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From left, Community Connections Operations Project Manager Dana Pittman and Lelia Duncan,
president and CEO. Community Connection received a $10,000 grant Monday from the
Rotary Club of Jacksonville.
Jax Daily Record Tuesday, Apr. 29, 201412:00 PM EST

Downtown Rotary presents $69,500 in grants for health and education issues

by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

Once each year, the Rotary Club of Jacksonville awards grants to local nonprofit organizations that serve the community in the areas of health and education.

The applications are evaluated by a committee that visited the organizations for a first-hand look at their programs.

On Monday, the club awarded $69,500 in grants to four local nonprofits and a public school music educator.

“It was a difficult task to choose the grant recipients from so many worthy organizations,” said Jeanie Taras, chair of the club’s 40-member Project and Screening Committee.

This year’s largest award went to Community Health Outreach. The $25,700 grant will help provide a new medical and dental clinic for the organization, a 25-year-old coalition of churches that provides food assistance, primary medical and emergency care and clothing to residents in need in Clay, Duval and Putnam counties.

Executive Director Mary Ann Cox said the grant will help the organization build a 6,500-square-foot clinic with six medical and six dental treatment rooms.

Starbase Florida received $21,300 to support its educational programs for students attending D- and F-graded public schools.

The grant will be used to buy computer equipment for a new teaching facility at Mayport Naval Station, said Director Greg Stritch.

Starbase is hosted by the Florida Air National Guard 125th Fighter Wing at Jacksonville International Airport. The grant will allow Starbase to serve more students in the second classroom location.

Stritch said the program serves children, who on average are three grade levels behind in mathematics, by teaching them through practical experiences, such as using computer design software.

“We disguise math,” he said.

Downtown Rotary gave $11,000 to Pine Castle to enhance health services for its developmentally disabled clients.

DuVal Malone, director of community relations, said the grant will purchase a patient lift and a cardiac defibrillator as well as support medical services at the organization’s campus along Spring Park Road and at five group homes administered by the organization.

Community Connections, a nonprofit that provides services for homeless women and their children, received a $10,000 grant for employment and residential programs.

CEO Lelia Duncan, a member of Downtown Rotary, said the grant will help provide childcare for clients who work evening and weekend shifts.

“It will allow us to build the ‘Rotary Rumpus Room,’” she said.

Atlantic Coast High School Band Director Ryan Whalen is the recipient of the 2014 Willis H. Page Music Achievement Award.

Named for club’s late music director, the $1,500 grant is presented in recognition of a public school music educator who inspires students to improve their minds, gain confidence in their abilities and develop a greater appreciation for art and education.

“One of the most fundamental needs of the millennial generation is stability. Ryan gives that to his students,” said Paula Thornton, director of arts for Duval County Public Schools.

Club President Bill Mason said the grants program serves as a reminder of the mission embraced by Rotarians all over the world.

“It’s a special day for our club because we celebrate the prime reason for our being: service above self,” he said.

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