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Bernie Machen: Help GRACE reach its full potential

Although not yet two years have passed since Grace Marketplace opened its doors, it has already become a center of help, healing and hope in our community. Grace has served more than 2,300 people over 120,000 meals. It has provided nearly 28,000 nights of shelter.

Grace meets its clients where they stand and walks with them toward a better future by providing meals, shelter and other immediate needs while connecting them with essential services. These services include medical care, job training and skill building, mental health services and more. Grace makes this possible by providing space on campus for other community services providers — often space that is shared with numerous providers.

Grace’s early success represents a truly remarkable launch of a much-needed community resource. Kudos to the Alachua County Commission and Gainesville City Commission for their bipartisan support and encouragement. They have been generous in providing both operating and start-up funding. Congratulations also to the Alachua County Coalition for the Homeless and Hungry, which operates Grace on behalf of the city and county.

As much progress as Grace has made, it has not yet reached its full potential. Most pressingly, many more local agencies that want to provide services at Grace have no facility to do so. To try to address this deficiency, I am soliciting community support to renovate one of the original buildings on the site.

The Community Services Building will significantly expand the agencies that can participate at Grace. Some of the services to be added to the current array include: expanding veterans’ services; dedicating space for more frequent 12-step meetings; creating a women’s safe space where women can meet with domestic violence service providers such as Peaceful Paths; providing room for additional mental health services from Meridian Behavioral Healthcare; and expanding case management offerings by Grace staff and other community providers.

A generous donor has agreed to match up to $125,000 in gifts to renovate the Community Services Building. The project will cost twice that amount, so this is a huge opportunity! The gift expires May 31, 2016, which means we need help now.

Gifts in any amount will be matched. There are naming opportunities associated with this project, so donors or donating organizations can become visibly identified with Grace, if desired. The Community Foundation of North Central Florida will process and certify these tax-deductible gifts.

Please consider this opportunity to continue Grace’s forward progress as it provides compassion and assistance to those most in need in our community. You can email Jon DeCarmine or

This article was posted in the opinions section of the Gainesville Sun on Friday, April 15th. To read the article at the Sun’s website, click here

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