TAMPA — It was a bittersweet day for Brighter Tomorrows members as they awarded $50,000 in grants to six local agencies that deal with domestic violence.
It's the most the seven-year-old all-volunteer nonprofit organization had ever distributed at one time.
And it will be the last time it issues grants.
The nonprofit's annual Grants Award Luncheon marked its final official event. By the end of the year, the group will be dissolved.
"But your organization will live on at our place," said Mindy Murphy, executive director of the Spring, a residential facility for victims of domestic violence.
"That $10,000 grant you gave us last year paid for the elevator in our annex. You have been an integral part of our community," she told about 50 members and guests gathered Nov. 1 at Brio's at International Plaza for the luncheon and check presentations.
Brighter Tomorrows was formed in September 2009 by about 16 men and women who had been part of the Daytime Spring Auxiliary.
"We wanted to help not only the Spring but thought we could help others who assisted domestic violence victims whether it be housing, programs or whatever," said Debbie Fernandez, who became the group's first president and has served as the treasurer since 2012.
"It is going to be missed but we were an older group of members; we couldn't get young members to come in and keep it going," Fernandez said.
Stephanie Hobson is the last president of the group. She addressed the guests at the beginning of the luncheon, saying the group's mission had been "increasing awareness of this problem in the community, sponsoring educational programs, and supporting certain organization that directly addressed the abused victims."
She continued from a prepared statement, "So, it began. Money was raised — over $200,000."
The group's main fundraisers were Elegant Evenings, a series of in-home concerts, and a springtime fashion show and luncheon. This year Elegant Evenings were in the planning stage when Brighter Tomorrows voted in May to dissolve by year's end.
Laura Erstad who served as the grant chairwoman and oversaw the applications for the funds, distributed funds at the Nov. 1 luncheon. She called representatives from the six agencies to the front to present their checks and explain how they would use the funds.
Are You Safe executive director Tiffany Bolt also presented Brighter Tomorrows with an award as its Community Partner of the Year. Bolt said Are You Safe provides victims' social services and legal assistance through volunteer attorneys and contracted attorneys.
"If it wasn't for Brighter Tomorrows, our contract attorney position wouldn't exist," she said. "A contract attorney will work through the night to get an injunction ready for court the next morning. This organization (Brighter Tomorrows) saved lives."
Bolt said the contract attorney handled 70 cases, and her board would have to find money to keep the position. Other agencies receiving checks: the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay for trauma recovery services; Mary Lee's House for a child advocate position; Mary & Martha House for a smart table and software for ages 8 to 12; Champions for Children for its Kids on the Block puppet program to teach about child abuse and bullying.
Hobson ended the final grants award luncheon noting how far the group has come in seven years.
"People are more aware and we have come a long way," she said. "This is really, really sad but a few people can't do it all. We are sorry we can't continue — but there is always a brighter tomorrow."
Contact Lenora Lake at [email protected]