Led by the Jessie Ball duPont Fund, Jacksonville-area philanthropies have raised $1.3 million for a Community Safety Net Fund designed to help local nonprofits provide emergency assistance to residents in need, the Florida Times-Union reports.
The duPont Fund made an initial $500,000 donation to the fund in early December and issued a challenge to the Jacksonville philanthropic community by promising to match additional donations up to a total of $500,000. To encourage donations to the fund, leaders of fourteen area nonprofits jointly made the case that the area was facing a crisis needing immediate attention. "We were able to say, 'The food pantries are empty,'" said Nina Waters, president of the Community Foundation in Jacksonville. "'Dignity U Wear has no more children's clothing. There is no more rent assistance in the community.'" Funders responded with pledges totaling $285,000.
To date, the Safety Net Fund has made grants totaling $175,000 to four organizations; an additional $1.5 million has been requested by other groups. The grantees include Community Connections, which was awarded $30,000 to provide food, rent assistance, and utility payments to clients, and the Clara White Mission, which received $50,000 to reinstate daily meal service through March. Budget cuts had forced the organization to reduce its meal service to three days a week, even as demand had jumped from three hundred and fifty people a day to almost six hundred.
"It's not just homeless people coming to utilize our services any more," said the organization's president and CEO, Ju'Coby Pittman-Peele. "It's families that are driving up in their cars, people who volunteered for us in the past."