IMPACT 100 of Northwest Florida announces 10 grant finalists for 2021

Special to the Destin Log/USA TODAY NETWORKK

FORT WALTON BEACH — After reviewing funding requests from many nonprofit organizations in Okaloosa and Walton counties, IMPACT 100 of Northwest Florida Inc. has announced the 10 grant finalists for 2021.

Representatives of the organizations were present at the announcement, as well as IMPACT 100 officers and members. The finalists were selected from the following five focus areas: Arts & Culture; Education; Environment, Recreation & Preservation; Family; and Health & Wellness.

At its Nov. 7 annual meeting, IMPACT 100 members will hear presentations from each of the finalists and will vote for this year's four $104,500 grant recipients. The finalists are:

Four $104,500 grants will be awarded to nonprofits in Okaloosa and Walton counties at IMPACT 100's annual meeting Nov. 7.

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Arts & Culture

Heritage Museum of Northwest Florida: Building Community — Preserving and Celebrating Regional Arts

Heritage Museum was founded in 1969 as the Historical Society of Okaloosa and Walton Inc. to collect, preserve, and study historical artifacts pertaining to Northwest Florida's heritage while educating the public.

The project is to construct a new wing that includes ADA compliant restroom facilities and updated audio/visual capability. It also will double the current capacity for classes, tours, lectures, meetings, expositions and events.

Stage Crafters: The Show Must Go On — Save Our Community Theater’s Home

For more than 49 years, Stage Crafters Community Theatre and its all-volunteer members have brought the performing art of live theater to the area through its four-show Main Stage seasons, "One Act" performances, school programs, and nonprofit fundraising performances.

In 1974, Stage Crafters built a rehearsal warehouse on leased city property. With the current lease expiring in two years, the City of Fort Walton Beach plans to increase the rent from $100 to $24,000 a year. This will bring an end to the community theater, as Stage Crafters cannot afford the increase.

The city has agreed to sell Stage Crafters the property pending receipt of an IMPACT 100 grant. If Stage Crafters can secure its current home, it will continue to serve the community well into the future, according to the organization.


FloridaOne DMAT: “Training Facility for First Responders

FloridaOne is a group of health care professionals and first responders who have provided medical and response training to our community for 35 years. Its specific goal and objective are to increase the space and its ability to provide medical and response training to the community.

It will renovate its current space to accommodate the computers and technical equipment needed for training, as well as enable it to increase the number of trainees it can accommodate per session. 

U4aGC: HOPE SQUAD Expansion — More Schools More Communities

In 2019, United for a Good Cause expanded its HOPE SQUAD peer-to-peer suicide prevention program into the Okaloosa County School District, starting with all middle and high schools in 2020-2021.

In 2021, Hope Squad is expanding to all Okaloosa elementary schools. Hope Squad is now planning to expand the program to all of Walton County schools in 2022.

Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among youth across the country. It is affecting younger and younger children. The IMPACT 100 grant is requested to support the Hope Squad programs to reduce and prevent youth suicides.

Environment, Recreation & Preservation

Coastal Conservation Association: Redfish Restoring Project

CCA is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the conservation and enhancement of Florida’s marine resources and coastal environment. Since 2010, redfish populations in the Panhandle have declined because of overfishing and loss of marine habit, and as a result has weakened the overall ecosystem in Choctawhatchee Bay.

This project will restore the stock of one of Florida’s most iconic and sought-after species, which in turn will also support a healthier community and stimulated economy.

Panhandle Animal Welfare Society (PAWS): Replacing the Dinosaurs – New Clinic Medical Machines

PAWS is the largest and most-established animal shelter in Okaloosa County. Each year, PAWS sees 7,000 homeless, ill and/or abused animals. PAWS operates a low-cost veterinary clinic offering spay/neuter surgeries, rabies vaccinations, microchips and other essential care.

Local low-cost veterinary care is non-existent, contributing to thousands of sick and unaltered pets, and feral cats, according to the organization. To treat shelter animals and provide affordable care for pets, PAWS opened its current clinic in 1995. However, the current equipment is outdated, allowing PAWS to only offer minimum care.

PAWS plans to open a new clinic in the future. The IMPACT100 grant would enable PAWS to obtain the new clinic equipment now and to immediately offer more complete and inexpensive clinic services. All the new equipment will be moved to the new clinic when opened.


Fresh Start: Sell More = Help More Fresh Start takes Aim at More Capacity

Fresh Start provides fully furnished and outfitted apartments to 22 families with children who face homelessness. It also provides life skills education classes to the residents to help them achieve self-sufficiency as part of a nine-month transitional program.

The Repeat Street Thrift Store provides more than half of the revenue required for the Fresh Start program. It is well supported by donors, condos and furniture stores, and picks up donations on four of the six days it is open. The store uses a small trailer and old pickup truck to get these donations.

The grant request is for a new, dependable box truck with a lift, which would save the money spent for repairs and multiple trips. Thus, it would significantly increase the Repeat Street funding that supports the Fresh Start programs.

The Salvation Army Community Outreach: Canteen Truck

Every year, natural disasters destroy local economies and devastate lives. The Salvation Army Canteen Truck is on the spot to provide relief within hours to first responders and loss victims.

This vehicle also allows the Salvation Army to be on the streets delivering food to the homeless, less fortunate neighborhoods as well as being involved in youth and feeding programs.

The Canteen is 30 years old and is set to be retired. The grant would provide funding to help purchase a new canteen to fulfill the local Salvation Army's required portion of the cost, and its Territorial Headquarters will help with the balance. 

Health & Wellness

Point Washington Medical Center (PWMC): Building a Heathier Community

Since 2017 PWMC has operated a no-fee, volunteer-driven clinic and delivers high-quality medical care in a safe, non-traditional setting for the community. The clinic offers a multitude of services for all ages, including wellness education focusing on the management of chronic conditions such as hypertension, diabetes and high cholesterol.

PWMC quickly began experiencing growing pains — a positive problem — and plans to build a 4,750-square-foot facility that will transform the clinic into a one-stop shop for comprehensive care, including wellness education, according to the organization. IMPACT 100’s funding would support outfitting and furnishing the building's lobby education center and teaching kitchen. 

Sharing & Caring of Okaloosa County: Building Expansion

Sharing and Caring is a food bank that provides a staple of foods for needy individuals and families. Opened in 1985, it has operated in the 440-square-foot facility since 1990. Services to clients have expanded to include food given every 15 days, personal care items and prescription assistance vouchers.

Sharing and Caring is all-volunteer. By expanding the building, it can accommodate more clients. This expansion will more than double pantry food storage area so it can partner with Shelter House, Fresh Start and possibly One Hopeful Place to also serve their clients.

It will increase the quantity and diversity of food to the clients and join Feeding the Gulf Coast as a new food source. By enlarging all walkways and doorways, the facility will be handicap/wheelchair accessible. The goal is to help clients improve and maintain their ability to live healthy and independently.