For Good: Walmart Foundation gives $100K to Pinellas charity

The Walmart Foundation gave $100,000 in June to Religious Community Services in Pinellas County as part of its $1 million Statewide Giving Tour. The grant was the only one given in the Tampa Bay area by the foundation, and the single largest one among 21 state recipients for 2015.

“We’re so appreciative of this,” says Caitlin Higgins Joy, RCS president and CEO. “It comes at a crucial time. We focus on the hungry, and summer can be an additional burden especially on families.”

Joy says the grant money will fund two “gently used” refrigerated food trucks that are needed for the nonprofit’s food distribution efforts through Pinellas County. They will replace aging vehicles in the current fleet.

“This is a vital part of our operation,” she says. “But it’s a costly investment. The grant gives us peace of mind that we will be able to upgrade our ability to deliver food.”

The RCS, founded in 1967 by 15 congregations, runs four programs that serve people struggling with hunger, homelessness and domestic violence. 

To meet its mission to help the hungry, the nonprofit delivers donated and federally subsidized food to more than 60 sites from St. Petersburg to Tarpon Springs five days a week. It also serves upwards of 5,500 people a month at its food bank in a Clearwater warehouse. Most clients are elderly people on a fixed income, struggling families or the underemployed.

RCS provides emergency shelter for families on the brink of homelessness for up to eight weeks at its Grace House apartments, and gives shelter and outreach services to victims of domestic violence at The Haven. 

In addition, it also operates a thrift store in Largo. Every sale benefits RSC programs, and all donated items, from clothing to furniture, are tax-deductible.

The charity now has 160 member affiliates, representing all different faiths. It depends on a wide variety of funding, from federal, state and local grants, private foundations and individual donors.

In the last fiscal year, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation have given more than $82 million in cash and in-kind contributions to charitable organizations throughout Florida.

Its State Giving Program aims to support organizations that create opportunities so people can live better. RCS met those requirements with its programs.

This is the first time the retailer has gone on a statewide tour to roll out the grants to recipients.

Other winners so far include:
  • The Boys & Girls Clubs of Lake & Sumter Counties, Inc., Leesburg ($50,000);
  • Catholic Charities of Central Florida Inc., Orlando ($75,000);
  • Coalition for the Homes of Central Florida, Orlando ($50,000);
  • Community Food Bank of Citrus County, Crystal River ($50,000);
  • Promise Inc., West Melbourne ($25,000);
  • The Society of Saint Andrew, Inc., Orlando ($30,000); and
  • We Care Food Pantry, Inc., Homosassa ($85,000). 
Charities can apply for a grant by filling out an online application through the foundation’s website. Applicants must have a current  501(c)(3) tax-exempt status in order to meet the program’s minimum funding criteria.

Read more articles by Michelle Bearden.

Michelle Bearden is a feature writer at 83 Degrees Media in the Tampa Bay region of Florida.
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