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Impact 100 awards $205,000 in grants to Vero Beach non-profits
BY LISA ZAHNER - COLUMNIST (Week of May 7, 2009)

The process began with 34 proposals narrowed down to six finalists, but when the ballots were counted, the winning agencies left on the Impact 100 island were all about helping children in need in Indian River County.

The 205-woman membership of Indian River Impact 100 voted on April 29th to award $205,000 in grants to Exchange Club CASTLE and to the Treasure Coast Food Bank. The projects focus on meeting two basic human needs — food and safety.

The grants were funded by 205 women - many living on the barrier island — who donated $1,000 each in exchange for one vote on the winning projects.

“I’m just thrilled about the result,” said Jane Coyle, one of the Impact 100 Grants Co-Chairs. “I think about the poverty in this community and it’s so invisible. These agencies are doing something about poverty, hunger and child abuse.”

Other finalists were Harvest Food and Outreach Center, the Mental Health Association, Planned Parenthood of South Florida and the Treasure Coast and the Sun Up Center. Projects ran the gamut from a media campaign to a mobile service unit and residential facility.

“We had narrowed it down to nine projects and it took another nine hours to narrow it down to the six finalists,” said Toni Hamner, one of four co-chairs of the Impact 100 Grants Committee. “Through the process of narrowing down, the members became more aware of the agencies, what they do and how they could get involved.”

The representative from each of the six agencies responsible for writing the grant proposal was invited to give a presentation of no more than seven minutes to the ladies assembled at the Richardson Center at Indian River State College’s Mueller Campus in Vero Beach.

The Treasure Coast Food Bank’s Back- Pack Buddies program provides a backpack of nutritious, child-friendly food for low-income students to take home for the weekend. The 100 Indian River County kids enrolled in this program discreetly pick up the unmarked backpacks from school each Friday afternoon and return them empty on Monday morning.

These 100 students receive subsidized or free lunch and breakfast at school during the week, but the backpack tides them over on the non-school days when food and a cook may be scarce. The grant will increase the Treasure Coast Food Bank’s capacity to manage the program, expanding it to 500 children over the next two years.

Exchange Club CASTLE was founded in 1981 for the sole purpose of the prevention of child abuse. CASTLE accomplishes this throughout the Treasure Coast by providing education and support to parents and caregivers though classes, counseling and programs such as Valued Visits, which offers a safe place for kids to go back and forth between mom and dad for visitation and also a place where parents can exercise supervised visitation, when ordered by the court.

The $100,000 will be added to $150,000 already in CASTLE’s building fund to the agency can purchase a building in Indian River County and transform it into a Family Services Center.