Lakeland Volunteers in Medicine was one of 10 groups awarded a $2,500 grant. | OMS Group

To celebrate its 25th anniversary, Lakeland-based payroll and human resources company OMS Group (Outsource Management Solutions) gave away $25,000 to ten local nonprofit groups nominated by the company’s employees. Each group received a $2,500 grant. Nine of the 10 are listed as leading nonprofits on the GiveWell Community Foundation website. Directors of all the organizations told LkldNow how they are using the funds and how grants in general help them meet their budget requirements.

Boys & Girls Club of Polk County

Boys and Girls Clubs of Polk County

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Polk County uses grants for programs that help at-risk children and their families.

Grants director Ashley Ray said the $2,500 grant will help with program costs during after-school and summer sessions that include: tutoring, sports, health and wellness, academic enrichment and workforce readiness. All services are provided at no cost to families.

Like other nonprofits, funds come from different segments of the giving community.

“Our resource development efforts are focused on individual and corporate donations which currently account for 40% of our budget, with a target of 50% within the next three years,” Ray said.

She added that there is a financial benefit to individuals and businesses in the community that invest in youth. In addition to serving over 180,000 meals per year “….the mentoring, exercise and academic support improves high school graduation, reduces crime and teen pregnancy, and we do it for free,” she said.

These outcomes are only possible through support from both individuals and companies that realize money invested equals benefits for the community, she said.

Gospel Inc.

Gospel Inc. provides permanent housing and work opportunities for people struggling with recurring homeless situations.

Executive director Brian Seeley said the $2,500 has been added to operations funding “…which ultimately provides permanent supportive housing for people experiencing chronic homelessness, and in addition, provides work opportunities for them at Gospel Village.”

Work at Gospel Village enables many of the residents to contribute towards their rent, Seeley said.

A recent boost to resident housing came from the Polk County Commission after they handed over $800,000 in COVID-19 relief funds to Gospel Inc. to build tiny homes and apartments.

“About 80% of our funding is through private donations,” Seeley said. “We receive some funding through the county, city and other grantors like Baycare Health, banks, GiveWell Community Foundation and other private foundations. Much of our private donations come through fundraising events.”

A fundraising event, scheduled at Bonnet Springs Park on April 6, will feature food, entertainment and a preview of an upcoming documentary release. Another showing of the first documentary series will be in November at the Polk Theatre.

Idols Aside

Idols Aside has ministry teams aimed at youth in two states: Florida and Kentucky.

Director Mark Wright said the 15-year-old ministry has had its Lakeland office and program for almost six years with a large outreach into schools. The focus is on single-parent homes.

“The biggest problem is the broken home,” Wright said. “Almost 40 percent of children in Polk (County) come from a broken home.”

Wright said OMS funds are being used for youth and mentorship programs through local schools.

“We have a hunting lodge on 100 acres in Lake Wales for boys and girls that we scholarship for retreats and sports camps,” he said. “Clothing is provided for hunting or fishing trips. The cost is $360 to $400 a year per kid with discipleship materials.”

Wright said Idols Aside is primarily a privately funded ministry: 75% of funding is from business owners, grants, and foundations. The remaining 25% is from banquets, churches and individuals. The annual fundraisers are two banquets every year.

Wright said the ministry’s connection to Lakeland is strong, in part because of his grandfather, Jim Welch, a founder of Lighthouse Ministries Inc.

“I’m thankful for the continued relationship to fight for the fatherless,” he said.

Lakeland Symphony Orchestra

The Lakeland Symphony Orchestra, with an office on the campus of Florida Southern College, has a history dating to 1965 when a group of 30 musicians got together calling themselves the Lakeland Civic Symphony. The orchestra is now 60 professionally trained and auditioned musicians. (LSO was renamed in 2021 after 30 years as the Imperial Symphony Orchestra).

LSO executive director Ashley M. Miller said the OMS funds were designated for the group’s recent annual opera, now in its 21st year.

“The funds donated by OMS group assisted the LSO in sharing a full-scale opera production of Cavalleria Rusticana on January 21st at Branscomb Auditorium at Florida Southern College,” Miller said.

The LSO’s annual operating budget combines a variety of funding: nearly 70% of the organization’s financing is from foundations, grants and individual donors, Miller said.

“Without donors like OMS Group, the LSO would not be able to offer the ongoing programs that enrich, inspire and entertain audiences throughout Polk County and beyond,” she said.

Lakeland Volunteers in Medicine (LVIM)

Lakeland Volunteers in Medicine is focused on meeting the healthcare needs of 2,500 active patients who are employed but uninsured, and earning less than 200% of the federal poverty level. Statistics from the county’s Health and Human Services Indigent Health Care department indicate nearly 49,000 people in Polk County don’t have health insurance.

President and CEO Alice Koehler said healthcare covers not only medical but dental and mental health. The organization offers diagnostic testing, lab tests, ultrasound scans and X-rays at no cost. LVIM also operates a full-service pharmacy, funded by the United Way of Central Florida. The $2,500 OMS grant was designated for immediate needs.

“It was used, unrestricted, for patient care,” Koehler said.

Koehler said the annual operating budget of $2.5 million comes from a variety of sources. About 34% is from grants and 52% comes from contributions, including a portion from the county government’s ½ cent sales tax. LVIM’s major fundraiser, The Swan Derby, set for April 28, provides about 7% of the organization’s funding.

“Patientwise, with new federal poverty guidelines, there will be a wider pool of people qualifying for eligible services through indigent healthcare,” Koehler said.

Lighthouse Ministries Inc.

Lighthouse Ministries, which has expanded its programs from its 1977 beginning as Lighthouse Rescue Mission, has been busy sponsoring comedy nights, called Lighthouse Laughs events, for the past few months at different churches around Polk.

The group’s mission focuses on applying the Gospel of Jesus Christ to meet the physical, emotional and other needs of the poor and at-risk population of west central Florida. The organization incorporates its fight against homelessness with a food program, a separate men’s and women’s residential program, a work program, and child care.

In addition to shelter and clothing, support from donors and individuals provides job training, counseling, case management, recovery, preschool and a kid care after school program. Details of the exact use of OMS funds was not available at publishing.

LkldNow is independent community journalism, published on the web as well as Instagram, Facebook and email newsletters. The nearly 8-year-old news site, offered to readers at no charge, is public-service-oriented with a focus on efforts to improve Lakeland and the lives of its residents.

“The $2,500 grant was used for more quality reporting,” said executive director, Trinity Laurino. “The goal is to deliver news and a certain amount of content to the community.”

Grants and local business support make up 60% of operating funds for the news website, while donors comprise 40% of support, Laurino said. is overseen by the nonprofit organization Linking Community Now Inc.

Noah’s Ark of Central Florida Inc.

Noah’s Ark is a residential community for adults, 18 or older, who have intellectual and/or developmental disabilities. The program provides educational and vocational training geared to help its 146 residents stay independent, work or volunteer in the community.

The organization includes several locations: The Villages at Noah’s Landing in north Lakeland and Noah’s Nest, a group of supportive-living homes for residents near Lake Morton that opened in 2003.

Director for the Advancement of Philanthropy, Cindy Haer, said although developmental disabilities is currently used as a descriptive term, people working with this group of adults now prefer to use the phrase “adults with unique capabilities.”

OMS funds of $2,500 were directed into the organization’s operating funds to support activities and field trips as well as educational and vocational training, Haer said.

“Our major sources of funding are primarily from fundraising efforts through grants, donations and events,” she said, declining to give specific percentages. “Grants are a huge source [of funds] along with individual or corporate donations.”

Haer said Noah’s Ark is in the process of working to build a “solid philanthropic foundation.”

Residents pay for rent and activity fees. Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, the annual operating funds came from charitable contributions and individual donors, she said. But those funds were impacted when residents went home during the pandemic.

In addition to funding, community partnerships are very valuable, Haer said. Volunteers with Publix Serves, made up of Publix store associates, spend a day with residents and work in the garden. A local Kiwanis group helped residents form a Kiwanis ‘Aktion Club’ of 33 members with a charter last year. In addition, a tennis tournament sponsored by Lamar vice president and general manager, Jim Maskas, raised over $100,000 for Noah’s Ark in November 2022.

Parker Street Ministries

Parker Street Ministries, founded in the late 1990s in a blighted Midtown neighborhood, has continued to evolve as a Gospel-centered community development concept centered on engaging students and their families.

The year-round Academic Enrichment Program provides homework help, math and reading digital literacy diagnostics, along with safe technology. The curriculum includes race relations, financial literacy and physical fitness. To meet the needs of high school youth PSM staff offer a financial and job skills program to prepare students for life beyond the classroom.

Sarah Breed, development director for PSM, said the 54% of the organization’s 2022 budget came from grants and individuals who gave through foundations. About 45% was from churches, businesses and individuals who gave directly to PSM. The remaining 1% was from the City of Lakeland grants.

Executive director Tim Mitchell said Lakeland is a giving community.

“Over the last three years as the COVID-19 pandemic kept us from holding our annual fundraiser, our supporters stepped up in amazing ways to continue taking care of this neighborhood in a particularly difficult season,” Mitchell said. “We are so grateful!”

VISTE (Volunteers in Service to the Elderly)

VISTE has good reason to celebrate this year. The organization is marking its 40th anniversary in 2023 of helping the frail elderly continue to live in their homes by providing practical services such as hot meals or care boxes, and building wheelchair ramps.

President Steve Bissonnette, who celebrated his 8th year in leadership with VISTE on Jan. 15, said the $2,500 grant met an immediate need.

“The funds were applied to Visteball sponsorship, our annual fundraiser,” Bissonnette said.

The VISTEBall, held Feb. 4, was the first in-person event after three years due to pandemic closures. A final account of funds is not complete, he said.

“Our grants are a big part, a significant part, of our annual income, which is from foundations, corporations and local government,” he said.

VISTE’s operating funds include 20% from annual fundraising; 35% from local governments; 25% from individuals; and 15% from foundations and corporations.

“We rely on grants, it’s our idea of partnership,” Bissonnette said.

Bissonnette said OMS has supported VISTE for many years, with employees volunteering their time in different service areas.

“They have provided us with technical assistance and support on employee benefits,” he said. “We haven’t had much in a benefits package. OMS helped us to add additional benefits and allows us to keep costs manageable.”

The organization has more than 4,000 clients who range in age from 70 to over 100 years old.

LkldNow – represented by founder Barry Friedman, reporter Kimberly C. Moore, and executive director Trinity Laurino – was honored to be one of the 10 nonprofit organizations awarded a $2,500 grant. | OMS Group

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