By LOIS KINDLE
As charitable organizations continue working through the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, their resources are dwindling as the need for services grows.
Through the generosity of its donors, the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay recently awarded several significant grants to specifically benefit South Shore residents. The Redlands Christian Migrant Association (RCMA) and Hillsborough County Education Foundation each received $125,000, and Samaritan Services in Sun City Center received $25,000.
The RCMA grant was funded by an anonymous donation of $117,000, plus a matching donation from the Tampa Bay Community Foundation and two $1,000 donations. The money will be used by RCMA to provide financial assistance for migrant children and their families whose farm work is essentially done here but who, due to the pandemic, are not yet able to move north to their next work assignment. As a result, these families, have lost their means of income.
RCMA will put the money to good use.
“This funding will help our migrant families, who are essential workers,” said Isabel Garcia, the organization’s executive director. “Many are only working one day in the fields now as the farmers clear their lands (after losing much of their crop due to the forced closing of restaurants).
“The assistance will help them pay for rent, utilities, food, diapers and other supplies,” she added. “And we will provide money for gas and some cash to those who are able to head north to Tennessee or Georgia to find work.
“The grant is definitely a lifeline to get them through this time of hardship,” she said.
The Hillsborough Education Foundation grant was awarded through the community foundation’s Hazel Bryson and Harold Corrigan funds and through a contribution to its Tampa Bay Rapid Response Fund from the Helios Education Foundation.
Money from Bryson’s estate is earmarked to promote literacy, and Corrigan set up his fund to promote youth development. The money was requested to purchase 1,000 hotspots for distribution to South Shore children in Title 1 schools who are currently being taught via e-learning for the rest of the school year and throughout the summer. The need is especially great in Wimauma, where many students have no internet service in their homes or use prepaid phones with a limited number of minutes.
The hotspots are an essential component of online learning, said Olga Perez, migrant advocate and teacher at Lennard High School.
“I recently helped distribute some of them to my students,” she said. “At the beginning of the pandemic, I had one particular student using her mom’s cell phone hotspot, and the minutes ran out. She had to go several weeks without access and was unable to do her work or talk with her teacher.
“Since getting a new hotspot, she has been able to catch up and is completing her work and doing well.”
There are additional benefits to having these devices.
“One hotspot doesn’t help just one child,” added Wilma Norton, vice president of communication and marketing for the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay. “It also serves the student’s immediate and extended families.”
The Samaritan Services grant came from the Hadley and Helen Bryant Legacy Fund, an unrestricted fund earmarked specifically to benefit South Shore area residents. It was recently used to purchase a new five-passenger Subaru Forester to replace an aging vehicle in its fleet of eight cars. Driven by volunteers, the vehicles provide free in-town transportation for Sun City Center seniors to their doctor appointments, shopping and other destinations and free rides to out-of-town medical appointments.
Over the 251 days Samaritan Services was open last year, SCC Ride (its in-town service) provided 7,731 trips and its out-of-town service, just under 1,000, said Executive Director Julie Floyd.
“We are so grateful for this grant,” she added. “Without it, we would have had to postpone replacing one of our older vehicles.”
Additionally, Good Samaritan Mission in Wimauma received $22,500 to collect, process and transport food to La Estancia, Newmauma and Diehl Farmworker housing projects, as well as to homeless individuals in Tampa, Mango and other locations.
Each of the organizations receiving grants requested funding through the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay’s Nonprofit Needs List.
“As the thank yous are coming in, it’s a concrete reminder of why we do this work and the gratitude we have for our living donors who feel the need to act and for the people who left behind the funds we are entrusted to administer,” Norton said.