When Margaret Iuculano founded Angels for Foster Kids in 2007, she was determined to make a difference. A product of the foster care system herself, she aimed to provide much-needed assistance to children who experience the same sorts of struggles that marked her childhood. Through personal investment and a strong support network, Iuculano developed the Angels initiative and its DreamMakers program to grant wishes and improve the quality of life for children throughout Central Florida.
But many wishes come at a price, so continuing to make them come true has been a challenging endeavor.
That's why the Glazer Family Foundation stepped in to help.
On Wednesday, Foundation Co-President Darcie Glazer Kassewitz presented Iuculano with a grant to fulfill the wishes of 50 children in Hillsborough County as part of the Foundation's biannual grant cycle. Six nonprofit organizations received grants totaling more than $25,000 during an award presentation and luncheon at One Buccaneer Place. Representatives of the organizations attended the private reception to accept plaques and checks presented by Glazer Kassewitz on behalf of the Foundation.
"The Glazer Family Foundation is committed to building a stronger community by assisting Florida's youth and families," said Glazer Kassewitz. "These dedicated organizations carry out the Foundation's mission of helping those in need, and we are proud to support them in their endeavors to give back to those less fortunate."
The Glazer Family Foundation awards grants twice each year to West Central Florida programs focused on the health, safety, recreation and education of disadvantaged youth. This past year, 12 nonprofit organizations received grants through the biannual program.
"It's huge for us," said Iuculano. "The money goes directly to the kids. Our list for granting wishes is always much longer than the funding, so as money comes in it's usually already spent. This is a big one, because we have quite a few children – 50, to be exact – that have requested to be able to play on a sports team, and they need the funds for the uniforms and the fees and the insurance, so this is really big. The money's already spent, so we're so excited."
It's only fitting that the wishes fulfilled by Wednesday's grant will help local children play sports, an opportunity they might not otherwise enjoy.
"It's wonderful, any time you can let the child know that there's people in the community that care about them," said Iuculano. "So somebody stepping forward such as the [Glazer] family to be willing to donate so they can try playing sports, it just gives them an inspiration to become something greater than where they currently are. It's a wonderful thing and the stories go on and on with the children. It's amazing."
In the state of Florida, where over 30,000 children grow up in the foster care system, the need of assistance is constant. Any opportunity to spread awareness or lend support can make a difference in providing better programs to help at-risk children experience more normal, healthier lives.
Pastor Moses Brown couldn't agree more.
Brown, founder of Feed Our Children Ministries, lives his life through helping others. He is open about the struggles he has endured since childhood, starting from birth. Born to a rape victim who was unable to care for him, Brown was adopted by a loving family who provided him with a supportive upbringing. Brown now does the same for others through Feed Our Children, which supplies food, clothing, shelter and other services for underprivileged individuals and families throughout Tampa Bay.
"This is amazing," said Brown. "The Glazer family, I look at them as conduits of care to other families in this community. Because of the Glazer family, many other families have the opportunity to come back together. My mother couldn't keep me, but she had to leave me in the hospital and another family adopted me. With the Glazer Family Foundation's contribution, I'll be able to help young ladies who want to keep their kids and provide some opportunities that they might not get without this foundation."
Brown says the grant funds will go directly towards helping young women in need, providing much-needed care for individuals experiencing the same struggles his birth mother faced. He plans to add a kitchen stove and swing set to a small house his charity offers for young mothers as a way to gain independence.
While the impact of Brown and Iuculano's charitable work could be felt through their stories, all six grant recipients shared a common purpose: dedication toward making a difference.
"I think they're very happy to be a part of our program," said Glazer Kassewitz. "It's wonderful for them because it brings a greater awareness to the community for these organizations. Any time we can bring greater awareness to real problems in the community, it's always very helpful."
For Brown, the experience was like a dream come true.
"We'd like to say thank you," reiterated Brown. "We're very appreciative. In our community, not too much comes through there, so this is like winning the lottery."
Below is a rundown of the six grant recipients and their grant proposals:
- *Angels for Foster Kids (Hillsborough County)* is dedicated to improving the quality of life for foster children. The Glazer Family Foundation grant will fund its DreamMakers Program, which grants modest wishes and helps subsidize larger wishes for children in foster care. The grant will fulfill wishes for approximately 50 children in Hillsborough County.
- *BETA Center, Inc. (Orange County)* is committed to providing comprehensive support programs for at-risk teens and families. The grant will fund its 24-bed Residential Program, School Program and Child Development Services. Grant funds will cover the costs of playground equipment, instructional DVDs, bed linens and an infant/toddler play yard.
- *Feed Our Children (Hillsborough County) *provides food, clothing, shelter and support services for underprivileged individuals and families throughout Tampa Bay. The grant will fund an outdoor play area, cooling and heating units and a new stove to teach single moms how to cook for their children.
- *Homeless Emergency Project, Inc. (Pinellas County)* provides homeless individuals and families with housing, food, clothing and support services necessary to obtain self-sufficiency and improved quality of life. The grant will fund the Family Transition Program, which limits the amount of time families spend in their shelter by finding permanent, affordable housing. The grant will be applied to move-in costs, which average about $1,500 per family.
- *Kids House of Seminole, Inc. (Seminole County)* helps prevent child abuse by providing coordinated services to child abuse victims and families in a safe, child-friendly environment. The grant will purchase play therapy books, toys, assessment materials and parenting class resources to support their Mental Health and Child Advocacy programs.
- *Manatee Children's Services (Manatee County)* is dedicated to helping abused and neglected children in Manatee and surrounding counties. The grant will fund respite care services, which provide trained and approved caretakers for children while their primary caregivers attend to personal needs.
The Glazer Family Foundation is dedicated to assisting charitable and educational causes in the West Central Florida region. The Foundation aids established not-for-profit organizations that work with youth and families to help identify and create programs that support positive social and economic development within our communities. The Glazers, who own the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, established the Foundation in 1999. Since that time, the Glazer Family Foundation has given millions of dollars in programs, grants, tickets and merchandise to the Tampa Bay area. Most recently, the Foundation donated $5 million toward the construction of the Glazer Children's Museum, which opened on September 25, 2010 in downtown Tampa. Visit www.GlazerFamilyFoundation.org for more information.