during which it awarded $5,000 to each of three South County woman’s clubs: Ruskin, Apollo Beach and Sun City Center. Next year, they said they were going to ask Riverview (where the club is fairly new) if they would also like to participate.

“We know the Woman’s Clubs are philanthropic,” said Lunsford. “They have their own ideas about what is needed in their communities. They do very well getting money for scholarships, but they all want to do more and we want to help them accomplish their goals.”

The causes the foundation gives to are widely varied, according to the specifications on the grant applications.

In October, for instance, they presented David Moore, executive director of the Beth El Farmworker Ministry in Wimauma, with $10,000 to allow for scholarships to the adult education programs that take place in the portable buildings behind the ministry’s main offices.

Grants have been given to Kids Against Hunger, Friends of the Library, several migrant ministries, and the Mary and Martha House shelter for abused women and their children based in Ruskin.

Some of the larger grants last year were a $20,000 grant toward a “stop” bullying program in schools; $30,000 toward Powerhouse Theatre, run by Fran Powers who has conferred with First Lady Michelle Obama on the empowerment of girls and women; and almost $20,000 to the Museum of Science and Industry to bring the Science Bus to South County’s Elementary Schools.

And these are but a small sampling of the list of 2012 donations.

People have the misconception the foundation only helps seniors in Sun City Center because of its name while the truth of the matter is that it helps many non-senior-related 501(c)3 causes. All they have to do is write a convincing grant and get it approved. The grants are followed by foundation members along the way and later as well, to be sure the money is spent for what it was awarded.

Seniors, however, have greatly contributed to the Foundation’s coffers.

“There are 26 Community Foundations in Florida covering wide areas,” said O’Brien. “This area is blessed to have wonderful, caring donors and is a pleasure to work with.”

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