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ManaTEENS receive two new State Farm grants totaling $145K

MANATEE — Sometimes teen volunteers rake reefs for fishing line or check the homes of seniors for basic disaster supplies.

That community service will continue helping thousands of people in the community with the acceptance of two new grants from State Farm Youth Advisory Board totaling $145,800, said Laura Lockwood, program director for the Volunteer Center.

The grants will go toward ManaTEENs, a program within the Volunteer Center of Manatee County for youth ranging in age from 9 to 21.

The grants will fund a variety of projects with an emphasis on the environment and disaster preparedness, Lockwood said.

“We have a lot of projects we have been unable to do for so many years. We hope to reinvent them and bring them back to the community,” Lockwood said in a telephone interview Saturday.

Traditionally, businesses have helped fund the projects, but with the struggling economy the volunteer organization has become more reliant on grants like these, Lockwood said.

“We try very hard to stretch our money as far as we can get it. We sometimes have business partners who are great to us. We’re incredibly grateful for this, especially in these times. It gives us something to look forward to and plan,” Lockwood said.

Alycia Bower, 16, of Bradenton has volunteered for ManaTEENS for a couple of years and participated in projects including Home Safety for Seniors Project.

The project allows teens to go into the homes of elderly community members and check to make sure they have provisions in the event of a disaster.

Each home has a $100 limit for supplies, she said.

“We survey their home and look at what supplies we think they need. If we see something unsafe like too many cords plugged in, we’ll get them a surge protector. We take the supplies and put them in their house,” said Bower, a junior at Braden River High. “It’s a great project. I know when we started it one woman had no lights on. Her lights had gone out two weeks ago and she couldn’t reach to change the light bulb. . . . It’s amazing how something so simple can have an impact on someone’s life.”

The safety project has been in existence for 10 years. Lockwood said over the years an estimated 8,000 seniors in the county have been helped.

A portion of the grant funds will also go toward the program’s environmental projects.

Some of those projects include teens scuba diving to clean artificial reef balls when they become filled with trash from boaters.

The project, Reef Rakers, also has teens clean the structures, which help rehabilitate destroyed reef population in the bay, Lockwood said.

Environmental projects also include cleaning litter from shorelines on islands and doing water cleanups via snorkeling, said Bower, who has participated in both activities.

“I just feel that it’s important for each person to do their part so the environment will be around for future generations to appreciate,” she said.

The State Farm grants are designated through the company’s national youth program responsible for helping fund service learning programs through a $5 million allocation.

State Farm will make presentations to ManaTEENs for a disaster preparedness grant at 2 p.m. Wednesday at the Manatee County Public Safety Center, 2101 47th Terrace East, in the amount of $99,500.

An environmental grant from State Farm will be presented at 4 p.m. Feb. 17 at Blue Water Explorers, 12507 Cortez Road, in the amount of $46,300.

For more information on ManaTEENS, visit www.manateens.org or call 761-3207.

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