TAMPA, Fla. — Filling out grants every year is a hassle that takes up valuable time and energy. That's why leaders at United Way Suncoast are awarding grants over three years.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, nonprofits have struggled to help an ever-growing number of people in need. Now, we are facing record-high inflation and soaring gas prices.
"It's the first time we've had this kind of funding from United Way Suncoast," Eleanor Saunders, the Executive Director of Emergency Care Help Organization (ECHO), said. "So, we are thrilled. And they're just being generous, and we're super happy they're doing that."
ECHO serves more than 15,000 locals in unincorporated Hillsborough County per year. Saunders said she calls them their neighbors. The goal is to help people get the help they need to find a job and be able to one day provide for themselves. United Way awarded ECHO $90,000 over three years.
"It's going to fund our mobile Back to Work program," Saunders said. "So, instead of our neighbors needing to come into our centers, we will go to them. A lot of our neighbors live in paid-by-the-week motels and we will be able to go to the motels and connect people with employment, connect to affordable housing options, connect people for reliable transportation and childcare through the early learning coalition."
United Way Suncoast told ABC Action News reporter Michael Paluska they received $50 million worth of requests but can fund $18 million. The money will support 88 organizations for a total of 100 programs.
"This is the first time we've done a multi-year funding award, and the reasons for that are to make sure that we're not asking our nonprofit partners to continually waste time and resources to apply for funding," Josh Dunn, the Sr. Director of Investments and Partnership Strategies Investments, said. "We believe that it helps to put a long view on the support we're giving to families. It allows all of us at United Way Suncoast, as well as our partners, to collect better data on the programs that we're offering so that we can show the impact that our investment has and hopefully multiply that and bring in supporters to make sure that these programs continue to do the great work that they've applied to do."
The resource center at ECHO is seeing more and more new families struggling with homelessness.
"I've never seen more men cry in my lifetime than I've seen here in the last year and a half," Iris Thurman, the Advocacy Director at ECHO, said. "And it's because their hope is gone; they're hopeless. So what we do here at Echo, we relieve the pressure a little bit for them, I mean, then we give them the moment to gather themselves."
With community support, Saunders tsaid they can help get people back on their feet.
"We're like a resource center on steroids," Saunders said. "Hunger is just a symptom of a greater need. So whatever that is, do you need a job? Do you need affordable housing? Do you need childcare? Do you need dependable transportation? We want to connect you with those things. So that's going to create stability for you. And then obviously, we have emergency food and clothing, which we can always take care of. To us, that's the most important thing because our goal is to put our food pantry out of business. So, man, we want to create those opportunities for people to provide for themselves."
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