Lauren Williams, director of development and compliance for the Gulf Coast Community Foundation, shares how the organization got started, how it promotes philanthropy locally and how it’s helping during the COVID-19 crisis.
WHAT DOES THE GCCF DO? WHAT IS ITS MISSION?
The Gulf Coast Community Foundation (“Community Foundation”) helps people with diverse interests invest in charitable causes to improve the quality of life in south Mississippi. We also provide administrative services for over 100 funds to help grassroots organizations achieve their charitable objectives.
WHEN AND HOW WAS IT FOUNDED, AND WHAT DIFFERENCE HAS IT MADE IN THE COMMUNITY?
The Community Foundation was founded 30 years ago when a group of concerned citizens saw the value of establishing a foundation to promote charitable giving locally. Over the past 30 years, the Community Foundation has distributed over $75 million to support a variety of charitable programs across south Mississippi.
HOW IS GCCF DIFFERENT THAN OTHER CHARITABLE ORGANIZATIONS ON THE COAST?
The Community Foundation plays a unique role by attracting, managing, and distributing millions of dollars to improve the lives of local people. Rather than focusing on a single cause, the Community Foundation supports a variety of charitable causes that strengthen and uplift the community. The focus of the Community Foundation is as broad as the interests of our donors. Whether a donor wants to focus on education, child advocacy, animal welfare, workforce development, downtown revitalization, the arts or programs to assist people in need, the Community Foundation helps donors fund causes that are meaningful to them.
WHAT’S NEW WITH GCCF? WHAT HAS THE ORGANIZATION DONE TO ASSIST PEOPLE DURING THE PANDEMIC?
In times of disaster, the Community Foundation is uniquely situated to respond to evolving community needs. Currently, the Community Foundation is working with local donors, utilizing our own disaster reserve funds and coordinating with national funders like the Knight Foundation and Kellogg Foundation to provide COVID relief funding.
Grants have been made to social service organizations to assist with food, medical care, childcare and housing. Additionally, grants have been made to nonprofits, museums, Mainstreet organizations and libraries to assist with operating safely during COVID. So far, the Community Foundation has distributed almost $250,000 in COVID relief grants.
WHAT’S COMING UP FOR GCCF THAT YOU’RE EXCITED ABOUT?
The Gulf Coast Community Foundation and six other state community foundations are partnering with the Mississippi Development Authority to administer a grant program that will provide CARES Act funds to reimburse eligible food pantries and nonprofit agencies for qualified COVID-19 expenses. Details are being finalized, and the Gulf Coast Community Foundation anticipates the grant program will be available to assist local organizations with grants of up to $4,000 within the coming months.