Eckerd to donate $1-million to YMCA
By CHRISTINA HEADRICK
© St. Petersburg Times, published April 27, 2001
CLEARWATER -- The $5.5-million renovation of the YMCA's Clearwater branch has received a huge boost from the Eckerd Family Foundation: a $1-million challenge grant. The foundation, guided by drugstore founder Jack Eckerd and his family, announced Thursday that it will offer up to $1-million to match the public's donations, dollar for dollar, toward the renovation of the YMCA at 1201 S Highland Ave.
The $1-million challenge will be one of the largest gifts the Eckerd Foundation has given since reorganizing three years ago with plans to donate as much as $100-million in 10 to 15 years.
Officials at the YMCA said they are thankful and hope that the public will step up to the challenge of contributing $1-million in pledges by the end of May 2002.
"We are so extremely pleased that we have received this vote of confidence from the Eckerd family," said G. Scott Goyer, president and chief executive officer of the YMCA of the Suncoast. "We hope that the community will respond really positively to this."
Eckerd Foundation president Joe Clark, who is married to one of Jack Eckerd's daughters, said the gift to the YMCA fits well with the foundation's new strategic plan. The organization decided in April to target investments that help at-risk youth develop to their fullest potential, Clark said.
The Eckerd family has been giving money for more than 30 years to programs that help youth, Clark said, including setting up a series of camps across the country.
The family foundation now plans to target programs that focus on education, vocational training or character building.
"In our view the YMCA focuses on giving kids the assets they need to grow up to be all they can be, and also on positive character development," Clark said. "Instead of just focusing on kids' deficits, the Y really focuses on developing assets. That was why we felt this was a compelling opportunity.
"The foundation is really going to try to leverage its investments to create some systemic change, to try to change the way we support children who are at risk as they grow up," Clark said.
The renovation of the YMCA will include the creation of a new teen center with activities such as Ping-Pong, construction of an indoor play gym for young kids and renovation of the locker rooms to include changing areas for families and people with special needs. The gymnasium and pool will get face-lifts, the chapel will be enlarged and if enough money is raised, an outdoor pool will be built.
Goyer said that the YMCA had been working on the Eckerd Foundation grant for several months, with the funds to be earmarked specifically for the renovations to improve programs for youth.
The Eckerd Foundation has also given a $1.25-million challenge grant to the Academy Prep school in St. Petersburg, as well as supporting after-school and day-care programs since reorganizing. More grants -- probably in the form of challenges -- are to come, Clark said.
"We feel that any investment we make ought to have an opportunity to be leveraged, and one of the most powerful ways you can do that is to make a challenge," Clark said. "Now when someone contributes, their contribution is being doubled or tripled."
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