John’s Island Foundation brings in record $1.1 million to fund grants


The John’s Island Foundation raised a record $1.1 million from its philanthropic membership this year and thus was able to not only fulfill, but in fact double, one of its largest grants ever.

Grant co-chairs Francie Cramb and Margie Wheeler posit the increase in donations by John’s Island residents to their grasp of the devastating impact the pandemic continues to have on lower-income families, particularly the increasing scarcity of affordable housing in Indian River County.

Therefore, when a $100,000 grant request came in from the Coalition for Attainable Homes to build a 3,300-square-foot triplex in Gifford, on land donated by the county, the foundation knew it could make a difference. With two three-bedroom/two bath units, and one two-bedroom/one bath unit, the triplex will house three families.

The project is being overseen by two women who for years have tackled the affordable housing crisis in Indian River County: Julianne Price, president of the Coalition for Attainable Homes, was a founding member of Every Dream Has a Price, which merged with the Coalition; and Louise Hubbard, the longtime executive director of the Treasure Coast Homeless Services Council, who wrote the grant request on behalf of the coalition.

“They took us to the plot it was going to be built on, and then drove us around to one or two of their other houses, and we all realized the opportunity here,” said Cramb. “We looked at this project and we realized that the John’s Island Foundation had the opportunity, because we had generous donors and considerable funds, to make a real impact.”

Knowing that Price and Hubbard would have to go elsewhere to fund contingency fees and outfit the inside, they received board approval to increase the grant to $200,000.

“That is the biggest we’ve ever granted. But these two women are working so hard right now, with placing people who have been evicted,” said Wheeler. “The right thing was to really help them with this project.”

Because of its uniqueness, the John’s Island Foundation board agreed that it should be an entirely separate grant entity.

The new McCabe Leadership Grant is named in honor of the late visionary philanthropist Eleonora (Ellie) McCabe, who in 1999, seeing that no funders were addressing agency capital expenditures, founded the John’s Island Foundation. This new grant will be used for special mission-based projects with a significant impact and long-term benefits.

“The John’s Island Foundation has come up with the most support we’ve ever received for development of affordable housing in this county. We’ve never gotten that kind of money from local foundations,” said Hubbard. “This is a project that’s a local commitment to doing something for this community that comes from their efforts.”

“It’s a partnership, because Every Dream and Homeless Services Council has worked with them for years,” added Price.

“It does help that it is a public-private partnership. That’s the big part,” said Wheeler. She added that because of past relationships, they trusted that Price and Hubbard would be good stewards of the funds provided to them.

Among the other 25 agency grants provided this year, the Arc of Indian River County received a larger than usual $75,000 grant to construct a pavilion at its west campus for its day program.

“I realize it’s not housing per se, but COVID exposed all the incredible weaknesses that agencies here have been trying to tread carefully,” said Cramb, noting that the pandemic revealed that many agencies had cramped quarters. “Now having an outside pavilion is like a house.”

A new agency funded this year was the Economic Opportunities Council, which received a grant to build a playground at its Douglas Head Start Center in Wabasso. After the site team visited, members were so impressed, said Wheeler, that they wanted to give them the full amount requested.

Dogs for Life received a grant for the first time in a long time, to cover a generator for the building.

“These service dogs help veterans and women first responders suffering from PTSD. This has turned into a real critical need,” said Cramb. “They have weekly meetings for veterans with PTSD and weekly meetings for the female first responders. I had not appreciated all the different benefits these dogs can provide. So, we’re learning a lot.”

Youth Sailing Foundation received a first-time grant to fund catamarans for special needs sailors, ages 16 to 60, as well as beginner elementary sailors.

“This is certainly a very varied list; we’re trying to work on all sorts of needs in Indian River County. We are trying harder to make sure that people are aware of the Johns Island Foundation,” said Cramb. “We are a more quiet group, but that’s part of who we are. And people are very generous.”

The John’s Island Foundation, which has provided more than $14 million in grants pertaining to capital projects and improvements since 1999, solicits donations from residents through a seasonal campaign letter. Wheeler credits Emily Sherwood for establishing a Foundation Leadership Circle, whose members donate $5,000 or more, and who now account for well over half the money they raise.

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