BC/EFA Grant a Lifesaver For Florida Food Pantry

By Andy Smith

Through the years, BC/EFA’s impact has spread well beyond the Broadway community, from service providers in cities and towns across America to agencies helping families in the South African bush. This month, we begin taking a closer look at some of the nearly 500 AIDS Service Organizations (ASOs) nationwide that have come to rely on grants from BC/EFA.

$5,000 may not sound like a fortune, but for Jacksonville, FL’s Mary H. Lewis Food Pantry, it means that more than 1,000 people on fixed incomes will get nutritional meals this year.

Broadway Cares made the grant to the pantry, an onsite service offered by the Northeast Florida AIDS Network, this summer. In 2004, a BC/EFA grant helped the pantry offer over 6,810 meals to 1,340 people in north Florida. The Mary H. Lewis pantry – named in memory of the client and volunteer who started it – provides non-perishable foods, personal care items and bus tokens to NFAN clients.

“The thoughtfulness, generosity and support provided by members outside the Jacksonville community – such as you – have assisted our agency in meeting the most basic needs of the people we serve,” wrote NFAN’s Executive Director William Rollo.

Founded in 1989, NFAN is the only ASO serving five counties spread along the northeast Florida coast, including Amelia Island, historic St. Augustine and Jacksonville, geographically America’s largest city.

With 14 full-time employees, two part-timers, and a core group of 12 volunteers, NFAN provides case management, an insurance continuation program, housing support, and a children’s program. Rollo says his organization has been fortunate; it’s been able to maintain staff and most services despite federal cutbacks. “We’re a title one EMA and our funding was cut by $350,000. Fortunately, we’ve been able to fill in the gaps,” he says.

Rollo adds that in addition to financial grants, NFAN has benefited from donations of signed Broadway show posters – like the ones we auction off on eBay – which the ASO sold at its annual silent auction.

“Without the support of Broadway Cares, we wouldn’t be able to do a lot of what we do now,” Rollo says. “It means so much to our clients, because when you’re living on a Social Security check, it’s just not enough.”