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Boys & Girls Club, Comcast Celebrate Inaugural Game on New Sports Field for Local Youth

Posted By Josh Hirsch, Monday, July 31, 2017
Updated: Friday, July 28, 2017

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Today Boys & Girls Clubs of Palm Beach County, Comcast, local elected officials and community partners gathered to celebrate an inaugural game of soccer on a brand new sports field at Florence De George Boys & Girls Club.

On April 22 during Comcast Cares Day, the company’s annual day of service, employees and their families, friends and community volunteers planted 8,680 square feet of sod on an empty dirt lot adjacent to the Club. Three months later, the sod, which was donated by the City of West Palm Beach, has grown in to grass to create a new sports field.

“We couldn’t be more excited to start using this new field. Since Comcast Cares Day, our club members, staff and myself have been patiently but eagerly waiting for it to be ready,” said Jaene Miranda, President and CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Palm Beach County. “Thank you Comcast for this wonderful field and all of the improvements volunteers made at the club, inside and out, on Comcast Cares Day.”

West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio cut the ribbon to officially mark the opening, then Boys & Girls Club members and Comcast employees took to the field to play soccer.

“I was also here on Comcast Cares Day back in April and saw what this space used to look like. What an amazing transformation it has made from basically nothing to a wonderful space that children here at the Club will enjoy for years to come,” said Muoio. “It is truly wonderful to see how our community is positively impacted when companies like Comcast and nonprofit organizations like Boys & Girls Clubs work together.”

Comcast also brought 300 book bags for club members. The bags were donated by the Office Depot Foundation as a part of its National Backpack Program and are filled with school supplies donated by Palm Beach County Comcast employees.

“We love getting the opportunity to spend time with kids from our community through our partnership with the Boys & Girls Clubs,” said Alex Price, Director of Government Affairs and Community Investment for Comcast in Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast. “Today’s event was particularly unique and fulfilling because we got to see firsthand how the hard work of our volunteers on Comcast Cares Day has paid off.”

In addition, Boys & Girls Clubs of Palm Beach County received a $25,000 Comcast Foundation grant on behalf of everyone who volunteered on Comcast Cares Day.

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How did Palm Beach Gardens woman go from homeless to home store owner?

Posted By Josh Hirsch, Friday, July 28, 2017

The first time Cynthia Heathcoe saw the residences at The Lord’s Place, she was dropping off a mother and child she’d rescued from a rainy bus stop, who were in desperate need of help.

The second time she saw them, she was the one needing help.

“I get goosebumps thinking about it,” Heathcoe, 49, says, two decades after that fateful day when she arrived, with her youngest child, out of money and options, to an apartment operated by the Palm Beach County homeless organization.

Now, she sits among the gorgeous, colorful pillows and architecturally complicated chairs at Contemporary Living, the home design store she runs with husband Robert at Downtown at the Gardens. She knows that most people wouldn’t make the connection between homelessness and this polished, sophisticated woman in this rarefied space.

And that’s exactly why she’s telling her story.

“I am not your face of homelessness,” says Heathcoe, who lives in The Acreage and is now a member of the Lord’s Place board. “I sure changed my perception. Homelessness is not just somebody standing on the corner with a sign…It could happen to anyone.”

Eighteen years ago, just days before Christmas, she and her infant son moved into a one-bedroom apartment at The Lord’s Place, in the aftermath of a rocky long-term relationship and a failed business. “I had to go backwards before I went forward. Being there really helped me.”

“Cynthia epitomizes our highest hopes for our clients: that they will overcome the issues and obstacles that led to their homelessness and go on to lead a productive life and ultimately give back to others,” says Diana Stanley, CEO of The Lord’s Place. “Cynthia has done all of that and more.”

A native of Louisville, KY who grew up in New Orleans, Heathcoe says she always had a passion for design and the drive she now displays in her career, but that sometimes in her youth it translated to stubbornness. An early marriage to a man in the military ended in “a messy divorce,” but not before Heathcoe learned a thing or two about her own tenacity and capability.

“I was 18 years old, in Germany, running the Red Cross on the base as a volunteer,” she remembers. “I was the only enlisted wife, and all the rest (of the volunteers) were officers’ wives. But that didn’t stop me. I’m comfortable sitting with anyone. I was always like ‘Who are you to tell me what to do?’”

When her marriage ended, Heathcoe moved to Florida to visit her mother and never left. She met her long-term partner, with whom she had children. While “there were some wonderful things about him, at some point you know that it’s not the best relationship for you.”

Heathcoe is the mother of seven children, although one of those, a son who was part of a set of triplets, died in infancy. Her design business was something “I fell into because of that tragedy. We had nothing, so I did hand painting on donated furniture. I took it to a consignment store, and that’s how it started.”

While they were together, she and her partner started a small business together, with which she cops to “making some mistakes.” But for awhile, things were somewhat stable, which is when she came across that mother and child, “standing at a bus stop (when it was) about to storm. I did a U-turn.”

The grateful mom requested to be dropped off at The Lord’s Place, and Heathcoe admits that she didn’t know what that was at the time. During their brief chat in the car, the woman told Heathcoe that she and her husband were working different shifts so that both could take turns caring for their child. When she dropped her off, “I remember thinking ‘Oh I couldn’t imagine that happening to me.’”

But it did. Two years later, her relationship was failing and “the business didn’t pan out. I had made a lot of poor decisions.” Heathcoe had moved into her mother’s house with her children, which was not a situation she could stay in forever. Her attorney finally sat her down and sent her to the Lord’s Place.

So even though “it’s hard for me to say that I need help,” there she was, full circle, on Dec. 22, 1998, with “nothing for anyone for Christmas,” sitting in front of the place she’d dropped that mother and child off before. But now “I had no car, no job, no money…I was in a dark, dark place.”

Heathcoe says that she knew that her stay at the campus “was temporary, but I knew it wasn’t where I was supposed to be. It’s where I needed to be. I didn’t become a victim. I accepted where I was and wanted to learn from that…They didn’t judge me, but allowed me to repair myself with dignity. It’s a wonderful program.”

In the six months she spent at The Lord’s Place, Heathcoe worked two jobs, one at a daycare and the other at a children’s consignment store. Once she left, she enrolled in classes at Florida Atlantic University to become a therapist, certain she could pass on some of the help she’d been given to others.

She also met husband Robert, even though she wasn’t looking for a relationship at the time. Eventually, she knew that she’d have to tell him about her past, but “when she started to tell me her story, I said ‘What happened in the past made you the woman you are. It doesn’t matter.’”

Robert says he also got a lesson in the unexpected from meeting his now wife. He’d never wanted kids, but now he’s a step-father and grandfather. And he believed enough in Cynthia’s vision to leave his job in graphic design and “go into an industry I knew nothing about. But I said ‘Let’s do it.’”

Even after the opening of her store, Heathcoe says that she felt a hole in her life, and realized “it was service. Service was missing.” So eventually she joined the board of The Lord’s Place. “When I got the voice mail (with the request), I sat there and cried. It was such an honor.”

Remembering her Christmas at The Lord’s Place without gifts, she has started a holiday drive to collect household items for other residents who “don’t have their favorite things with them, a pillow or the things that make a house a home. I want them to have something that makes it feel like home.”

Heathcoe says that part of her personal development has been learning to accept the things that she has done right, because “it’s easy to blame yourself. You have to own the good things, too.” She says she also learned that she had to forgive, not only others “but myself for the choices I’d made.”

Reconciling that knowledge is part of what propelled her to go public with her story. Heathcoe acknowledges “the huge stigma” attached to homelessness.

“I get the opportunity to speak as a graduate of (The Lord’s Place). I’m moved that I could be an inspiration to anyone,” she says. “If I can give one person hope, it’s worth it. I don’t care about anyone else’s opinion. It’s how I feel about myself that matters.”

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CROS Ministries nears 40 years of feeding thousands

Posted By Josh Hirsch, Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Rita doesn’t look hungry. The 56-year-old Lake Worth resident has had the same job as a door attendant in Palm Beach for 10 years. She gets paid every two weeks. She lives simply in a mobile home.

And yet she rarely has enough to prevail from paycheck to paycheck by herself, so part of her monthly routine is a visit to the CROS Ministries food pantry. She counts the bag of staples she gets there — pasta, canned vegetables and such — as a blessing, not a source of shame. So do hundreds of others who visit the modest space at Our Savior Lutheran Church, near Lake Worth High School.

“I’m grateful they’re here, and it’s hard to get help,” Rita said. “And this helps.”

The pantry is one of seven CROS Ministries operates across Palm Beach and Martin counties. As the nonprofit prepares to enter its 40th year of community service, stories like Rita’s are ones it is seeing frequently. In 2016:

  • CROS pantries distributed food to 58,917 people, a population bigger than that of either Palm Beach Gardens or Lake Worth. More than one in three were children.
  • Its Caring Kitchen served 85,260 meals to the poor, homeless, elderly and disabled in Delray Beach — or an average of about 235 meals per day.
  • The CROS gleaning program, which harvests leftover food from farm fields, collected 411,140 pounds of vegetables and produce — the weight of about 150 Honda Civics. The Palm Beach County Food Bank distributed the gleanings to 100 food programs.

“Our values have always been tied into food problems, really,” said Nancy Edwards of Riviera Beach, who has been a member of the CROS board of directors and volunteered at the food pantry near her home for more than 35 years.

Ruth Mageria has been with CROS since 1998 and its director since 2014. She said the needs of the hungry in Palm Beach County have remained largely the same across those 17 years — as has the organization’s mission: filling gaps in income and the empty stomachs they create.

According to a 2017 study by Feeding South Florida, an affiliate of the national food bank Feeding America, 31 percent of the hungry in Palm Beach County do not qualify for federal nutrition programs and must rely on emergency food services such as CROS. The study also pegged the average cost of a meal in South Florida at $3.32, which works out to $69.72 per person per week. The average shortfall for hungry people in South Florida, however, is $19.61 per person per week, or $78.44 for a family of four.

“Many of (our patrons) already have jobs. The money’s just not enough. Many of them receive food stamps, but that does not carry them through the end of the month. We think of ourselves as an emergency food pantry,” Mageria said. “We think of ourselves — whether it’s our food programs, our food pantries, the hot-meal program in Delray Beach — we think of us as being constantly there so someone who’s in need of food can come in and find food.”

CROS Ministries began in 1978, when Palm Beach County’s population was less than half its present 1.3 million and Martin’s a third of its 155,000. A group of Methodist churches in Palm Beach County saw community needs — food insecurity, poverty, homelessness — and created a group to try to meet them by starting the first food pantry at Northwood United Methodist Church in West Palm Beach.

The city’s pantry has since moved to the Urban League Community Service Center on North Tamarind Avenue. Other pantries besides those in West Palm Beach and Lake Worth are in Jupiter, Riviera Beach, Delray Beach, Belle Glade and Indiantown.

Pamela Cahoon served as CROS’ director from its inception until she retired in January 2014. The organization began as Christians Reaching Out to Society, but over time has become known simply as CROS Ministries. Serving as only the organization’s second director, Mageria said her position has kept most of Cahoon’s original intentions in place — and that the conversation about hunger stays about “all of us,” rather than “the hungry” and “the fed.”

“The general public, when we think about who is hungry, we think about the person panhandling on the street because that’s who is hungry and has not eaten for days,” Mageria said. “So many times, it could be the person sitting next to me if I go to church, or it may be the child who’s on free and reduced lunch sitting next to my son in class, but when you look at him, he doesn’t look hungry.”

“When you think about food insecurity, it’s not out there. It’s really among us — we just don’t know who’s hungry. Children are one face of hunger that we don’t think about. The other face of hunger are our seniors,” she said. “Most of the people coming in don’t want to be there. But because they have children or dependents, they come in to make sure they have something to eat.”

CROS Ministries board president Rick Edlund said the sheer number of people CROS pantries have served over the years — nearly 60,000 people per year — testifies to the organization’s presence in the community as it nears its 40th year of service. He got involved five years ago after being referred by his church. He began as a volunteer, delivering lunchtime meals, and eventually spoke with Mageria about joining the board of directors.

“I go back to hunger is just such a fundamental issue. If you’re hungry, it’s hard to be a good student, hard to be a good employee, hard to look for employment and it’s hard to do much when you’re hungry,” he said. “Knowing we’re serving so many people that are hungry, it might give them the opportunity to do (more).”

Mageria said in an ideal world, she wouldn’t have a job because there were no hungry people. But in reality, organizations like CROS Ministries that have a consistent community presence are essential to curbing widespread hunger.

“The need will always be there. There will always be people coming in who are looking for food. There will always be people who are coming in that need that assistance,” she said.

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Volunteer Generation Fund (VGF) 2017-2018 Request For Proposals

Posted By Josh Hirsch, Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Contingent upon the receipt of federal funding, Volunteer Florida is pleased to announce the availability of 2017-2018 Volunteer Generation Fund (VGF) grant funding. Proposals are due August 4, 2017.

Volunteer Florida's VGF program helps organizations to more effectively recruit, manage, support and retain skills-based volunteers. Skills-based volunteering is a strategic type of volunteerism that expands the impact of community organizations by engaging professionals from all industries, matching their experience, talents and education with the needs of nonprofits.

VGF is open to public or private nonprofit organizations, including faith based and other community organizations; institutions of higher education; government entities within states or territories; labor organizations; partnerships and consortia; or Indian Tribes. The FY 2017-2018 VGF program is intended to build capacity that will result in sustainable skills-based volunteer programs. As such, organizations receiving VGF program funds for three (3) years are not eligible for FY 2017-2018 VGF funding.

To Submit a Proposal

Download the Volunteer Generation Fund RFP here.

Download the Volunteer Generation Fund budget form here.

Download the Volunteer Generation Fund sample budget form here.

Volunteer Florida requires that proposals be submitted through an on-line system called MicroEdge that can be found here.
Proposals must be submitted through the MicroEdge system no later than Friday, August 4, 2017 at 5:00pm EDT. Proposals submitted after this deadline or by any other means will not be considered for funding.

Download MicroEdge screen shots here.

Technical Assistance:
Please click HERE for a recording of the 2017-2017 VGF Technical Assistance Call.
Please click HERE to view the slides from the 2017-2018 VGF Technical Assistance Call.
Please click HERE to view the 2017-2018 VGF FAQ’s.

To ensure that this funding process is carried out in a fair and equitable manner, all questions should be submitted to vgf2017@volunteerflorida.org.

To see a list of current VGF grantees, click here.

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Children's Services Council’s Unique Grant Opportunity Encourages Great Ideas

Posted By Josh Hirsch, Friday, July 7, 2017

Original post: Children's Services Council

For a second year, Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County is releasing funds to encourage local nonprofits to be creative – to try something new, address a community need or fuel a pilot project.

This year, The Great Ideas Initiative targets nonprofits, in business for at least two consecutive years, with budgets at $1 million or less that currently do not receive funding from the Council.

Those interested in this opportunity must submit an application by Aug. 7, 2017, that shows how their Great Idea would enhance the lives of Palm Beach County’s children (prenatal – age 18) and their families.

“We continue to be amazed by the wonderful work going on in our community on behalf of children and families,” said Lisa Williams-Taylor, the Council’s CEO. “Last year’s Great Ideas Initiative resulted in some inspiring projects. We can’t wait to see what this year brings.”

In 2016, more than 130 nonprofits submitted Great Ideas applications and 24 were chosen to receive funding. For a list of those awarded funds, click here.

This year, Great Ideas grants are offered as a lump sum during a 12-month funding cycle. Funds (up to $25,000 per project) are available in the following categories:

  • Essential Services
  • Supplies/Equipment
  • Community Outreach/Engagement
  • Capacity Building

Those interested in learning more may attend an informational session either July 10 at 2 p.m. or July 11 at 10:30 a.m. at Children’s Services Council, 2300 High Ridge Rd., Boynton Beach, FL.

Please RSVP by July 6, 2017, to Jennifer Hardy by clicking here. When responding, please specify which session you will be attending and how many people from your organization will be coming.

To review the Great Ideas Initiative guidelines, or download the application, click here.

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