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United Way awards $180,000 in funding for youth enrichment via new racial equity grants program

July 3, 2024

The grants are made possible by Miller Electric Company’s $1 million commitment to racial equity.


Jacksonville, Fla. (July 3, 2024) – United Way of Northeast Florida announced today $180,000 in grants awarded to grassroots organizations supporting youth enrichment. Thirty organizations received funding, powered by Miller Electric Company’s $1 million investment in racial equity given to United Way in 2020. Awards per organization ranged from $5,000 to $20,000 depending on the size and capacity of the grassroots organization.

The grants support programs designed to enhance the development, skills and well-being of young people. Some examples of youth enrichment programs include but are not limited to character education and mentoring; career exploration and skill development; personal development; leadership development; community service and volunteering; and arts and culture opportunities.

“This new grant initiative reflects a pivotal moment in our organization’s journey to address needs identified in our recent equity needs assessment and support the impactful work of neighborhood organizations,” said Melanie Patz, president and CEO of United Way. “Knowing organizations for this grant funding would be smaller and have limited experience with grant processes, we intentionally worked to remove barriers to demonstrate the value of equity in our grantmaking.”

“We at Miller Electric Company are deeply proud to support United Way of Northeast Florida’s thoughtful and impactful approach to advancing racial equity in Jacksonville,” said Patty Keenan, chief talent officer at Miller Electric Company and United Way board member. “Their commitment to understanding community needs and breaking down barriers to funding reflects our shared values and dedication to fostering a more inclusive and equitable society. Investing in youth enrichment programs is investing in the future of our community, ensuring that every young person has the opportunity to thrive and contribute their unique talents.”

To qualify for a grant, applicants simply needed to operate in Northeast Florida; be an established nonprofit or community-based organization for at least two years in underserved communities; serve a population that is 50% or more racial minorities; have a track record of addressing racial equity issues; and not currently be funded by United Way.

“These racial equity microgrants are a first for our organization in our 100-year history and are only the beginning of our direct investment in minority-serving organizations,” said James Ellout, vice president of community impact at United Way. “United Way seeks to cultivate transformational relationships with on-the-ground organizations driving equity work and, together, make significant strides in dismantling inequities across Northeast Florida.”

The following 30 organizations received microgrants:

  • Annie Ruth Foundation
  • CARES Justice Institute Inc.
  • Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center
  • Empowerment Academy Inc.
  • First Coast Esports Alliance Inc.
  • Gameface 4:13 Training Academy
  • I Am The Prize, Inc.
  • The Jacksonville Alliance of Gentlemen
  • Jacksonville Arts & Music School
  • Jacksonville Gullah Geechee Nation Community Development Corporation
  • Jacksonville Urban League, Inc.
  • Just Food Network
  • Krumpin 4 Success, Inc.
  • Level the Playing Field Leadership Academy
  • Melanin Collaborative Group, Inc.
  • Moore Myers Children’s Fund
  • The Moxie Group
  • MyVillage Project, Inc.
  • New Town Oasis Marketplace, Inc.
  • New Hope Education and Addiction Services, Inc.
  • Operation Save Our Sons
  • Pearls of Perfection
  • Planned to A.T., Inc.
  • Saint James AME Church
  • The Soyini Circles Girls Corp
  • Timucuan Parks Foundation
  • Urban Geoponics
  • US and Our Children
  • Walk-Off Charities of Jax, Inc.

“The racial equity microgrants initiative is a testament to United Way’s commitment to addressing disparities and supporting community groups, nonprofits and grassroots entities focused on bridging racial equity gaps,” said Dr. Richard Danford, president of the Jacksonville Urban League. “We look forward to continuing our partnership with United Way and working toward our shared goal of making a meaningful impact in our community.”

“We are truly inspired by United Way of Northeast Florida’s commitment to advancing racial equity and creating pathways to opportunity for all members of our community,” said Sonia Roberts, executive director of Empowerment Academy, Inc. “The awarding of this grant, along with United Way’s partnership, will be invaluable to us as we work to tear down the barriers that prevent every student from having the opportunity to reach their full potential.”

In 2023, thanks again to the support of the Miller Electric Company, United Way commissioned a Community Equity Needs Assessment in partnership with 904WARD and the University of North Florida. The assessment examined community needs in Duval, Baker, Clay, Nassau and St. Johns counties through a racial equity lens.

Overall data from this report inspired the establishment of United Way’s Racial Equity Microgrant Program focused on developing innovative solutions to address racial inequities through partnerships with community groups, nonprofit organizations and grassroots entities unable to participate in traditional United Way grant processes.

According to the report, crime and safety were of high concern. While data showed declines in youth arrests during the COVID-19 pandemic, Northeast Florida saw a 9% increase in juvenile arrests from 2021 to 2023. According to the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, 80% percent of juvenile arrests in Duval County alone were youth of color.

Additionally, United Way’s latest ALICE Report once again reveals disparities in financial hardship in Northeast Florida with 51% of Black households and 44% of Hispanic households in Northeast Florida below the ALICE threshold compared to 34% of white households. Age is also a factor in financial hardship, with 63% of individuals under age 25 struggling to make ends meet.

“This financial strain makes it impossible for families to have extra resources available to invest in quality developmental programming for their children,” said Ellout. “There is a clear need to boost programmatic offerings in neighborhoods where youth of color live to fill this gap in program availability. The realities of ALICE and juvenile arrests in Northeast Florida are just two examples pointing to a need to investment in programming for youth of color.”

To read the entire the Community Equity Needs Assessment, visit unitedwaynefl.org/racial-equity. To request an interview with United Way leadership and/or a microgrant recipient, contact Sarah Henderson, vice president of marketing and communications, at sarahh@nulluwnefl.org or 904-300-8366. If you are an organization seeking more information on United Way grant opportunities, please email unitedwaygrants@nulluwnefl.org


About United Way of Northeast Florida

Celebrating 100 years of serving and uniting our community, United Way of Northeast Florida has earned a reputation as a respected and efficient philanthropic organization. United Way envisions a community of opportunity where everyone has hope and can reach their full potential. The organization’s mission is to solve Northeast Florida’s toughest challenges by connecting people, resources and ideas. United Way focuses on improving economic mobility in the following impact areas: basic needs, financial well-being and racial equity. The nonprofit organization’s long tradition of addressing the human-service needs in Duval, Baker, Clay, Nassau and northern St. Johns counties is made possible through the commitment of thousands of volunteers, donors and community partners. To learn more, visit unitedwaynefl.org, or follow United Way of Northeast Florida on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn and X, formerly known as Twitter.