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Manatee Memorial Foundation Auxiliary's generosity goes far to help those in need

BRADENTON -- Kids.

Hunger.

Homelessness.

Those areas of urgent need were foremost on the mind of Mary Jo Murray, the outgoing president of the Manatee Memorial Foundation Auxiliary and its 400 members Wednesday.

“Kids are the ones we really aim to help, but we also care about those in the community who suffer from hunger and being homeless,” she said. “This is one of the ways we do it.”

The setting was Renaissance on 9th at the Auxiliary’s annual luncheon, part of which saluted the organization’s many volunteers and included the installation of new auxiliary officers.

The other part involved the distribution of $271,000 to 31 non-profit organizations throughout Manatee County.

The funds came from a portion of the sales at the hospital’s gift shop and vendors as well as auxiliary thrift shop on Manatee Avenue West.

“We are an organization dedicated to caring for others and giving back to the community,” Murray said.

More than $4 million has been distributed since the foundation started in 1994, according to Vernon DeSear, the foundation executive director and MMH vice president.

That generosity is vital.

Richard Birkholz at Kids Against Hunger is grateful for it.

“This keeps us going,” he said. “Without donations and outside help, we don’t survive.”

Combined with grants from Bradenton Kiwanis and Entre Nous, the Auxiliary’s donation will augment the 32,500 meals Kids Against Hunger will pack in Feb. 11 for the community’s needy.

The Auxiliary’s benevolence will also have an immediate impact for Laurel Lynch and HOPE Family Services.

“We specifically asked for funding to pay for groceries,” said the shelter’s longtime executive director. “We had a 39-percent increase in people staying with us last year because their homes were not safe. Our food costs exceed $30,000 a year.

“But think about it -- you just had to leave your house in the middle of the night, cops just brought you in and your hungry. How can I not feed you? That is a basic need.”

The needs for David Johnson and Young Life are of a different nature, but important, too.

Hence, the Auxiliary check held by the youth group area director was most welcome.

“This allows us to hire new part-time people to recruit more volunteers, caring adults to build relationships with kids in the schools,” he said.

Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7055.

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