Racing To Help The Homeless
Written by Jessica Pilkins
Charlotte County Homeless Coalition Derby January 24 – May 5
This month, the historic 138th annual Kentucky Derby will take place in Louisville, Kentucky at Churchill Downs. May 5 marks the event this year, and will be celebrated with race goers dressing in their biggest hats and drinking mint juleps while watching the race. Locally, one organization has been using the appeal and popularity of the derby for a race-like fundraiser that raises money to help the homeless within our community.
The Charlotte County Homeless Coalition (CCHC) has spent the last four months holding its own Derby-like race, only this one involves teams of people racing to raise the most money through individual fundraisers and campaigns. The CCHC Derby began on January 24 with a Starting Gate party. It will end on May 5 with a Derby Day party. Team members as well as the public are invited to attend the event.
Between January 24 and May 5, teams of supporters and volunteers have been planning and holding creative events and activities all over town to raise money to put them in the lead. Team events included an array of different fundraisers, such as wine tastings, food drives, garage sales, bowling tournaments and, pancake breakfasts and more. “It’s to see who can get to the finish line first,” explaineds Tina Figliuolo, CCHC director of development and community relations. “And that will be determined by who raised the most money.”
This is only the second year the coalition has held this fundraiser and it is already their second largest money raiser for the organization. In 2011, the derby’s goal was $60,000. They exceeded that goal, bringing in $80,000. This year there are 12 teams participating and the goal is $80,000. The money that teams raise goes towards operating costs and direct client services for the CCHC. The event has “grown from the number of teams participating and we are moving towards and above our goal,” said Tina.
Teams come up with names similar to that of a derby horse’s. Anyone in the community can participate or start their own team and many are made up of families, corporations, businesses or other organizations and clubs. Each team has a ‘trainer’ (like a captain) who leads the team in meetings and planning. The Homeless Coalition has one staff member who supports each team and provides them with a training manual and resources for fundraising activities.
The Charlotte County Homeless Coalition was founded in 1989 and assists individuals and families in need. The organization consists of four main programs that deal with hot meals, food pantry, shelter and homeless prevention. The hot meals program serves breakfast and dinner seven days a week, 365 days a year. A three-day supply of food is distributed to needy families from the food pantry program each week. Emergency shelter is available for people who are truly without a home. They are offered a place to stay for up to 60 days, free of charge. Individuals and families who are at risk of becoming homeless can receive financial assistance for rent or utilities with the prevention program, to help them remain on their feet in their own homes. While it is too late to join this year’s derby, it’s not too early to start a team for the 2013 Derby. Teams must be signed up by January for the Starting Gate Party. The Homeless Coalition is always in need of more help. Community members can help by donating money as well as volunteering their time. Each month more than 600 volunteers give their time and talent to provide services to those in need.
The Victory Party on May 5 will be held at the Isles Yacht Club, located at 1780 West Marion Avenue in Punta Gorda from 4:30 PM – 8:00 PM. Attendees will be able to watch the Kentucky Derby on a big screen and are encouraged to dress in their best Kentucky Derby attire, big hats included. There will be food, derby games, raffles and specialty derby drinks. The winner’s trophy will be passed off from last year’s winner to this year’s winner. Tickets are $45 per person. For more information on the Charlotte County Homeless Coalition or to attend the Derby Victory Party, call Tina Figliuolo at (941)
627-4313 ext. 118 or visit www.cchomelesscoalition.org.