ForKids receives grant for local centers

Published 10:28 pm Friday, November 22, 2019

ForKids has received a $2.5 million grant from the Bezos Day 1 Families Fund, the organization announced Thursday.

The Bezos Day 1 Fund was launched in 2018 with a commitment of $2 billion from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. It focuses on funding existing nonprofits that help homeless families and creating a network of new, nonprofit tier-one preschools in low-income communities.

ForKids is one of 32 nonprofits across the United States to receive the second annual Day 1 Family Fund grants, as part of a broad investment to help solve family homelessness. Grants are considered on an invitation-only basis, according to an email from ForKids External Relations Manager Becky Lyle Pinkard, and the funds were released as part of National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week.

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“So many people in this community have worked incredibly hard to get ForKids to this moment and supported this project,” ForKids Board Chair Kelly Sokol stated in the press release. “We are proud to bring national funding into Hampton Roads to expand services for families.”

According to Pinkard, $250,000 of the $2.5 million grant will go towards the campaign to fund construction of the new ForKids Center for Children and Families in the South Norfolk area of Chesapeake.

The remaining $2.25 million will be for expanded services between the ForKids Center in Chesapeake and the Birdsong Center for Families that opened November 2018 in downtown Suffolk.

“Our proposal in the application to the Day 1 Families Fund was for support to help us maximize capacity of our two new centers, the Birdsong Center in Suffolk and the Center for Children and Families in Chesapeake, over the next five years.” ForKids Chief Executive Officer Thaler McCormick wrote in an email. “These are funds for extra capacity, not what we do today. It’s still very important to have community support.”

“The Day 1 Families Fund grant was awarded because Bezos wants to see us do more in the communities we serve.”

According to the press release, ForKids began as a grassroots shelter in the Ocean View neighborhood of Norfolk more than 30 years ago and now affects 70,000 individuals annually through its “data-informed holistic services, remedial education programs for children and a housing crisis hotline that serves as the service connection hub for 14 urban and rural municipalities across Southeastern Virginia.”

Their services include what Pinkard described as “wraparound services,” such as job coaching, mental health and education.

More than half of ForKids’ operating budget is funded through community contributions, and ForKids has been working to identify new funding sources to support the new, larger facility in Chesapeake, the press release states.

The grant will not decrease ForKids organization’s annual campaign, Pinkard wrote.

“Day 1 funds are to increase and enhance services. We still have to fund our current operations with approximately $3.5 million in community contributions,” she wrote.

The Bezos Day 1 Families Fund grant will fund shelter construction as well as shelter services, rapid re-housing and system improvements to the Housing Crisis hotline, which will allow ForKids to increase capacity from the first day in its new Chesapeake Center, which is expected to open in early 2021.

According to McCormick, “5,297 households with children contacted ForKids for assistance last year, but 941 families remained unsheltered due to lack of resources.”

“We will use these funds to reduce the number of families that are unsheltered in our community,” she wrote.