By Harold Powell (Phantom Pen Media):
With the holiday season upon us, many of us are filled with the spirit of giving. Whether it be presents under the tree or a kind gesture towards a stranger, the holidays just fill the air with cheer. This year the Community Foundation has managed to give a record number of grants back to the community and provide many with joy in the process.
The Community Foundation has been around since 1944. That’s 76 years and counting! Yet of all the years, 2020 has been record setting, with a staggering amount of more than $5.5M granted to local organizations and nonprofits. Compare that to last year’s total of $2.6M and it’s easy to see that the Foundation has been very busy helping local organizations pivot and continue their good work in a year like none before.
“Giving isn’t something we should do only during the holidays, and our donors and members of the community are a fine example of the holiday spirit year round,” said Judge John Tomlinson, chairman of the Grants Committee.
Although the Community Foundation funds many different organizations and causes, 65 percent of this year’s funding, more than $3.5M, went to our priority area of Community and Economic Prosperity. This included major funding for projects such as the Bridge to Bay regional trail initiative.
Another area highlighted is the need to support and provide the youth of the community with outlets to express their talents and skills as well as provide recreation and fun. The Foundation’s second priority area, College, Career and Life Success, awarded over $800,000 (including scholarships) to help students prepare for future careers. Almost $100,000 was also awarded for grants focusing on Education and Instruction.
The St. Clair Endowment Funds supported the Riverbank Youth Theatre with $25,000 in funding to encourage the arts in the city of St. Clair while also providing outdoor entertainment with social distancing, as well as increasing foot traffic to local downtown businesses. Youth taking part in the organization’s annual camp showcased their performance skills during Saturday matinees.
With all the challenges 2020 brought with it, it’s no surprise basic needs and human services was a priority for granting, with more than $435,000 awarded. Another $233,000 and counting was granted for personal protective equipment and meals to frontline workers.
One grant recipient, The Lions Club of Memphis, is an organization that empowers volunteers in their community and the world to bring about change. Lions Board Member Nancy Thomson has experienced first-hand how the support from the Community Foundation provides for those who are less fortunate.
“We currently have 35 families identified in need of food – just about our maximum for funds available. We are also adopting four residents of Richmond MediLodge to provide them with Christmas presents and cheer.” Thomson said. “The smiles, thanks and expressed gratitude on delivery day makes it all worthwhile.”
The Covid-19 pandemic has really put families in a bind this year and many wouldn’t have food on the table some nights if it weren’t for the combined efforts of the volunteers and money from funds like the Francis P. Wilson Fund given to local food banks.
“This year I am just so happy that we are able to help so many that are feeling the pain of the pandemic in their homes,” Thomson said.
Another local nonprofit organization, Bridge Builders Counseling & Mentoring, has also benefited from the support of Foundation grants this year, specifically through the St. Clair Endowment Funds and the donor-advised James C. Acheson Fund. The $10,000 grant will be used to help the Connect 2 Connect Program, which will offer students broadband and high speed internet access. A safe space to conduct school assignments, as well as a learning space for parents who may be unfamiliar with some of the new technologies such as Zoom and other video-based learning tools, will be provided as well.
“The kids are sitting outside of the schools and places like McDonalds because some don’t have internet access at home, said Teresa Jex, executive director at Bridge Builders. “Every single-parent family we serve will now have a home computer or laptop.”
The Connect 2 Connect grant along with others brings the total amount donated to Bridge Builders to over $21,000 for the year.
It has been quite a busy year indeed for the Community Foundation, as well as for the volunteers, local businesses, organizations and community leaders.
“Twenty twenty was a record setting year,” Judge Tomlinson said. “We hope to continue that trend and give more into the new year.”
For more information on how to become a donor or to seek grant funding click below.