SUN CITY CENTER — The Community Foundation of Tampa Bay has long extended grants and endowments to the Sun City Center area.
Now, the foundation will commission a first-of-its-kind study to ensure future allocations meet the changing needs of the community. The University of South Florida's Urban Studies students, led by Robin Ersing, an associate professor in the School of Social Work, and USF's Florida Institute of Government will conduct the six-month study.
The results will guide the foundation and its advisory group, the South Shore Council, which through donors and legacy endowments left by former Sun City Center and King's Point residents, granted almost $1.4 million in 2014 to area nonprofits.
"The foundation wants to know that we are making the best decisions and the money is going the right way," said Wilma Norton, the foundation's vice president of marketing and communications. "Donors are more interested these days in accomplishing something with their money, so we'll have statistics to know if we're moving the needle on huger, medical needs and other areas of challenges."
Rick Rios, chairman of the South Shore Council, who has been working in Sun City Center for 23 years, says the council works on a definitive grant process, with nonprofits submitting requests and lengthy applications, but because of the study, nothing will preclude the council from requesting grants of a specific type.
"We don't always see all of the needs as they exist," Rios said. "For example, if we find hunger is a pressing need, and I'm seeing people with hunger issues in Sun City Center, which surprises me, we can entertain grant requests.
"This will allow us to be more proactive, so we can end the problems, ideally, maybe five years down the road. We feel such an obligation to our community and it's very important we don't forget our roots — our donors."
According to USF Florida Institute of Government director Angela Crist, student researchers will gather social, physical and economic data from the Sun City Center community at large using mapping software to determine the geographic parameters and setting a baseline of trends they determine from key points of collected data.
The effort will begin with a prestudy community orientation this month, followed by data collection, stakeholder interviews with key community leaders in January, resident focus groups from January through March, data analysis and a community poststudy meeting in April.
A final report and community presentation is slated for early June 2016, where recommendations from the public will be welcomed.
Contact Kathryn Moschella at [email protected]