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Taking a CHOMP Out of Homelessness

Gainesville would look a lot different without the University of Florida. For one, our small town would miss the hustle and bustle of diverse professors, more student organizations than we can count, and the support and pride that can be felt throughout our entire community each day.

While encouraging students to get involved all over town (and they do – shoutout to UF GAP), the university has also made sure that UF staff have a surefire way to get involved and support our community too.

UF introduced the University of Florida Campaign for Charities (UFCC) as an annual employee-giving campaign. “The UF Campaign for Charities was started to offer UF employees an opportunity to give back to their community through a charitable giving campaign that offered the flexibility of payroll deduction and the variety of a large number of vetted community charities with widely varied missions,” says Karen Thomas, Assistant Director of Government and Community Relations for the University of Florida. According to UF, for nearly two decades, UF employees have given almost $1 million annually to charities serving Alachua County. That is millions of dollars that have gone toward making Gainesville a better place for fellow community members.

“Since 1993, UF employees’ contributions have helped improve the quality of life for people in the communities of the Alachua County region and I know that the ripples of that impact have spread far and wide touching countless lives and making North Central Florida a better place to live, work, and play!” - Karen Thomas, Assistant Director of Government and Community Relations

As Gainesville residents, it’s safe to say that we are all connected, especially when it comes to nonprofits and local businesses. So what do you do when you want to donate to all the nonprofits in town but can’t choose just one or two? The UF Campaign for Charities provides the perfect solution according to Karen Thomas. “Donating through the UFCC [gives donors the ability] to designate to one or more of the participating agencies or contribute to the undesignated pool, which is divided proportionally among all agencies, based on the amount designated to each organization. This means that the more designated gifts an agency receives, the more they will benefit from the undesignated pool, allowing our donors to maximize their impact!” Thomas explains.

Since 2017, GRACE has received more than $130,000 from faculty, staff, and retirees from designations through the UF Campaign for Charities. Every dollar has gone toward providing crucial services to our neighbors who are experiencing homelessness. “It is a tremendous honor to be part of the UF Campaign for Charities. This campaign provides a direct connection for faculty and staff at the University of Florida to support their favorite organizations,” says John Thomas, Director of Advancement at GRACE Marketplace. He went on to say “Oftentimes donors who give through the UFCC are already huge supporters of GRACE. We’ve also realized donors who give through the campaign have gone on to support our organization throughout the year in a variety of ways.”

Judith Russell, Dean of University Libraries, has been a dedicated donor to GRACE for years. Not only does she support GRACE through the UF Campaign for Charities, but she also supports the various campaigns and initiatives throughout the year.

Thomas goes on to say, “Donors like Russell really embody what it means to be a ‘Gator who Gives.’ She cares deeply about this community and we are honored to have her support not only for the UFCC campaign but also throughout the year.”

When Russell, learned about the work we were doing at GRACE, she first began supporting us through both direct contributions and through the UF Campaign for Charities. Russell said, “It was only in 2013 when I joined the UFCC Steering Committee that I learned that participating charities received additional funds based on undesignated contributions. At that time, I switched most of my direct contributions to GRACE and other local charities to donations through UFCC to increase the funds each charity received.”

While Russell was consistently providing essential support to get folks off the street and back into housing, she went a step further to make even more of an impact with donations she was already prepared to give.

Russell often tells others, “If they already support GRACE or any other local charity that is a participant in UFCC they should move their contributions through UFCC so each charity will receive a share of the undesignated funds. That increases the amount GRACE and the other charities I support receive as a result of my gift.”

This is our swamp, and TOGETHER, we are taking a chomp out of homelessness.

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