The Community Foundation of Sarasota County’s 2016 Giving Challenge pulled in a grand total of roughly $5.7 million with 63,561 gifts by its close at noon Wednesday.
With matching dollars, the total rose to roughly $13,386,434, nearly double the $7 million the Challenge pulled in with matches last year.
To see how any of the 559 Manatee or Sarasota not-for-profits did in the 24-hour event, go to givingpartnerchallenge.org.
The top dollar earner for the Challenge was The Cat Depot of Sarasota, which collected $104,271 on 1,108 gifts.
The top Manatee dollar earner and gift receiver was Honor Animal Rescue, with $100,171 on 1,313 gifts.
Myakka City represented in Challenge
For every large not-for-profit in Manatee and Sarasota that struck gold in the Challenge, there was also a smaller one that benefited.
The Palmetto High School FFA Alumni & Supporters, the Mark Wandall Foundation, Giving Alliance of Myakka City and the Artist’s Guild of Manatee Inc., better known as Bradenton’s Village of the Arts, all did well in the event.
Giving Alliance of Myakka City was formed to meet the challenges of Myakka City residents who are struggling due to financial or medical reasons, said founder Rose Riggle.
“We try to do whatever we can within our community to help those who need our help,” said Riggle who came to Manatee Community Foundation’s office on Manatee Avenue West Tuesday night along with fellow Alliance member Sara Cohen to join in the 24-hour party being held there.
“We have a monthly food pantry that we run, and we give 175 backpacks each week to the 70 percent of kids at Myakka City Elementary who are on free or reduced lunch,” Riggle said.
The organization also sponsors a Christmas party and has an Angel Tree.
Giving Alliance of Myakka City finished with $1,850 on 13 gifts.
Mark Wandall Foundation puts on grief camp
Although Melissa Wandall is best known for her belief that red-light cameras save lives at intersections, the Mark Wandall Foundation she started in her late husband’s name has, after five years of trying, finally been able to create a Florida camp for Manatee and Sarasota youths who have experienced grief.
Wandall says that donations made to the Mark Wandall Foundation will go toward sending more Manatee and Sarasota children to the camp.
The Wandall Foundation raised $10,085 on 81 gifts.
The camp was held earlier this month at Cedarkirk Camp & Conference in Lithia and hosted 46 children and teens for three days.
“It was amazing,” Wandall said.
“A very transforming experience for campers and volunteers,” said Wendy Orlando, who works part-time for the foundation.
Melissa Wandall’s own daughter, Madison, now 12, never met her father, who was killed by a red-light runner in East Manatee when Melissa Wandall was nine months’ pregnant with Madison.
To host the camp, the Mark Wandall Foundation partnered with Comfort Zone Camp, the nation’s largest bereavement camp.
“The children attended free of charge,” Wandall said.
The counseling that the children received free was estimated to be valued at around $50,000 per child, Wandall said.
Palmetto High FFA Alumni helps current students
John Berkey and his daughter, 18-year-old Palmetto High graduate and current Hillsborough Community College student Jackie Berkey, came to the Manatee Community Foundation to talk about the Palmetto High FFA Alumni & Supporters, to which they both belong.
The Palmetto FFA Alumni was part of the Giving Challenge and, thanks to Jackie Berkey who spearheaded the social media campaign, raised $1,375 on 35 gifts.
The mission of the Palmetto High FFA Alumni, which started in 1997, is to mentor and support Palmetto High School’s nearly 300 students who go through the school’s FFA program as well as middle school students on their way up, the Berkeys said.
There are approximately 35 adult members of the FFA Alumni.
“The amazing thing about the Palmetto High FFA Alumni is that you do not have to be a former FFA student or even in agriculture to join,” John Berkey said. “My background was all business. Most of us are community leaders that have a passion and a caring for the future.”
Palmetto’s civic leaders, like Palmetto Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant, meet with the kids on a regular basis, as do Manatee leaders in agriculture, John Berkey added.
“This is more than what we fund-raised for the last six months,” John Berkey said of the Giving Challenge. “This is a nice new venture for the kids because for once it is not a car wash or a bake sale.”
“Or boiled peanuts,” Jackie Berkey chimed in.
Artist’s Guild of Manatee Inc. artists weigh in
Artist Jean G. Farmer, who owns a studio called “Fun Girl Art” and art patron Jean Schwartz, both from Bradenton’s Village of the Arts, came to the Challenge party to talk up Artist’s Guild of Manatee Inc., which manages the Village of the Arts nonprofit.
“We’re doing better than last year,” Farmer said. “Last year, was our first Giving Challenge, and this year we are so excited. We passed what we did last year.”
Artist’s Guild of Manatee Inc. raised $4,500 on 67 gifts.
“We are an all-volunteer organization,” Farmer said. “So, we don’t have a building or an executive director, so all of our money is going toward beautification and public art for next year.”
Realize Bradenton will soon have a walk from Riverwalk to Village of the Arts, Farmer said.
“We need art along the way to pull them in and have them interested,” Farmer said. “It is art for your health and your soul.
“We are also using the funds to make sure our Village houses are all freshly painted with bright colors and our flowers are nice,” Farmer added. “We are working to get everyone excited about Village of the Arts.”