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FAIRWINDS Foundation Announces Recipients of 2024 Grants


Nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization invests $400,000 into improving the financial well-being of Central Floridians.

FAIRWINDS Foundation gives away $400,000 in 2024 to organizations with a mission for financial freedom in the community.

FAIRWINDS Foundation, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that serves as the philanthropic arm of FAIRWINDS Credit Union, today announced the recipients of its 2024 grants at a breakfast event held at Full Sail Live attended by community leaders and fifteen organizations embodying the Foundation’s core purpose of improving lives through financial well-being.

The nonprofit organization also named its 2024 FAIRWINDS Foundation Community Unsung Hero recipient, Ana L. Cruz, City of Orlando HOLA Coordinator. Ana Cruz has served as Coordinator of the City of Orlando's Hispanic Office for Local Assistance or HOLA office since 2016 and has been front and center during a time of tremendous growth. She has been an integral part of ensuring bilingual residents and new arrivals receive the guidance and resources they need to assimilate to a new community, new culture, and new language.

“When families and individuals have the information and tools needed to secure and improve their financial health, we collectively impact and improve our community’s economic well-being,” said Elisha González, vice president of community relations and government affairs at FAIRWINDS and executive director of FAIRWINDS Foundation. “These non-profits are conducting incredible work to advance financial literacy and shepherding our communities to experience financial freedom and reach broad-based prosperity.”

Through its grants, the FAIRWINDS Foundation supports Central Florida’s most economically vulnerable populations, including homeless and at-risk youth, victims of domestic violence, veterans, and minority business owners, among many others. In 2023, through its grants, FAIRWINDS Foundation made measurable impacts, from helping Career Source of Central Florida empower nearly 1,200 students aged 15-19 through essential financial literacy training to helping Habitat for Humanity – Seminole-Apopka create a pathway to homeownership for 211 neighbors with low to moderate incomes.

Each of the selected organizations strives to foster financial understanding, stability, and independence. The 2024 grantees are listed below, along with their 2023 impact reports from prior year FAIRWINDS Foundation grants (unless otherwise indicated):

Camaraderie Foundation received a $20,000 grant. Camaraderie Foundation's mission is to provide healing for the "invisible wounds of war" through counseling and emotional and spiritual support for all branches of military service members, veterans, and their families. Since 2009, the organization has served 10,000+ individuals. Clients can choose to participate in one or all options. In 2023, Camaraderie awarded counseling services to 273 new clients as well as continuing services for 262 individuals from prior years. More importantly, 89% of participants who completed their sessions reported improvement in their overall mental well-being measured by differences between pre-and post-data from the Outcome Ratings Scale (ORS). Eighty-eight reported improved individual well-being with lower personal or symptom distress. More than 1,000 people attended family support or transition programs, reporting 92% satisfaction.

CareerSource Central Florida (CSCF) received a $25,000 grant. CSCF connects Central Floridians to better-paying careers and develops skilled talent for businesses. The organization helps residents explore career opportunities, access and pay for training, secure experiential learning opportunities, and develop their skills, improving their employment prospects and placements. CareerSource Central Florida empowered nearly 1,200 students through essential financial literacy training during its 2023 Summer Youth Program. These students, aged between 15 and 19, had the opportunity to augment their exploration of career pathways and industries with invaluable life and work readiness skills. From mastering financial fundamentals to honing communication abilities and beyond, participants have been equipped with the tools they need to thrive in an ever-evolving professional landscape.

City Year Orlando received a $10,000 grant. City Year Orlando programs support math and financial literacy initiatives at Title I, Orange County Public School partner schools, and also equip AmeriCorps members serving in math classrooms with the resources and tools to support hundreds of students on foundational skills. In the 2023-2024 school year, City Year Orlando integrated FAIRWINDS training materials into “Money Mondays” for staff and AmeriCorps members. In the last year, 450 students received small group math support through more than 3,000 hours served by City Year Orlando AmeriCorps Members. Forty-five percent of students moved from off-track to on-track and 85% of students stayed on track in math thanks to the support of FAIRWINDS Foundation.

Community Foundation & United Way of Volusia-Flagler Counties received a $20,000 grant. The mission of United Way of Volusia-Flagler Counties is to increase the organized capacity of the community to care for its people. United Way funding for financial stability centers on access to sustainable income and affordable housing, as well as capably managing income and expenses. In 2023, 1,297 individuals and families maintained housing, which represents 87% of those served; 1,148 improved their income; and 220 reduced their debt. Additionally, through the Campaign for Working Families initiative, VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance.), United Way provided a free tax service to 2023 individuals and families, resulting in $1,919,176 in refunds.

FoolProof Foundation received a $50,000 grant. FoolProof Foundation is dedicated to instilling lifelong habits to help learners of all ages make better financial decisions—teaching the importance of healthy skepticism, personal responsibility, and the importance of trustworthy information. Across Orlando, Daytona Beach, and Melbourne, FoolProof Foundation’s combined total of 47,777 sessions and 17,320 users underscores its commitment to positively impacting a broad audience while helping to break the cycle of economic inequality and creating a more equitable future for all.

Habitat for Humanity – Greater Orlando and Osceola County received a $40,000 grant. Seeking to put God’s love into action, Habitat for Humanity brings people together to build homes, communities, and hope. Through its Financial Education Program and Future Habitat Homebuyers Program, community members learned to create and manage a budget, save money, manage credit, reduce debt, buy a home, and protect their identity. In 2023, the transformative impact of the Habitat U & Housing Counseling Program reached new heights, directly serving 547 individuals and impacting about 1,500 household members. FAIRWINDS Foundation played a crucial role in helping to Face The Housing Crisis™ with their support of financial education classes and HUD-approved housing counseling services to the broader Central Florida community. This program empowered individuals and families by equipping them with essential financial literacy skills and knowledge, paving the way for their journey towards successful homeownership.

Habitat for Humanity Seminole-Apopka received a $30,000 grant. Seeking to put God’s love into action, Habitat for Humanity brings people together to build homes, communities, and hope. In 2023, Habitat Seminole-Apopka created a pathway to homeownership for 211 neighbors with low to moderate incomes by equipping them with tools and strategies to effectively manage their money and improve their financial well-being. Through FAIRWINDS Foundation’s support of the two-fold Financial Education Program, community members and Future Habitat Homebuyers learned to create and manage a budget, save money, manage credit, reduce debt, buy a home, and protect their identity. More than two hundred individuals participated in the online Financial Academy; upon completion, 95% of participants demonstrated an increased understanding of effective money management topics. In addition, all Habitat Homebuyers participating in mandatory financial education classes increased their savings, reduced debt, and improved their credit scores. As a testament to long-term impact, 26 Academy graduates either re-applied or applied for the first time to the Homebuyers Program and were accepted, having learned the skills needed to meet baseline financial criteria. The other participants are now equipped to take that journey in the future.

Harbor House Central Florida received a $40,000 grant. Mission Statement: Harbor House strives to prevent and break the cycle of domestic abuse through empowerment-based programs, advocacy, education, and community involvement. With 99% of domestic abuse victims reporting they were also subject to financial abuse, that’s why Harbor House has offered financial literacy and economic empowerment programming to clients since 2016. Survivors are empowered to build their own service plan to include economic literacy and education. Each plan is customized to their individual goals and can include micro loans, matched savings, credit repair, tax prep, housing, higher education, career building, help with immigration, legal assistance, assistance with benefits, and healthcare.

With the support of FAIRWINDS Foundation, Harbor House delivered economic empowerment services and programming to 449 survivors in 2023. Some of the highlights include:

  • Nine opened a bank account

  • 153 developed a financial safety plan

  • Four completed a literacy program

  • 154 finished educational, certificate, or job training programs

  • 132 identified and achieved employment goals

  • Forty-one met a financial goal

  • Fourteen met their matched savings goal

  • Six reported an improved credit score

Overall, in that same period, Harbor House’s emergency shelter housed 405 adults, 466 children, and forty-six pets, all survivors of domestic violence. Also, in 2023, Harbor House’s hotline advocates answered 7,802 calls, and its outreach offices provided services to almost 5,000 clients.

IMPOWER, Inc. received a $15,000 grant. Building better financial literacy skills has helped shape the futures of youth in IMPOWER’s Village Program for homeless young adults 18-24 and Grove Residential Substance Abuse program for teens struggling with addictions. Both programs are located in Central Florida. For teens at The Grove, the instruction has taught them the value and principles of financial literacy and impacted their desire to use these skills to maintain their sobriety and achieve life goals. Through The Village Program, young people transitioning to independent living have learned to develop spending plans, cut unnecessary spending, improve their credit, and increase their savings. Youths save as much as $10,000 prior to moving out on their own from transitional housing. Annually, the FAIRWINDS Foundation’s support for IMPOWER’s financial literacy program services positively impacts approximately 150 teens at the Grove and fifty-five young adults through the Village Program.

Junior Achievement received a $50,000 grant. FAIRWINDS Foundation continues to empower the next generation of leaders and transform lives through Junior Achievement’s financial literacy program, JA Finance Park, catering to middle school students in two JA Areas – JA of Central Florida (Orlando) and JA of Tampa Bay. Thanks to the foundation's generous grant of $50,000 in 2023, JA’s partnership has been able to make a profound impact on students' lives through its financial literacy and work and career readiness initiatives. Through these diverse communities, 692 students in Central Florida and 571 students in Tampa Bay have gained access to vital financial education during 2023; more than 52% of participating students are from low to moderate-income households, emphasizing the program's dedication to addressing financial disparities.

Lighthouse Central Florida received a $25,000 grant. Since 1976, Lighthouse Central Florida has empowered thousands of individuals—of all ages—to chart a course for living, learning, and earning with vision loss. As the only nonprofit provider of vision rehabilitation services in the tri-county region, Lighthouse Central Florida is dedicated to providing people with vision loss with the training and resources necessary to achieve economic mobility, financial independence, and emotional well-being. A 2022-23 fiscal year grantee, the organization served 990 individuals with vision loss throughout Orange, Osceola, and Seminole counties, as well as delivered over 26,000 hours of assessment and instruction across all programs. Through comprehensive vision rehabilitation training that includes workforce development, college and career readiness, activities of daily living, and financial literacy education, Lighthouse Central Florida creates pathways to success beyond the restrictions of blindness and vision loss.

Prospera received a $40,000 grant. Prospera USA addresses financial literacy by focusing on training and coaching underserved Hispanics so they succeed financially at the personal level and have a better opportunity to become prosperous business owners. In 2023, Prospera delivered individual, personalized consulting to 926 West Coast and Central Florida Hispanic entrepreneurs. In addition to that trusted guidance and handholding, Prospera hosted ninety-four educational seminars for finance and business management training in Spanish. More than 1,800 individuals attended the seminars and learned more about financial literacy, business budgeting, and other related topics crucial to successfully operating their businesses. Furthermore, 188 business advancement services were awarded to small business owners in these communities for additional technical assistance and consulting projects for their small businesses. Thanks in part to the funding from FAIRWINDS Foundation, thirty-two loans were marketed for small businesses totaling $2.5 million, and Prospera helped consulting clients create or retain 1,466 jobs in the greater Orlando and Tampa areas.

Quest Inc. received a $15,000 grant. Quest’s mission is to help people with developmental disabilities experience a full life. Quest provides services for hundreds of adults and children through residential facilities, employment programs, adult training centers, an academic and life skills academy for children and teens, kid’s therapy, and Quest’s Camp Thunderbird – all with personalized services based on the specific needs of each client. Funding from the FAIRWINDS Foundation grant supports Quest Kids Academy, which provides quality, specialized education using both group and individual instruction for children with autism and other spectrum or developmental diagnoses. At age 14, Quest Kids Academy students either transition into mainstream academic settings or move onto Quest for Living, a dynamic program where teens expand their foundational life skills to strive for independent living and/or gainful employment.

The Sharing Center (TSC) received a $25,000 grant. The Sharing Center's ProjectRISE has made significant strides in aiding those struggling with homelessness and poverty in Central Florida, specifically in Seminole and Orange County. This workforce development program welcomes participants from diverse walks of life, each with their unique dreams and obstacles. In 2023, TSC started ProjectRISE’s first full calendar year of operations, welcoming eight cohorts between January and December, each with an average of thirteen participants. With a commendable 75% graduation rate, many graduates have already stepped into new employment opportunities, earning beyond the Federal Poverty Line, with most soaring over 200% above it. TSC’s participants’ journeys were not just about skills and jobs. It was a transformative experience, enriched by one-on-one sessions with dedicated case managers and mental health counselors and enlivened by guest experts and mock interviews. They were equipped not just with knowledge but with technology, professional clothing, and resources - the tools to rebuild their lives with dignity and confidence. It has been vital in enhancing participants’ emotional intelligence, job acquisition capacity, technical skills, and perhaps most vitally, financial literacy and economic mobility. The comprehensive approach has led to significant improvements in the lives of many under- or unemployed community members in our region. Looking ahead, TSC sees a horizon of even greater impact. With continued support, TSC aims to expand ProjectRISE, reaching more hearts, uplifting more spirits, and changing more lives. TSC envisions a future where every individual who walks through our doors leaves with not just a job lined up but a renewed sense of purpose and a brighter, more stable future.

United Against Poverty received a $15,000 grant. United Against Poverty serves those in poverty by providing crisis care, case management, transformative education, food and household subsidy, employment training and placement, personal empowerment training, and active referrals to other collaborative social service providers with a purpose to inspire and empower people living in poverty to lift themselves and their families to economic self-sufficiency. There were 14,332 families who utilized the UP Orlando Member Share Grocery Program (MSGP) onsite low-cost grocery center. The MSGP program afforded the families access to low-cost groceries, allowing them to stretch their budgets and put an aggregate amount of $5,449,414 million back into our local economy. UP Orlando Crisis Navigators delivered 8,291 units of life-essential crisis services to 1,373 unique (meaning only counting them once) households. The UP Orlando Workforce Development Team, who deliver the core STEP program (Success Training Employment Program), helped 37 low-income individuals obtain long-term job skills training, gain employment and increase their household income. By increasing their household income, these STEP graduates add an aggregate amount of $1,007,464.20 back into the local economy.