What better time to make a powerful push for good? Impact Oklahoma awarded $185,000 in grants to five charities at its annual meeting – held virtually – in May, with $100,000 going to St. Luke’s Meals on Wheels, a ministry of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church. The money will fund the Elder Eats program, which will provide nutritional food and wellness visits to seniors five days a week.
Candice Hillenbrand, director of mission engagement at St. Luke’s and author of the Elder Eats project, says the concept is simple.
“The idea is to meet the nutritional needs of homebound and semi-homebound seniors who want to pay for their meals,” she said. “The meals will generate revenue to help fund the Meals on Wheels lunch program.”
Page Beatty founded Impact Oklahoma in 2005. She had seen coverage of Impact Cincinnati, and discussed it with a women’s group she met with regularly.
“The money from the grants has to go toward funding a novel project,” says Donna Brogan, a board member and communications chair. “The nonprofit can’t just use the funds for salaries or overhead.”
“A thousand dollars here or there is helpful,” Brogan says, “but the money just goes into the general account and takes care of day-to-day stuff. Get enough thousands together, and you can make a real impact. That’s the idea behind the Impact organizations. When Page put the idea out there, 106 members joined the first year.”
Impact is not a formally structured national organization in the sense that local groups are autonomous. Brogan called them a loose, informal affiliation, but all work on the same model: Recruit members who give $1,000 each, and then give the money away in sums large enough to help with charitable programs. One hundred percent of the membership donations go to charity.
Applicants write grants in five categories: health and wellness, culture, family, education and community. Impact Oklahoma has a group tasked with vetting the applications to see that they meet minimum criteria such as novel program and nonprofit status, and then a committee is appointed for each category. Each committee considers the applications and narrows them down to three. The final 15 are submitted to the board.
“All 15 finalists receive site visits,” Brogan says. “We meet the board members, tour the facilities, ask specific questions, etc. All members of Impact get a vote, and then the winner is announced at the annual meeting.”
Impact Oklahoma gives away all of the funds available each year. This year, with $185,000 available, St. Luke’s Meals on Wheels received the large grant, and the other four finalists split the remaining $85,000 equally. Brogan said the group has raised as much as $300,000 in one year in the past – in those years, three grants of $100,000 were awarded.
The other finalists this year were Good Shepherd, a ministry of the First Baptist Church of Oklahoma City that offers free medical and dental services to the homeless and others affected by poverty in the city; El Sistema Oklahoma, the youth orchestra program; Oklahoma City Community College Foundation’s mentorship program; and Camp Fire Heart of Oklahoma. All work to improve the quality of life or OKC-area residents, and now their efforts will have a little more impact.