Five local charitable or nonprofit organizations, ranging from schools to environmental agencies, received grants from the Gulf Power Foundation totaling more than $32,000 to support communities throughout Northwest Florida. 

“The Gulf Power Foundation’s mission is to support our communities where we live and work, and to improve the lives of Northwest Florida residents,” said Sandy Sims, executive director for the Gulf Power Foundation. “We are honored to be able to provide these grants to help our community and the Gulf Power Foundation is committed to helping build a strong and sustainable region.”  

Each quarter, the Gulf Power Foundation accepts grant applications from charitable and non-profit organizations from across Northwest Florida. The most recent quarterly grant recipients are: 

  • A.K. Suter Elementary PTA: $3,825. A.K. Suter, a Title 1 public school, will use this grant to purchase Lego Robotics kits. The kits will be used to teach hands-on science lessons that enhance students’ curiosity and science skills. 
  • Florida Institute for Human & Machine Cognition: $8,500. Science Saturdays are a hands-on science program for grades 3 through 6, with events every month during the school year. Each month features a different science topic with an emphasis on engaging science opportunities for local youth, with the goal of contributing to their increased enthusiasm and motivation for science in school. 
  • Longleaf Alliance: $10,000. Cogongrass is an invasive species that is a considerable threat to longleaf pine ecosystems. This grant will help with expanding Cogongrass Control in the Gulf Coast Plain Ecosystem Partnership (GCPEP) Landscape. The Longleaf Alliance is currently focusing on the area around Blackwater River State Park, all river corridors in Northwest Florida, and private landowner opportunities in Escambia, Santa Rosa, Walton and Okaloosa counties. 
  • Matty Kelly Arts Foundation: $5,000. The Foundation partners with veteran support groups and local military installations to provide creative therapeutic and resiliency opportunities for active-duty military and veterans with visible and invisible injuries. The Warrior Arts program includes the Zentangle drawing method which promotes mindfulness and relaxation, Improv comedy workshops for resiliency, communication, teambuilding and painting classes held in a therapy group setting. 
  • YMCA of Northwest Florida: $5,000. The YMCA would use the funds to purchase a BEAM Projector Activity System. A BEAM projection gaming solution system turns any space into an immersive gaming experience or interactive playground for children. The BEAM mounts on the ceiling and projects images and games onto the floor and walls, encouraging children to be active as they run and jump on the projected images. It also assists with brain development and motor skills. 

Grant spotlight: Florida Institute for Human & Machine Cognition 

IHMC is a not-for-profit research institute of the Florida University System and is affiliated with several Florida universities. Researchers at IHMC pioneer technologies aimed at leveraging and extending human capabilities. In addition to performing world-class research, IHMC is active in community outreach. 

“The grant from the Gulf Power Foundation will support Science Saturdays, our STEM outreach program for Pensacola-area youth in grades three through six,” said Ursula M. Schwuttke, director for educational outreach for IHMC. “Science Saturdays offer hands-on STEM opportunities, one Saturday a month between September and April. Each Saturday features a different science or technology topic, and is taught by a different scientist, engineer or technologist who is passionate about the topic and about helping to make a difference in educational opportunities for kids. 

“With this grant, it is possible to offer the Science Saturdays program free of charge to all attendees,” Schwuttke added. “This is particularly important for recruiting families from underserved or economically-disadvantaged communities. As far as we are aware, there are very few, if any, other free STEM programs in Escambia or Santa Rosa County.” 

Grant spotlight: Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation 

The Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation is a nonprofit arts organization comprised of members, volunteers and community partners building the foundation of arts and culture in the Okaloosa-Walton community for the past 26 years. MKAF has inspired more than 337,800 children in over 75 schools and partner agencies through community education initiatives like ArtReach, which serves K-12 students, at-risk youth, people with disabilities and the military population with visible and invisible injuries. 

“This grant will support our Warrior Arts program, a key initiative of ArtsReach that partners with veteran support groups and local military installations to provide creative therapeutic and resiliency opportunities for active duty military and veterans with visible and invisible injuries,” said Melanie Moore, education director for MKAF. “MKAF’s fastest growing program, Warrior Arts includes the Zentangle drawing method promoting mindfulness, and painting classes – typically in small group settings overseen by veteran therapists.” 

For veterans experiencing post-traumatic stress, the arts can provide opportunities to express, process or reframe painful experiences; or assists them in staying in the present moment. Hyper-vigilence, intrusive memories and avoidance reactions are often noticeably reduced through art-based relaxation techniques.  

“Overall, MKAF offers the opportunity for individuals to experience the empowering process of creating something new and gaining artistic skills,” Moore said. “Thanks to generous support from the Gulf Power Foundation, Warrior Arts programs have nearly doubled their impact with around 70 programs scheduled for 2021.” 

The Gulf Power Foundation has operated for 30 years as an independent 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization, partnering and investing in communities throughout Northwest Florida. The Foundation is one of the region’s largest corporate foundations, funded entirely through resources independent of Gulf Power’s customers. Learn more about the Foundation and its quarterly grant program here: https://www.gulfpowerfoundation.com/.