Indian River Community Foundation awards $200,000 to nonprofits

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — In partnership with an anonymous donor, the Indian River Community Foundation (IRCF) awarded more than $200,000 this month to six local nonprofit organizations for programs to support education, the environment and historic preservation as well as vulnerable individuals and families.

Grants were made through the Community Enrichment Fund, a field of interest fund established last year by an anonymous couple who rely on IRCF’s grant making expertise to support their own broad philanthropic interests.

Following a competitive grants process, including a comprehensive review of 15 proposals by a volunteer grants committee, the organizations selected were Big Brothers Big Sisters of St. Lucie, Indian River and Okeechobee Counties, Hibiscus Children’s Center, The Learning Alliance, LifeBuilders of the Treasure Coast, McKee Botanical Garden, and Ocean Research and Conservation Association.

A collaborative effort between Big Brothers Big Sisters and Youth Guidance to establish a community-wide training program for all volunteer mentors in Indian River County. This $50,000 grant will support a full-time Trainer/Coordinator to provide consistent, evidence-based training for all Indian River County mentors.

Career Pathways to Independence is operated by Hibiscus Children’s Center on the Hibiscus Village campus. The $10,000 grant will fund educational materials that adhere to the new Florida standards, as well as technology for instruction and learning to support 150 foster children, ages 13-17, as they earn their high school diploma or GED.

Conscious Discipline expands a highly successful classroom behavioral management program funded last year at Indian River Academy. In its first year, the program helped decrease discipline referrals by more than half. This $43,244 grant will allow The Leaning Alliance to develop a district-wide training and coaching program based on Conscious Discipline in which all elementary teachers can participate.

LifeBuilders, founded by Public Defender Diamond Litty, reduces crime and recidivism by offering low-income individuals involved in the justice system support for a fresh start in life. This $10,000 grant will provide resources that to help fill small financial gaps that may stand in the way of a person becoming a productive member of the community. Examples include purchasing work boots or suitable clothing so the person can get and keep a job; substance abuse counseling; and educational classes.

McKee Botanical Garden will utilize a $50,000 grant to build a new storage facility to safely house and preserve historical documents and materials that date back to the original McKee Jungle Garden, founded in 1932 and the successful campaign to save McKee begun in 1992.

A $38,250 grant to Ocean Research and Conservation Association (ORCA) will fund expanded sediment testing for toxicity in the Indian River Lagoon to 70 sites near the Moorings and Oslo Park areas. Testing will identify pollutants, hot spots and troubled areas so that communities can work together to find solutions for restoration.

IRCF Chief Executive Officer Jeff Pickering said field of interest funds, like the Community Enrichment Fund, are a valuable tool for philanthropists who want proof their financial support is making an impact.

“The donors who established the Community Enrichment Fund had very specific ideas about the characteristics of the programs and organizations they wanted to support,” Pickering said. “By creating a request for proposals tailored to their interests, we are able to help the donors make informed decisions and monitor the outcomes of the programs.”

Pickering worked alongside the IRCF Grants Committee to review and evaluate the proposals using the donor’s criteria including organizational leadership and volunteer support, alignment with focus areas, and benchmarks for measuring success. Pickering said Grants Committee members spent many hours reading, evaluating, and deliberating about the proposals to ensure their recommendations aligned with the donors’ wishes.

“This is a very effective way for a donor to connect his or her personal values with high-impact opportunities,” Pickering said.

The Indian River Community Foundation was founded in 2005 to promote donor-driven philanthropy and has since grown to manage over $30 million in charitable assets, the majority of which are held in donor-advised funds. For more information visit www.ircommunityfoundation.com or contact Pickering at (772) 492-1407.

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