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PBC Diversity Venture Fund

United Way funds diversity aid

By Patty Pensa
Staff Writer

February 6, 2003

Working with an $800,000 budget, Daniella Henry figures she can spend about $100 on each of the 8,000 or so clients who come to the Haitian American Community Council in Delray Beach each year.

It's hardly enough, she said, but a special new fund from the United Way of Palm Beach County offers hope.

On Wednesday, United Way officials launched the Palm Beach County Diversity Venture Fund with $125,000 already in its coffers. The money is for nonprofit groups that serve minority communities, especially grass-roots or community-based groups that have trouble competing for grants.

Henry said the council cannot afford a professional grant writer like those used by some larger organizations. The council didn't get United Way funding last year, but the diversity fund could help, she said.

"We are in dire need of this," said Henry, the council's executive director. "This will be a great way to reach out to the underprivileged and most-in-need."

The diversity fund was announced during a United Way event for more than 100 black community leaders. The fund is intended for agencies serving clients of various races, ethnicities, religions and sexual orientations, said Eileen Boyle, the United Way executive vice president.

United Way officials have not decided whether they will direct money from the 2002-2003 campaign to the diversity fund. Most of the fund's money is expected to come from businesses and organizations, Boyle said.

The county's Children's Services Council contributed $50,000, as did JM Family Enterprises. Palm Healthcare Foundation gave $25,000, and $100,000 is pending from the Quantum Foundation. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel increased its corporate donation from $50,000 to $75,000 specifically for the diversity fund, Boyle said.

Officials hope to raise about $500,000 for the fund each year, Boyle said.

"Very often a community-based organization is the best way to meet the needs of the community," she said. "The United Way is not just a mainstream institution. We try to identify and meet the needs of all communities."

Grass-roots and community groups have been longing for help, said Debra Marcelle-Coney, executive director of the Revitalax Victorian homeless shelters in Lake Worth and West Palm Beach.

With a budget of less than a $400,000, the Revitalax Victorian homes served 35 people last year. The clients, most of whom are minorities, are homeless, mentally disabled, recovering addicts or infected with HIV.

The agency needs a grant writer and volunteer coordinator, Marcelle-Coney said.

United Way officials will begin allocating money in about three months. First, the board of about 15 people must be selected, said Wilfred Hawkins, temporary chairman of the diversity fund.

"Hopefully, we'll be able to assist these groups in becoming stronger and more effective," said Hawkins, assistant city manager in Boynton Beach.

Patty Pensa can be reached at ppensa@sun-sentinel.com or 561-243-6609.

Copyright Ā 2003, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Copyright © 2002, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

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