Charities of the Wine Festival: Deciding which nonprofits get grants is tough call

Michel Fortier/Staff
Ferrari delivered their latest model, the F12berlinetta to be displayed at the Naples Philharmonic Thursday afternoon in Naples as part of a public showing for those who intend to bid on the car this Saturday at the Naples Winter Wine Festival.  The exotic, 730 horsepower car is the only example in North America currently.  The winning bidder will receive the F12berlinetta car months before it becomes available to the general public.

Photo by MICHEL FORTIER // Buy this photo

Michel Fortier/Staff Ferrari delivered their latest model, the F12berlinetta to be displayed at the Naples Philharmonic Thursday afternoon in Naples as part of a public showing for those who intend to bid on the car this Saturday at the Naples Winter Wine Festival. The exotic, 730 horsepower car is the only example in North America currently. The winning bidder will receive the F12berlinetta car months before it becomes available to the general public.

Ferrari to be auctioned at Wine Festival

F12berlinetta displayed at Naples Philharmonic.

— Selecting which children's charities will be aided by the Naples Winter Wine Festival isn't an easy mission.

Throughout the year, officials of the Naples Children & Education Foundation, which sponsors the annual event, meet to review 50 to 75 applications. Only half to a third of the requests can be met.

"The process is very thorough, very deep and lengthy when applications are evaluated," said Maria Jimenez-Lara, the foundation's grants director.

The foundation raises millions annually through a Saturday afternoon auction that includes exotic trips, rare wines, custom jewels and once-in-a-lifetime experiences. The 2013 event is this weekend.

Today, there are 24 charities, including the Boys & Girls Club of Collier Country and the NCEF Pediatric Dental Center, that get financial support from the foundation.

Program leaders, such as those at Boys & Girls Club, which has received the largest-ever grant of $1 million, credit the foundation and community with providing the resources needed for their program.

"The majority of our children are those children who are underserved and at-risk children in Collier County," said Theresa Shaw, president of the Boys & Girls Club of Collier County.

With the foundation's support, Shaw said, the Boys & Girls Club has been able to offer a summer learning program to more than 1,100 children at their East Naples campus.The summer, full-day program provides an academic and personal enrichment program for children ages 6 to 18. The grant pays for the staffing, curriculum, transportation, snacks and field trips.

Shaw said the programs allow the center to evaluate each child's performance. The foundation's grants also support the club's Immokalee initiative, serving nearly 500 children.

If it weren't for the foundation's support, Shaw said, the Boys & Girls Club wouldn't be able to serve that number of children.

The Boys & Girls Club has been a beneficiary since the foundation's inception, but there still are more children that need help in Collier County.

Boys & Girls Club staff members are constantly trying to find new ways to secure funding to sustain all of its year-round programs, Shaw said.

"The more that all of us can do, the better for the community and the better for the children," Shaw said. "The more opportunities children have earlier in life, the more prepared they will be for the future."

The NCEF Pediatric Dental Center, which opened in 2008, also receives support from the foundation.

The University of Florida College of Dentistry formally proposed building a "World-Class Oral Health Program in Collier County" to the foundation in October 2006 and the center received a grant in 2007. The project has received grants over seven years.

The clinic had more than 16,000 patient visits in 2012, said Lauren Governale, a University of Florida College of Dentistry clinical associate professor and NCEF Pediatric Dental Center clinic director.

This is the sixth of a week-long look at children's charities aided by the Naples Children & Education Foundation, sponsors of next weekend's annual Naples Winter Wine Festival.

"There is no doubt that the oral health of underserved children in Collier County has been significantly improved since the opening of the NCEF Pediatric Dental Center," Governale said in a prepared statement. "We hope to expand our activities with an emphasis on community outreach, health education and disease prevention with the current new grant request to NCEF."

The Naples Winter Wine Festival has raised more than $100 million in 12 years. In the past few years, the average number of beneficiaries has been 24, Jimenez-Lara said.

Applications were due in September 2012. Several meetings were held over the next few months to review the requests with the grant committee, she said. The committee makes sure the applicants meet the criteria and mission of the foundation.

"Our goal is to meet the needs of disadvantaged children in the community," Jimenez-Lara said.

The foundation's grant committee has nine trustees who make recommendations to the board of the trustees for charity approvals, said Karen Scott, foundation trustee and grant committee chairwoman.

The grant committee follows the bylaws set forth by founders of the foundation, Scott said.

"NCEF's primary goal is to ensure funds raised at the Naples Winter Wine Festival are utilized to improve the physical, emotional and educational lives of underserved and at-risk children in Collier County by providing charitable grants to organizations that are not-for-profit and provide services that meet these specific needs in our community," Jimenez-Lara said.

Scott echoed Jimenez-Lara.

The foundation's guidelines stipulate that it doesn't financially support faith-based programs or faith-based projects.

"NCEF supports programs, not religious causes or teachings," said Scott's husband, Bob Scott, foundation trustee and former board chairman in a prepared statement.

Moreover, the foundation won't provide money to the following through its traditional grant cycle process: grants to individuals, "pass-through" grants, political campaigns, scholarly or medical research, annual campaigns and private or public schools.

The new group of recipients will be announced in March and will start getting their grant money in July.

Last year, more than $12 million was raised but the foundation doesn't set a dollar amount as a goal for each wine festival.

"No matter how much is raised, it's more money for the children in our community," Jimenez-Lara said.

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