City OKs Faith-Based Grants for 25 Groups; $20,000 One-Time Awards Are to Help the Agencies Increase Their Services

Article excerpt

Byline: JEFF BRUMLEY

The Mayor's Office of Faith and Community Based Partnerships approved its first round of mini-grants this week, doling out $500,000 to 25 Jacksonville ministries and other non-profits.

The recipients will each receive $20,000, one-time awards to help them increase the services they provide clients.

Funded programs range from a youth karate and character education program affiliated with the Florida Community College Foundation to an HIV/AIDS prevention program at Abyssinia Missionary Baptist Church.

"That's great," said Ken Stokes, director of the health care ministry at Abyssinia. The grant "will be used for expansion and to provide additional help for our youth program."

Adult day care, independent living, FCAT tutoring, substance abuse counseling, reading instruction, delinquency prevention and ex-offender adjustment programs were among the other types of programs to receive grants.

Forty-five area agencies initially applied for the grants. The 25 finalists were selected by office staff and board members based on the current and projected effectiveness.

Applicants were required to demonstrate nonprofit status, a budget of under $300,000, a paid staff of six or less and provide services in the areas of adult self-sufficiency, positive youth development or violence prevention.

That criteria was met by a variety of organizations, including the Careers and Karate program affiliated with -- but not funded by -- the Florida Community College Foundation, said Pete Jackson, the office's administrator and Mayor John Peyton's chief community officer.

The program provides karate instruction, homework assistance, character education and college scholarships to the at-risk youth who participate, said Edythe Abdullah, president of the downtown campus of FCCJ and one of the program's two volunteer directors.

Agencies that received grants in this cycle are ineligible for future grants unless it is for different programs, Jackson said.

He added the office will be introducing a new training course in the fall, which he hopes will take the emphasis off grants.

"We need to minimize our focus on grants and maximize our focus on training," Jackson said.

The grant awards mark an important step for an office that has had its share of struggles since being created by Peyton in November.

Its original administrator resigned in May, sparking a controversy over internal conflicts and leading to a delay in the grants process and in the training schedule for fledgling non-profits.

Jackson told office advisory board members Thursday that a much more comprehensive form of training will begin in September, and that a public relations campaign is being planned to counter negative impressions of the office in the community.

"This is a new office," said the Rev. Davette Turk, a board member.

"Every organization has its growing period, learning what strategies work and don't work," Turk said.

The six board members and Jackson also discussed ways to encourage more of the 19-member board to attend its monthly meetings.

jeff.brumley@jacksonville.com, (904) 359-4310

GRANT RECIPIENTS

-- Alliance for Lost Boys of Sudan: Promotes adult self-sufficiency and positive youth development to the Sudanese Lost Boys population in Jacksonville. Plans to expand or create college preparation, mentoring, community awareness and fund-raising promotions.

-- Hart Felt Ministries: Provides non-medical support and companionship to frail elderly and disabled adults, who require assistance to continue living independently. Plans to increase volunteer pool, community awareness and collaboration with private and public agencies.

-- Barnabas International: Assists seniors who live alone. Plans to increase volunteer opportunities and increase the number of clients served. …

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