For the children

Naples wine festival awards more than $7M, plus $7.2M for dental and learning centers at Edison College

The memo on the checks said it all: For the Children.

It was all about the children Tuesday, as the founders of the Naples Winter Wine Festival handed out more than $7 million in ceremonial, over-sized checks to more than 20 nonprofit groups that reach out to the poorest children in Collier County.

The checks flowed quicker than the wine did during this year’s festival, which raised a record $16.5 million in one weekend in January. The event included a charity wine auction and 18 extravagant private dinner parties at some of Naples’ most exclusive homes.

The Naples Children and Education Foundation, whose trustees hosted the festival, set its record for the largest amount of money given in any one grant cycle. The rest of the money is going into reserves for long-term projects in targeted areas, including early childhood education.

The foundation announced this year’s grant winners at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort in North Naples, in a simply decorated ballroom packed with dozens of festival trustees and other supporters.

“There are pockets of poverty throughout Collier County,” said trustee Jim Malone, co-chairman of 2007 wine festival, in a statement. “This year’s grants will reach deeper and farther than ever, benefiting not only impoverished and at-risk children in Immokalee, but also East Naples, Golden Gate city and other communities.”

Before the foundation handed out the checks, tears welled up in his eyes.

“I won’t get through this without crying,” he said. “Don’t worry about it.”

He said all the money in the world doesn’t make a difference without the people who are dedicated to transforming the lives of others.

He thanked the charities for all their hard work and dedication.

Before calling each winner to the stage to make a short presentation on what they’ll do with the money, Bruce Sherman, the grant committee chairman, quoted the great Rabbi Hillel.

“‘If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am not for others, what am I? And if not now, when?” he asked.

He answered his own question to when, saying the time was now because he was going to give out the checks. The first check went to the Boys & Girls Club of Collier County, which received the largest grant, a hefty $845,000.

“If it weren’t for the Naples Children and Education Foundation all of the organizations here would be serving a lot less clients,” said Terry Flynn, the club’s board chairman. “This is really unique.”

The grant will help the club serve 1,000 youngsters in a summer program this year that will provide breakfast, lunch and a day full of activities Monday through Friday.

“It keeps them off the streets,” Flynn said of the program. “It keeps them out of trouble. It gives comfort to their parents.”

The organization has received money the past few years from the foundation.

“I don’t know what we would do without their help,” Flynn said.

Many of the grant winners have received money in the past. But nine new charities were added to the list this year.

“It’s the most amazing thing that happens in Naples,” said Suzie Lount, chairman of the board of trustees for the Shelter for Abused Women & Children. “And we are the beneficiaries.”

The charity received $200,000 this year, which it will use to pay for five new counselors, three in Immokalee and two in Naples.

“Our whole idea is to stop the cycle of violence,” she said. “This is what we are doing. Hands are for helping, not for hitting.”

The Redlands Christian Migrant Association received a check for $500,000, which it will use to complete a playground, add counselors and upgrade the technology at its charter school in Immokalee.

“They’ve changed our whole programming,” said Maria Jimenez, RCMA’s director of charter schools. “Thanks to them we’re providing programming of higher quality and we’re also able to provide extended day and extended services for special needs children.”

Other grant recipients this year include Catholic Charities, Children’s Home Society, Foster Care Council of Southwest Florida, Guadalupe Center of Immokalee , PACE Center for Girls, St. Matt’s Kids Camps and Fun Time Early Childhood Academy.

Peter Manion, Fun Time Academy’s co-chairman of the board, said the grant received Tuesday will give the organization the rest of the money it needs to build a new center.

The early learning program is run from a dilapidated 35-year-old double-wide trailer that was virtually destroyed by Hurricane Wilma, and has been patched up to continue serving impoverished children in the River Park community.

Once built, the center will be able to serve 75 kids, 25 more than it has been, Manion said.

A nine-member committee chose the winners.

“We don’t necessarily give 100 percent of what the requests are for,” Sherman said. “Sometimes we give more and sometimes we give less.”

In choosing the grant winners, the foundation looks at a number of factors, including program costs, return on investment, the organization’s financial health and how it has spent previous grants.

The review includes an on-site visit to the charity.

The foundation turned away some charities because they did not meet the criteria. The foundation does not give money to start-up organizations, political campaigns, private or public schools or religious organizations. It won’t contribute to annual campaigns, or give money to individuals or toward scholarly or medical research.

With an additional $7.2 million taken out of reserves from past festivals, the foundation is disbursing more than $14 million this year.

It has awarded $7.2 million to a group of organizations that are partnering to build a pediatric dental center and an early learning center at Edison College’s Collier County campus.

About $8 million from this year’s festival has been set aside for future long-term projects.

Grace Place for Children & Family in Golden Gate applied for a grant, but didn’t get money because of its religious ties.

The center offers afterschool programs for elementary and middle school students that include mentoring, tutoring and help with homework. It targets poorer students, many of whom speak English as a second language. All of the students quality for free or reduced lunch.

The programs include going to chapel. It’s Christian oriented, though it’s non-denominational.

Stephanie Munz Campbell, the center’s executive director, said she understands why the center was turned down.

“I’m not critical of them at all,” she said. “That is their guidelines.”

She hopes maybe one day the guidelines will change. The center is looking for $800,000 to upgrade its property and add classrooms so it can reach more children.

Organizations awarded 2007 grants:

Boys & Girls Club of Collier County, $845,000

Catholic Charities of Collier County, $50,000

Childcare of Southwest Florida, $250,000

Children's Home Society, $275,000

Children's Hospital of Southwest Florida, $100,000

Collier County Child Advocacy Council, $430,000

Collier Health Services, $500,000

ELMM Program, $350,000

Foster Care Council of Southwest Florida, $300,000

Fun Time Early Childhood Academy, $800,000

Guadalupe Center of Immokalee, $700,000

Immokalee Child Care Center, $200,000

Immokalee Non Profit Housing, $50,000

Marco Island YMCA, $100,000

Naples Equestrian Challenge, $150,000

PACE Center for Girls, $650,000

RCMA, $500,000

Shelter for Abused Women & Children, $200,000

St. Matt's Kids Camps, $25,000

Step by Step-Childhood Education and Therapy Center, $370,000

Tutor Corps Program, $84,500

YMCA of Collier County, $150,000

Strategic Initiative Grants:

Early Childhood Development Initiative, $1,650,000

Pediatric Oral Health Collaborative Initiative, $5,850,000

Total: $14,579,500

© 2007 Naples Daily News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 8

scottlepore writes:

Absolutely awesome that people give so much.

sunshine911 writes:

It is a wonderful thing that they are ssisting so many in need.
BUT, The article says "they do not give money to start up oraganizations,......or religious organizations."
Wait a minute. Grace Place was turned down because of its non-denominational religious affilitation, but CATHOLIC CHarities of COllier County and ST. Matts place received money. That doesn't make any sense. Their names scream religious organization.
I am in no way belittliing the donations, but the criteria does not seem to hold true to the "requirements".
AM I overlooking something?

beachteach02 writes:

St. Matthews is about as religious is Publix. If you go by that reasoning, the YMCA is religous and so is Redlands CHRISTIAN Miagratn Association, Guadalupe for petes sakes! Plus the money for St. Matts it just funds kids in their emergency shelter to go to camps and after school programs , it nothing to do with religion. Catholic Charities, yes a religious org but without a religious curricula and the wine folks apparently are funding just one child abuse counselor for catholic charities not anything else across their services. Trust me; if you look at the board of directors running this place, they are not prone

beachteach02 writes:

to making operating mistakes (sorry submitted before I finished)

gl1800 writes:

Catholic Charities do not require its participants to go to chapel or any other religious activities.
It appears Grace Place for Children & Family requires participants to go to chapel. That is why they may have been turned down.

The Naples Children and Education Foundation should be applauded by their accomplishments.

sunshine911 writes:

Okay, thanks for clarifying for me. Again, I am not bashing anyone, it just didn't make sense to me why they would turn down one, but support the others.

tonywojo writes:

Anyone know why Youth Haven gets Nothing?

tootsie writes:

tonywojo...
I wonder why Youth Haven was not on the list too. They have been around for over 33 years in Collier County doing good works for kids. Their Thrift Store "Luvs" has been around for a long time too. They work hard to raise funds to keep their programs going all these years... so it would seem to me that they should get a slice of the Wine Festival pie too.

The Youth Haven has to file and submit a proposal "asking" for the money. I wonder if Youth Haven submitted the required paperwork to the Wine Festival people? If they did... then I wonder WHY they were turned down... as their name is not on the list of getting a check.

Here is a link to the Youth Haven previous 2005 Annual Report.

http://www.youthhaven.net/whatwedo.html

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