This year’s grants were all about Manatee County’s kids

April 30, 2018 07:03 PM

Manatee Community Foundation gave more than half of this year’s $223,000 in grants to programs that benefit more than 1,000 local youth.

The foundation divvied up grants to 31 nonprofits, each focusing on either foster care, grade-level reading, art, health, animal welfare or the environment.

“This is the happiest thing we do all year,” said Howard “Sam” Seider, chair of the Grants Committee. “It’s like having an extra Christmas, and we get to be the elves.”

A $9,800 grant, made possible by the Manatee Fish and Game Conservation Fund, was awarded to the Manatee County Audubon Society. As a result, about 700 third-grade students from Title I schools will visit Felts Audubon Preserve in Palmetto.

The trip is just as much about environmental education as it is character building, said Karen Willey, a naturalist with Around the Bend Nature Tours.

She said students learn to collaborate when identifying animals. Some students gain confidence while overcoming a fear of the unknown, and others walk away with an improved attention span.

“We are teaching the second generation that did not grow up outdoors,” Willey said. “Their parents aren’t telling them to go out and build a tree house, because their parents didn’t go out and build tree houses.”

An $8,000 grant awarded to Manatee Performing Arts Center will allow dozens of disadvantaged kids to experience a theater camp. With its $7,900 grant, the Children’s Guardian Fund will provide summer activities to children who were removed from abusive or neglectful homes.

Each organization will have to track its progress and report back to the foundation. While the foundation used to give non-specific awards to help nonprofits operate, the focus is narrowing and the process is expanding, Seider said.

Starting this year, each nonprofit will have to share its goals and, eventually, the impact it had on the community.

“Why do you think it’s needed? How do you know you can achieve it? If you didn’t do it, who else around here could do it? If nobody did it, what difference would it make?” Seider said.

Other youth-oriented grants include, but are not limited to:

  • $1,920 to Boys and Girls Clubs of Manatee County, supporting a tutoring program for six elementary-aged kids
  • $10,000 to The Circus Arts Conservatory, bringing “The Marvelous, Miraculous Circus Machine!” to five Title I students
  • $10,000 to Easterseals Southwest Florida, giving students 10 hours of reading help each week for 46 weeks
  • $1,850 to Lincoln Memorial Academy, supporting 100 middle school students in the Aquaponics to Arugula Program
  • $9,920 to Manatee Children’s Service, assisting with “Parenting the Second Time Around” and “Children in Change”
  • $10,000 to Manatee County Family YMCA, allowing 80 kids to attend a summer program at Harllee Middle
  • $10,000 to United Way Suncoast, establishing ReadingPals for students in 12 Title I VPK and kindergarten classes
  • $10,000 to the Pops Orchestra, providing a summer music program to high school band and string students
  • Nearly $10,000 to South Florida Museum, funding the SOAR in 4 Family Evening programs
  • $10,000 to UnidosNow, establishing Future Leaders Academy for Girls at Wakeland Elementary
  • $9,000 to the Van Wezel Foundation, bringing an early learning academy to Pre-K and third-grade classes
  • $8,800 to Women’s Resource Center, supporting a program for mothers and children attending Visible Men Academy