SUN CITY CENTER — Money donated to the Community Foundation of Greater Sun City Center finds its way all over South County and occasionally elsewhere if a donor specifies a different cause or place.
Last week I visited some of the Foundation’s recent projects which ranged from high-tech equipment for schools to venting for ceramic-room kilns and a walk-in freezer for food for lions, tigers and other big cats.
The variety of grant applications the Foundation receives can be dizzying.
“Charities often bring their donors to us so we can work together to accomplish a joint purpose,” said Evelyn Lunsford, who sits on the Council’s 12-member board.
Because only the interest of the $30 million in the Foundation’s coffers is given out and the principal never spent, each year more and more people are helped by organizations that get their funding – or at least part of it–from Foundation grants, as the principal amount in the Foundation’s account (and corresponding interest) rises.
The first part of this story that appeared in the Feb. 16 edition explained how the Foundation is set up and run, and how people can donate to it. Anyone who missed that edition can read the story “Projects not too small, or large, for help from Foundation,” by clicking here.
Now we’ll examine where the money goes, and how your organization or group can apply for it.
There is money waiting that was donated for specific purposes or causes and other money that board members may access and gift based on applications and community needs, explained board member Robert Mohr, a Sun City Center attorney who advises the Foundation on legal matters. Only 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organizations may apply for the money. But 501(c)(3)s are as varied as the causes they serve.
Elmira’s Wildlife Sanctuary in Wimauma received $11,740 last year towards a large walk-in freezer to hold the out-of-date meat regularly donated by Walmart and the out-of-date baked goods picked up at local grocery stores by Elmira’s volunteers, said Robin Greenwood, president of Elmira’s.
Greenwood and Darlene Williamson, sanctuary manager and treasurer, proudly showed off the inside of the large freezer and then pointed to the many chest-type and upright freezers it had replaced.
“People had been donating their old freezers to us and it was really hard working with the food that way,” Greenwood said.
Besides never having enough room and having to spread the freezers out where there was space, there was always a large electric bill from having so many plugged in at once.
“This has made everything so much easier,” Williamson said Feb. 17 as she unloaded a trunk full of baked goods she had just rounded up.
After spending some time looking at the lions and tigers and other big cats, I was shown a large area with a hole in the center that has been dug out for a pond.
Elmira’s volunteers envision the area as a “big cat playground.” The playground will allow the cats to exercise and have fun outside of their cages.
Elmira’s is planning to go back to the Foundation for money towards it as soon as all the costs are examined, Greenwood said.
“We’re hoping to find a contractor who will do the whole project, not just one piece of it,” she explained. “It needs an 18-foot fence around it with a 9-foot viewing platform so people can watch the cats and set up tripods and photograph them,” she said.
The area will simulate the cats’ existence in the wild, and have agility platforms for them to climb like two large cement culverts that have already been placed there.
Elmira’s volunteers have already raised between $15,000 and $20,000 for the project, she said. Although the contractors’ bids aren’t figured yet, volunteers estimate the whole project will cost between $30,000 and $40,000.
A letter of intent as to how the money will be spent and estimates of all costs and time frames must be included with the original application, Greenwood explained. “They (Foundation members) want to be sure every project they donate to is sustainable. And they follow up afterward really well. They don’t just ‘drop money’ and run.”
Application is made relatively easy by the Foundation board though, she added. “They’re thorough, but good to work with.”
Carol Cook, president of the Sun City Center Ceramic Club, echoed much the same praise as she proudly showed off the room where the ceramic pieces the group makes are baked in kilns.
Although the people that belong to the club have fun, it is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization.
“We sell the things we make in the gift shop and donate to worthy causes, and also donate items to charities and other organizations so they can use them to raise money,” Cook explained.
The $1,550 donated for ventilation in the kiln room will make it much healthier for the club members who use it, Cook explained. It will also make it safer.
Even though no kilns were fired up when I arrived, there was a smell akin to “burned” paint in the room.
“Each kiln will have its own ventilation system,” Cook explained. When asked, she acknowledged that it would work like the ventilation of a stove-pipe or clothes dryer vent.
From there I took a ride over to Apollo Beach Elementary School where first grade teacher Ashley Ambrosia demonstrated how students work with the new interactive technology recently obtained through a Foundation grant.
A computer (on a desk) throws a program through a device hung on a wall or blackboard called a mimeo that produces lighting that allows students to make letters, numbers, or pictures on the wall.
“They actually interact with the program during the lesson,” said Principal Jamie Gerding.
This was technology that the school staff, parents, PTA, and private community groups had been working on but just couldn’t seem to raise enough money to do it, Lunsford explained. So what the Foundation calls a “top off” grant was recently made in the amount of $7,500.
Many other grants were given just last year, including about $10,000 to Stepping Stones Farms- a place in Lithia that works with at-risk young girls- and $15,000 to the South Shore Symphony Orchestra.
The girls’ home used its money to buy a bus to transport students to events outside its campus and the Symphony will be using it to help with the costs of bringing symphony music to events.
“It has cost the members of the orchestra to put these things on, and this will give them a small stipend so we can all continue to enjoy their music,” Lunsford said.
To find out more about the Community Foundation of Greater Sun City Center call (813) 633-6677; send grant applications to P.O. Box 5914 Sun City Center, FL 33571; or visit www.cftampabay.org.
“There is money to help improve lives all over our area,” Lunsford said.
Just because “Sun City Center” is in the name doesn’t mean the organization is strictly for that community’s benefit.