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5 non-profits in eastern Hillsborough set to receive Children’s Board grants

BRANDON — Five community agencies known for helping families with daily needs, tutoring and other educational issues are set to receive grants this year from the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County.

One agency — Pregnancy Care Center of Plant City — guides women through unplanned pregnancies and offers post-abortion counseling, while another — Emergency Care Help Organization in Brandon — helps struggling families put food on the table and clothes on their children.

The Greater Palm River Point Community Development Corp. offers services to families whose youngsters may need tutoring or whose adults may need job training and the Family Literacy Academy of Tampa Bay in Plant City teaches both youngsters and adults how to read. Down south in Wimauma, Wholesome Community Ministries Inc. is focusing its efforts on poor families in the South Shore area.

Each will receive a $50,000 Lending Grant from the Children’s Board if the proposed budget receives final approval Sept. 26. The Children’s Board is one of eight independent children’s services councils in the state and it is funded through Hillsborough County property taxes.

For the struggling Pregnancy Care Center of Plant City, $50,000 means the office staff can go back to full time office hours. And that means its clients will get better services, including counseling in abstinence and classes on how to avoid sexually transmitted diseases, said Executive Director Darlene Davis.

“In 2009, we had to cut back to a 30-hour work week and with this grant money, we can now return to 40 hours,” Davis said. “All staff will add 10 hours to their work week, plus we will add a full-time employee.”

Debbie Patrick, executive director of the Greater Palm River Point Community Development Corp, said her organization will use the grant to build a better curriculum to help tutor students in kindergarten through third grade in science in math.

“Everything we do focuses on children and family services,” Patrick said. “We work with families in parent support and early childhood learning. Within a family, there may be a child that has autism and we connect them with the appropriate agencies. We can also help parents get training for employment.”

The Family Literacy Academy of Tampa Bay has been serving clients in Plant City since 2011.

“We offer family literacy through four components: adult education, children’s education, parenting education and parent-child together time,” said Executive Director Angelica Ibarra.

The academy not only tutors youngsters, but helps adults learn how to read and helps them help their children become better readers, Ibarra said.

“With this grant, we will be able to serve more families and add another classroom teacher,” she said.

In Wimauma, the Wholesome Community Ministries will target indigent children from birth to four years old in an attempt to identify any special needs they have before they reach school age, said Pastor Carlos Irizarri, who is also a registered nurse.

“We created Child Health Navigator to identify the issues in advance of school,” Irizarri said. Day cares, churches and other groups refer children to Wholesome and its “navigator” becomes an advocate for the child to help them get the services they need.

ECHO provides emergency food and household supplies to families in the area that are facing crisis and has recently expanded its operation to include helping people seek government aide and jobs. ECHO Executive Director Stacey Efaw was on vacation this week and could not be reached for comment on exactly how the grant money will be used.

In all, the Children’s Board is dolling out $300,000 to faith-based and community-based programs like these, said Board Program Director Maria Negron. “To maximize that money, we set up so each applicant could get up to $50,000.” Some 19 agencies applied and six will receive grants. The sixth agency to receive funding will be Parents and Children Advance Together (PCAT) Literacy Ministries in Tampa.

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