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A Creative Solution to Fund Startup Costs for New Autism Services at Easterseals Happiness House

When Manatee Community Foundation donor advisors Steve and Sara Bayard learned that a short-term loan from their Fund could give Easterseals Happiness House the start-up capital they needed for new autism-related programming, they jumped right in.

The idea arose in response to a grant from the State of Florida, which will award Easterseals funds in excess of $2 million to add early diagnosis of autism and virtual reality for employment for young adults with autism. The new services are innovative for our area. Startup costs are reimbursed after delivery of services, approximately 3-6 months from the beginning of the grant.

“The Program Related Investment (PRI) from Manatee Community Foundation of $300,000 will allow us to hire staff and begin the program in an efficient and cost-effective way,” said Tom Waters, President and CEO of Easterseals.

“This method of making a difference is not only creative but a great example of how public private partnership can create long-term sustainable programming in critical areas such as autism and disabilities.”

According to Manatee Community Foundation Executive Director Susie Bowie, the donors worked with the foundation to create a no-interest loan agreement through the end of February 2020, allowing Easterseals enough time to repay the short-term debt and the Bayards an opportunity to recommend new charitable purposes for their philanthropic dollars once repaid.

Though the Bayards’ foremost philanthropic interests are food security and the Manatee Performing Arts Center (a previous Program Related Investment by the Bayards), they believe in the PRI model because of the unique challenges they recognize in nonprofit businesses.

“To whom much is given, much is expected,” says Steve Bayard of his personal belief about philanthropy. “It is our community. It is what we each make it.”

Manatee Community Foundation partners with citizens to strengthen and enhance the community through philanthropy, education, and service—now and forever. Since 1998, it has awarded more than $31 million in grants and scholarships.