Pensacola, Florida
Thursday December 14th 2017

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Investing in Pensacola’s Progress

By Jennifer Leigh

Sunday’s Child held its annual meeting last month giving away five grants to local nonprofits.

Manna Food Pantries, Independence for the Blind, Friends of Escambia County Animal Shelter, Pensacola United Methodist Community Ministries and the Children’s Home Society of Florida were all recipients of $25,700 grants—the largest number of awarded grants to date for the three-year-old organization.

Since the organization was founded in 2013, Sunday’s Child has awarded a total of $230,250 to eight different charities.

The formula is simple. Members donate $1,000 annually, and the funds are then pooled at the end of the year to be divided into grants. The organization was inspired by another philanthropic organization, IMPACT100.

However, the mission of Sunday’s Child is not just to award charities money, but also to promote equality and inclusion for the LGBT community.

“There is a direct relationship in cities that are more culturally tolerant to have a higher economic prosperity,” said Sunday’s Child President Scott Brady. “We want Pensacola to be one of those cities. We are excited to see the numerous changes in our local charities as they continue outreach and care for all people including those marginalized groups that are not federally protected classes such as those in the LGBT community. These organizations are aware of the importance of diversity inclusion.”

Sunday’s Child members work with other nonprofits help create or strengthen their programs and management to be more LGBT-affirming. Brady points out that it’s not necessary for applying nonprofits to have practices in place, but it’s important to have these conversations. In past years, applying organizations have expanded healthcare benefits or added gender-neutral restrooms, Brady said.

“Most people don’t realize that federal guidelines of discrimination don’t cover sexual orientation or gender identity,” he said. “We’re hoping people get engaged in the conversation. That’s what we’re really looking at.”

Becky Kirsch, Executive Director for Independence for the Blind West Florida (IBWF) said the nonprofit has had a long-standing policy on non-discrimination. But working with Sunday’s Child, they were able to assess it in a deeper way.

“It caused us to think about our policies and make sure it’s clear that we don’t discriminate against anybody,” she said.

When Brady first moved to the Pensacola area, he was looking for ways to give back and get involved. Sunday’s Child “ticked all of the boxes,” he said.

“It’s promoting professional gay people, promoting doing good while also inspiring inclusion,” he said. “It’s about leading by example.”

And it’s not just LGBT members who are making a difference. Sunday’s Child membership is a diverse group of gay and straight folks, which is a testament to its message, Brady said.

“We’re all coming together to promote diversity,” he said.

Slowly but surely, you’ll start to notice the impact Sunday’s Child has on the community. First City Art Center has begun using their brand-new mobile glass-blowing unit, which was funded by a Sunday’s Child grant last year. And five new projects will soon be making a difference in the local community. Grants are provided to nonprofits that fit into one of the five focus areas: animals and environment; health, wellness, and recreation; arts, culture and education; LGBT and family and economic development and preservation.

IBWF, which is the only nonprofit entirely devoted to educating the blind and visually impaired in Northwest Florida, will be using it’s grant money to implement a recreational program called SOAR (Safe Outdoor Area for Recreation) for blind children to promote an active lifestyle as well as provide a positive social environment for kids who miss out on recreational sports. IBWF already has the land, so funding will go toward water system, benches, and equipment.

Throughout the entire process from the application to the site visits, Sunday’s Child members were “very helpful,” Kirsch said. Even after the awards were given, some members told Kirsch they wanted to be involved with the program.

“Everyone was very enthusiastic,” she said. “So many people still don’t know about us, but we were able to get the word out. This has been good all the way around.”

Lindsey Cannon, Director of Program Operations at Children’s Home Society (CHS), said it was easy to tell that Sunday’s Child members were invested in their philanthropy.

“They want to give that money away,” she said. “They want to help you.”

This was the second year CHS has applied for a Sunday’s Child and their first time winning. Funding will go toward a part-time position to recruit families to be host homes for runaway or homeless kids.

Nationwide, around 40 percent of homeless youth identify as LGBT. Cannon says they see a majority of homeless LGBT youth locally as well. Each child served by CHS has their own story. Some may be pregnant or running away from a bad situation or even kicked out because there was not enough room in the house. Whatever the issue is, CHS works to not only provide basic needs for homeless youth but empower them.

Cannon accepted the big check at the annual meeting and even brought one of the youth clients along. Getting to share that win was “just awesome,” she said.

Sunday’s Child is already looking forward to awarding 2018 grants. Membership is currently open through Dec. 31.

“We’re looking for people who have a desire to give back and help create a fully accepting and inclusive Pensacola,” Brady said. “We have group memberships as well, where you can join as half of a duo or be a third in a trio.”

Brady points out that group memberships are a great way for those to get involved who do not have a full $1,000. Each group gets one vote at the annual meeting to choose winning grants.

As the newly-elected president, Brady said he’s excited about the work Sunday’s Child has accomplished in just a few years, and he’s even more enthusiastic about the future.

“This organization started with just 10 people,” he said. “Look how far it has come.”

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SUNDAY’S CHILD 2017 WINNERS

Manna Food Pantry Grant money will fund the development and construction of a climate-controlled dry room within the organization’s new headquarters and distribution facility. The room will be large enough to allow space for repackaging bulk items as well as storage for more than 30 pallets of dry food that is distributed weekly to nearly 900 families in the Pensacola Bay Area.

Independence for the Blind Grant dollars will go to building their SOAR (Safe Outdoor Area for Recreation) project. The project will span a half-acre and will be developed into a safe, appropriate place for blind children, teens, and adults to engage in physical activity. Included within the project is the purchasing of custom sports equipment for blind youth, a new watering system, recreational facilities, and three new raised garden beds.

Friends of the Escambia County Animal Shelter Funding will purchase a transport van to allow the support organization to transport animals from over-capacity local animal shelters to areas of the country less burdened with pet overpopulation. The transport will connect to the established Puppy Pipeline in Hoover, Alabama, where pets are professionally transported to no-kill shelters in other locations where there is a high demand for adoptable pets.

Pensacola United Methodist Community Ministries Grant money will go toward the purchase of a new state-of-the-art walk-in refrigeration unit to assist in the charity’s mission to meet the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of people suffering from hunger within Pensacola’s Brownsville community and the Pensacola Bay Area. The new unit will greatly reduce food spoilage and will expand the efficiencies of more than 20,000 hot meals annually at their Brownsville facility.

Children’s Home Society of Florida Funding will be able to expand services to care for the thousands of children in the Pensacola Bay Area who are malnourished and alone. Their project will support securing host homes for runaway and homeless youth, including those who have behavior challenges, identify as LGBT, are pregnant, parenting, or human trafficking victims. The project will support a recruiter to participate in outreach and innovative marketing strategies to recruit, secure, and train host families willing to parent homeless youth. Sunday’s Child funding will also provide direct street outreach to area youth.

SUNDAY’S CHILD
DETAILS: sundayschild.org