Southwest Florida nonprofits are helping people through their darkest days.
The need is especially great this year. Food banks have record demand, and nonprofits such as Valerie’s House say it’s busier than ever.
“We’ve had to hire more people,” said Angela Melvin, the Valerie’s house CEO and founder.
Between new safety guidelines, including smaller group sizes and the need for more supplies, costs are up at a time when donations are down.
Melvin started Valerie’s House in memory of her mom, Valerie. It provides peer-to-peer grief counseling to young people who lose a loved one.
“One out of thirteen kids in the state of Florida will lose a parent or sibling before the age of 18,” Melvin said.
And Stori McDougall of Cape Coral is one of them.
“I don’t really want to think about what would’ve happened if this place wasn’t here,” McDougall said.
McDougall’s mom died suddenly five years ago. She says one-on-one counseling didn’t help, and classmates couldn’t relate.
“It’s like two worlds apart,” McDougall said. “Even if I’m talking to my best friend, she can only understand so much. She can only be there for so much. She’s never lost anyone like I have.”
Gulf Coast Humane Society
With the pandemic, the Gulf Coast Humane Society says it’s lost the grant funding it normally brings in, leaving it all up to donations to help pay for food, medicine, immunizations, microchips, spay and neuter procedures and other operating costs.
Executive Director Jennifer Galloway says she knows many potential donors are also struggling, which is why the Humane Society has been giving back in its own way.
“There’s been a lot of folks that are out of work or they’re not making as much money as they did before,” Galloway said. “So what we’re doing is, in participation with Community Cooperative, we’re attending mobile food pantries and we’re handing out dog and cat food to those folks in need. So our goal is to keep the pets in the homes.”
Guardian Ad Litem
“Our funding through the pandemic has been like financial Tetris,” said Jessica Stanfield, executive director of the Guardian Ad Litem Foundation. “We saw grant funders who needed to change their guidelines are funding different things, and that subsequently meant cuts across the board elsewhere, so it’s really been a guessing game.”
She says those funds will help the foundation provide children with basic needs like clothes and a bed to sleep in. The funds even help children celebrate their birthdays.
Stanfield says every little bit you give will help nonprofits carry out their missions this year. Now until the end of the year, PNC Bank is matching the first $10,000 donated to the Guardian Ad Litem Foundation.
How to research charities
If you’re looking to help people near you on Giving Tuesday, research a charity first. Websites, including CharityNavigator.org and Give.org, show how much money nonprofits bring in and how it is spent, making sure services get to the people. The State of Florida also offers its own version, Check-a-Charity.
“Having a place like this has done so much for us, and it’s because of other people,” said.
Also, search the charity’s name plus “Complaint,” “Rating” or “Scam.” Depending on what you find, you might need to give elsewhere.