The Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation is funding an innovative solar energy program at Girls Inc. of Sarasota County that it hopes will become a money-saving, green-energy model for other youth-serving organizations in the region and beyond.
The $444,890 project is one of eight grants totaling over $1.1 million recently approved by the Barancik Foundation’s Board of Directors, bringing the total to $9.8 million in 2017.
The Barancik Foundation will test the concept of outfitting a youth-serving nonprofit agency with solar panels while also delivering conservation education to the organization. The pilot with Girls Inc. is designed to provide the nonprofit with immediate financial savings on its energy bills and positively impact the more than 300 girls it serves with new environmental education opportunities.
“It’s like an endowment that will annually give Girls Inc. operating income as a result of significantly lowered utility costs, as well as teach the girls about energy use and conservation techniques,” says Teri A Hansen, Barancik Foundation president and CEO.
According to Executive Director Angie Stringer, the nonprofit’s education staff is creating solar and conservation lessons that will be embedded into all of its programs. “Our ultimate vision is for our girls to take the lead in greening our entire building,” says Stringer.
Two other environment grants awarded by the foundation will promote science education for youth in Chicago, the Barancik’s summer home. A $25,000 grant to the Chicago Botanic Garden will support its Science Career Continuum, which connects students from Chicago Public Schools with environmental-science education and training programs at the Garden. The foundation also awarded the Museum of Science and Industry of Chicago a $25,000 grant for its Science Minors Club, which provides after-school learning opportunities to more than 12,000 elementary school students.
Another initiative being started by the foundation to stem the teacher shortage is the Barancik Emerging Educators Initiative, a new strategy to help Sarasota County Schools address the shortage of qualified teachers, especially in the subjects of special education, higher-level math, and foreign language. Through the $125,000 initiative, the school district will partner with State College of Florida to identify and engage more college-degreed adults interested in a second career in teaching. The concept is to form a cohort of 30 adults who will earn a teaching certificate through SCF and then transition together into teaching within the school district.
Sarasota County Schools also will receive a $56,400 grant to sustain the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program at Tuttle and Alta Vista elementary schools. The district learned in mid- September that federal funding for this fresh produce snack program at the two schools would be cut October 1. The Barancik Foundation’s grant will fund the program at both schools through the rest of the school year. Meanwhile, the foundation, school district, Gulf Coast Community Foundation and All Faiths Food Bank will collaborate on a long-term solution to maintain the highly effective food and nutrition education program.
As a supporter of the arts, the foundation provided FSU/Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training $60,000 over three years to support Shakespeare in the Gardens, the Conservatory’s joint outdoor theater production with Marie Selby Botanical Gardens. The collaboration introduces younger audiences to live theater, helps the Conservatory’s student actors hone their skills in a unique setting, and brings new community members to Selby Gardens.
The foundation approved two grants in its funding area of humanitarian causes. Jewish Family & Children’s Service of the Suncoast was awarded $330,000 to fund a variety of essential social- service programs for community members of all ages and Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida will use a $50,000 grant to provide affordable, accessible healthcare to patients in Sarasota County with limited or no health insurance. No portion of the funds awarded to Planned Parenthood will pay for termination of pregnancy.