By LOIS KINDLE
For more than 25 years, the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay has supported South Shore communities through a variety of endowments set up by area donors. Some of the funds, like the Mary Petro Fund or the Tampa-Hillsborough County Children’s Library Foundation, were set up to award grants for specific purposes.
Other unrestricted funds enabled the Community Foundation board and its South Shore Council (formerly known as the Sun City Center Community Foundation) to award grants to nonprofit groups based on areas of greatest need. These have included Our Lady of Guadalupe Food Pantry; Hillsborough Community College SouthShore; United Community Church College; Lifepath Hospice; Samaritan Services; the Firehouse Cultural Center; Mary & Mary House; South Shore area schools and more. The council grants as much as $1 million every year in southern Hillsborough County.
This month the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay set up The Sun City Center Fund, an unrestricted fund dedicated solely to a geographic community. Grants can be awarded to any nonprofit enriching the lives of the community’s residents. These could include, for example, Meals on Wheels, the Pelican Players or Sun City Center Emergency Squad.
“The idea of a community fund (like this) is that residents and people who care about a specific geographic area will come together to establish an endowment that will offer support for that designated community in perpetuity,” said Wilma Norton, vice president of marketing and communications for the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay. “The funds can be focused on specific neighborhoods, cities or other geographic distinctions. The Sun City Center Fund is the first such fund in the foundation’s 27-year history.”
“Sun City Center is the perfect place for a fund like The Sun City Center Fund to grow and flourish,” said Marlene Spalten, the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay’s president and CEO. “This area is filled with generous people who care about others in their community and who want to be sure Sun City Center remains a vibrant place to live for all its residents into the future.”
You don’t have to have deep pockets to help.
The beauty of an endowment like The Sun City Center Fund, Norton added, is that anyone can participate, regardless of the size of their donation. Seeded with $150,000 in unrestricted gift money and invested for long-term growth in a diverse portfolio, the fund’s principal will generate grant money each year. As the base increases with additional donations, the amount of the annual award increases.
“We take very seriously our responsibility to be good stewards of the money donors have entrusted to us,” Norton said. Over our 26-year history, our return on investment has averaged over 7 percent.”
To make a tax-deductible donation to The Sun City Center Fund, visit www.cftampabay.org/suncitycenter or send a check to the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay, 550 Reo Street, Tampa, FL 33609. Be sure to note it’s for the Sun City Center Fund in the memo field. Donations postmarked by Dec. 31 can be deducted on 2016 tax returns.
Other South Shore communities, including Apollo Beach, Gibsonton, Riverview, Ruskin and Wimauma, are invited to set up their own community funds. And nonprofit organizations can establish their own endowments to generate annual income, as well.
A system of checks and balances
Several times a year, grant proposals from nonprofit organizations are first reviewed by the South Shore Council, which is composed of about a dozen people who live and work locally. Its recommendations are subsequently reviewed by the Community Foundation’s grants committee, which then must be confirmed and ratified by the foundation’s board of trustees.