2023 Grant Recipients
ARTS & CULTURE
Organization Name: The Heritage Museum
Project Title: Exhibit Hall to Save our Local Historical Treasures.
Mission: To collect, preserve and study historical artifacts pertaining to Northwest Florida’s heritage and to educate the public using our research library, relevant exhibits, tours, events and skill set development.
Project: Build a 1400sq addition with an ADA compliant bathroom to the existing museum. The project is scheduled to be completed within 12 months after receiving the grant. Our builder will invoice the museum throughout the project as the addition is being built. The total project cost is $175,000. If we are awarded the grant, we will receive $75,000 in matching funds to complete the project. Our primary goal is to increase our services to the community and display exhibits currently being stored. We will also be able to display traveling exhibits. The room will significantly increase our classes, tours, symposiums, and events. Other organizations in the community are allowed to use the room for meetings or class offerings. The small meeting room we currently have limits the number of attendees to 35. The addition called Impact100 Northwest Florida Exhibit Hall can host 250 attendees and will increase our revenue to a minimum of $25,000 annually allowing the museum to become self-reliant.
Servicing Okaloosa and Walton County: The museum provides services to children, adults, and seniors. Our educational programs meet Florida Standards to teach history to all school aged children. Children attending Okaloosa and Walton County public, private, and homeschool programs attend our classes and tours. All children receive a hands-on learning experience. We have a special focus for underprivileged children residing within the counties. Many children do not have the resources economically, socially, or environmentally to learn and experience history, science, mathematics, and language. Our museum offers classes in botany, robotics, aerospace, music, art, and cursive writing. Our small groups and summer camps foster discussion, creativity, and curiosity. We have an archaeological dig, science activities and interactive games. Our educational tours focus on learning skills sets pertaining to critical thinking, socialization, raising self-esteem and self-confidence. We offer a scholarship program for children who cannot afford to attend events, so no child is turned away.
Adult services include classes in arts, crafts, and music. We offer weekly lecture series and symposiums pertaining to the artifacts within our museum. This program is designed to promote an interactive learning experience and intellectual discussions among the attendees. Presenters are qualified instructors specializing in the topic being presented. We have a special focus for seniors to enhance socialization and mental acuity. Research indicates that adults that learn and participate in intellectual discussions create new pathways in the brain. As language pathways deteriorate as we age, the brain will utilize the new pathways that are created thereby enhancing memory and minimizing the risk of dementia for seniors.
We have a historical research library with fascinating articles, books, newspapers, written documents, and artifacts. We have the first edition books from the Civil War and many items that date back over 100 years. The new room will allow us to display these artifacts and have new exhibits. For example, we intend to honor woman in the military by displaying uniforms and artifacts of the women who served in our armed forces throughout history. We will have voice recordings of women who served telling their stories as you walk through the Women in The Military exhibit. Another example is the Vietnam Refugee Camp exhibit. Our community was one of three Vietnam refugee camps located in the United States in the 1970’s. We have several dramatic photos and artifacts that will be exhibited in the new room. Our goal is to display exhibits as well as provide symposiums discussing the artifacts and documents currently hidden away in our museum.
Organization Name: Emerald Coast Science Center
Project Title: Across the Universe: Planetarium Project
It is the Emerald Coast Science Center’s (ECSC) mission to inspire and grow a scientifically engaged community, and as such, it has promoted science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) education and public outreach in Okaloosa, Walton, and beyond for over 35 years.
This project would provide students and families the opportunity to explore the universe in a state-of-the- art planetarium that would be a fixture in an additional space built on our premises. Our planetarium project would give students and families access to a program that does not exist elsewhere in Okaloosa or Walton County. It also aligns with our goal to continue to improve museum programming and give visitors a unique, memorable educational experience, meets our mission, and strengthens ECSC’s status as a center for learning for all ages. Specifically, this project would impact field trip visitors from across the panhandle as well as upwards of 25,000 additional general admission guests. The overall goal is that students who experience planetarium programming will be engaged in developmentally appropriate content that cultivates a deeper understanding of abstract scientific concepts and encourages further exploration, and that using the planetarium in conjunction with classroom instruction increases student achievement levels by 10% in the Earth & Space standards section as evidenced through SSA data. We hope to engage students in their learning by involving them in the planetarium programming and equip them to better retain information that could be otherwise difficult to digest in a traditional classroom setting. Finally, we hope to impact a larger audience with a permanent home for our planetarium so that shows can run during our normal hours and during field trips given this is not possible in our current building. Grant funds would be spent to clear a portion of our lot and construct the building needed to house our planetarium (already owned), including a 30’x40’ metal building on a concrete foundation as well as electrical, A/C, and plumbing work to complete. A portion of funds will also be used to provide free field trips to several at-risk youth nonprofit partners in our region as well.
This project enables ECSC to allow greater community access to the planetarium and a wider range of programming. Currently, we provide planetarium shows one night a month and one program a month for guests. This space would expand our offerings, especially in summer when we could provide a different program every day for guests or field trip students. During the school year we could provide planetarium shows regularly to field trip students as well as on Saturdays for special occasion options for patrons. In Summer 2023, we saw 11,962 general admission guests. Last FY, we saw over 2,700 students and guests in our planetarium. We anticipate all 5th and 8th grade classes that visit on field trips would have teachers interested in booking planetarium field trips prior to SSA testing, impacting roughly 25% of our regular field trip students, and that these numbers would grow significantly once we are able to offer a full-time planetarium experience.
ECSC plans to maintain its new planetarium facility with program revenue from field trips, mobile planetariums, and admissions. The additional shows would greatly bolster revenue, giving us additional income needed to ensure the building stays maintained. ECSC also maintains an annual partnership with FPL that provides $2,500 in funds toward planetarium costs- staff, computer upgrades, etc. that would also support sustainability. The additional planetarium revenue would allow us to expand partnerships with other nonprofits and provide free passes to those whose patrons would benefit from the opportunity to have a free visit to the center to allow bonding between foster families, caretakers, parents, and their children. This revenue would also afford us the ability to continue participating in Museums 4 All, which gives guests with SNAP EBT or WIC cards reduced admission; the more financially stable the center, thanks to this new revenue stream, the more we can afford to allow this program to thrive.
Organization Name: Northwest Florida Guardian ad Litem Foundation
Project Title: Cases for Kids
The Northwest Florida Guardian ad Litem Foundation (GAL) provides for the needs of abused, neglected, and abandoned children and supports the volunteer advocates in the Guardian ad Litem Program. We strive to promote normalcy in some of our most vulnerable children’s lives during one of their most traumatic times and we do this by meeting any needs the children may have like clothing, shoes, athletic fees, tutoring, camps, scouting, etc.
Each year, hundreds of children in Okaloosa/Walton counties must be rescued from abuse, abandonment, neglect, some are even homeless. They frequently enter foster care, with nothing, feeling afraid, confused, and desperate for reassurance. Now visualize having your meager belongings placed into a trash bag when you’re taken to a strange and unknown foster home. The most frequent comment made by older GAL children is they despise the label “trash bag kid.” Cases for Kids is a wonderful trauma informed intervention launched last year that provides a rolling duffle bag packed with toiletries and comfort items (stuffed animal, blanket, flashlight, journal, coloring book and stress toy) to a foster child served by the GAL Office. Input from former foster children, foster parents, adoptive parents, and GAL volunteers was used in making the decision to launch this project, including every item chosen for the cases. Each item has been selected intentionally. Children who have learned they are unimportant receive new things of their own. Toiletries and dental supplies communicate the importance of self-care and self-worth. The stuffed toy and blanket help soothe and comfort. The book provides a healthy distraction and intuitively teaches an important component of stress management. The journal and coloring help to calm distressing feelings. A GAL volunteer delivers this bag to the child on their first visit, building a relationship with the child, sending the message that they matter and someone cares about them. The GAL provides a critically needed stable relationship during a disruptive and stressful time in a child’s life. Our goal is to provide every child 0-18 yrs represented by the GAL Office in Okaloosa and Walton Counties with a duffle bag. We want to give our most vulnerable children dignity and for them to know they are seen, cared for, and valued.
In Okaloosa and Walton counties nearly 740 children were served in 2022 by the GAL Office. So far this year almost 250 new children in our two counties have entered the foster care system with a current total of 450 children in state custody being served by the GAL Office. According to the Casey Foundation Child Welfare and Foster Care statistics over 50% of foster children will experience 3 different placements per year. Our cost for a rolling duffle bag and age-appropriate contents is $125. With the help of this grant, we can impact the lives of 800 foster children. Not only are we striving to eliminate the practice of a child packing their belongings in a trash bag as they move between placements but also the feeling of worthlessness that accompanies it. A child who is given a case by their GAL volunteer will have a constant reminder that they matter, are loved and cared for, it is something they can keep with them and call their own. This is a critical step in promoting healthy child development for our foster kids who are traumatized and it can change somebody’s life.
Our Foundation has no paid staff and administrative overhead is less than 2% of donations. We have a 12- year history of successful fundraising and partnering with local churches, businesses and organizations. We establish Amazon wish lists. A local dentist donates the toothbrushes and toothpaste for our toiletry bags. We are always pursuing individuals and organizations to join in our efforts and continue to look for ways to reduce costs through in-kind (new) donations & wholesale negotiations.
Organization Name: EOD Warrior Foundation
Project Title: Supporting the Physical, Emotional & Financial Health & Stability of the EOD
Community in Okaloosa and Walton Counties through Direct and Indirect Programmatic Support
Founded in 1968 and calling Okaloosa County home since 1999, the EOD Warrior Foundation (EODWF) serves the Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Community of the four main branches of the military by providing financial assistance, programs, and support to active-duty, retired and veteran EOD Techs and families. With over 1,500 EOD families and 500+ annual EOD students in Okaloosa and Walton Counties, the programs provided by the Foundation help to improve the quality of life and disarm the challenges that are caused by volunteering to take on one of the most dangerous jobs in the miliary ... the safe disarming and disposal of bombs and other explosives.
Social and community isolation, lack of purpose, and lack of education on resources is a problem within the EOD Community, leading to suicides, self-harming behaviors, family instability, and poor physical and mental health. Unfortunately, multiple DoD studies show that Special Forces members have the highest rate of suicide, mental health struggles, and the resulting physical and family instability in the US Military.
The expansion of programs is the result of the challenges facing the EOD Community. The EODWF also recognizes that the EOD Community is deeply integrated into Okaloosa and Walton Counties and understands that supporting local nonprofits can expand the Foundation’s support, helping to improve the overall community for all ... civilians and military alike.
This expansion has two distinct parts:
-Updating and renovating the EOD Warrior Foundation building
-Expanding existing and creating new programmatic support
Programs are designed as part education, part support, and part community involvement. This allows participants to engage how they wish and find meaningful connections.
For over two decades, the EOD Community has called this area home and lived by the motto ... It starts here, comes back time & time again, and ends here. Because of this belief and commitment, the EOD Community is fully integrated into Okaloosa and Walton Counties ... starting their own business, taking leadership roles in local companies and area service organizations, and volunteering at multiple area non- profits.
This integration is one of the driving factors for opening the EODWF office to other supportive nonprofits and offering meeting space and trainings specifically focused on helping others in this area. To assist in this area, the Foundation is updating and renovating its office and the surrounding outdoor space in Niceville for the Foundation’s own programs and to be used by other nonprofits as they gather, share their resources, and support the overall community. This space will be available to all nonprofits who support those living here and includes access to small, medium, and large meeting space, a full kitchen, and family friendly outdoor space.Upon completion of the office space renovation, the expansion of the programs will be sustained through traditional fundraising activities, partnerships, and grants.