DATE: August 23, 2018
FROM: Tamara B. Allen, Chair of Franklin’s Promise Coalition
RE: Transfer of Eastpoint Fire Donations
On the afternoon of August 21, 2018, Franklin’s Promise Coalition submitted a check in the amount of $ 257,717.60 to Franklin County as instructed by the Franklin County Board of County Commissioners. Our Board of Directors has been assured by the County Attorney that 100% of the funds will be used to benefit the Eastpoint Limerock Fire Victims.
We are very grateful to, and honored by, the many donors who entrusted us to collect and deliver these funds. Thank you for supporting us as we continue to serve and support the people of Franklin County. The check issued to the County represents the full amount remaining in the bank account for the Eastpoint Fire financial donations given to Franklin’s Promise Coalition in our responsibility as the designated Emergency Support Function 15, Volunteers and Donations (ESF-15) Lead Agency, the Unmet Needs Committee, and the Long-Term Recovery Organization (LTRO) for Franklin County.
Franklin's Promise Coalition staff and volunteers worked tirelessly. It has been our privilege to run a highly successful fundraising campaign on behalf of the Eastpoint Fire Victims due to the generous support of our many partners, volunteers, collaborators and donors. In the first few weeks after the fire we worked with local churches to create shelters, opened a Donation Center in Carrabelle, held fundraisers, organized a telethon, delivered food, water and needed supplies, raised over $288,000 in cash donations and over $100,000 in donations of furniture and goods. Thank you to all who answered our call.
Franklin’s Promise has worked successfully with Franklin County Emergency Management in the role of ESF-15 through multiple disasters over the past decade. We have never taken any administrative funds or salaries from any disaster donations, including this one. In our role coordinating donations and volunteers for the Eastpoint Limerock Fire, we followed the direction of Pam Brownell, Director of Franklin County Emergency Management in all expenditures and deliveries.
On July 3, we were made aware of an unexpected ESF-15 contract being prepared by the County Attorney while we were in the middle of our community’s efforts to stabilize the victims. We received a copy of the contract on July 24, three weeks later. The Board of Franklin’s Promise Coalition had concerns about the legal implications of a particular provision and needed time to research those items in the IRS code and Florida State law as well as seek legal counsel. The provision preventing total agreement with the County Attorney read “If Franklin’s Promise is no longer Franklin County’s ESF-15, designated as the agency to collect donations for the Wildfire, then the ownership of the Special Account shall be transferred either to Franklin County or a charitable organization selected by Franklin County within 30 calendar days written notice from Franklin County to Franklin’s Promise. However, if Franklin’s Promise is no longer Franklin County’s ESF-15, it shall continue to be bound by the terms of this contract for five years after the date that Franklin’s Promise is no longer Franklin County’s ESF-15.” The Franklin's Promise Coalition Board replied to the County Attorney that it could not agree to the restrictions without review and advice of legal counsel in order to protect the interests of the intended beneficiaries, the victims of the Lime Rock fire; Franklin’s Promise donors; and Franklin’s Promise’s mission to provide assistance to the residents of Franklin County. The Coalition’s Board of Directors agreed with all other elements of the contract including stipulations requiring that the fire victims funds be subject to full transparency, including potential audit and public record laws. When the County Attorney stated there would be no negotiation of the contract’s terms, the Coalition Board resigned as ESF-15 on August 15, 2018.
We take our role as stewards of donated funding very seriously. We are deeply saddened that we were not given any opportunity to discuss our concerns and seek agreeable solutions about the terms of the ESF-15 contract. We are very proud of how we served the Eastpoint Fire victims with the donations we received and have made a full accounting of those funds to the Commission, the donors and the public, available on the Franklin’s Promise Coalition website.
Franklin's Promise is steadfast in our commitment to serve our community as we have done for over 18 years. While our role in ensuring all Eastpoint Fire Victims have temporary housing in place has been completed, our work in the larger community is far from over. We are committed to Our Mission, "To improve the quality of life for residents, the Coalition will serve as an advocate for the community and provide a forum for collaborating with service providers, churches, institutions, and volunteers to: improve access to quality services and eliminate disparities of service; streamline and prevent the duplication & fragmentation of services; identify unmet needs and determine strategies to meet those needs; educate individuals on challenges, resources and opportunities; and promote positive youth development while emphasizing the reduction of substance abuse and other negative behaviors."
The true reason we exist is to serve people. Our goal is to empower people to be problem solvers. We believe we have done that well and we know there is much work remaining. We will focus on feeding the needy, taking care of our families with children and senior citizens, fighting multigenerational poverty, and supporting education and job training for opportunity youth. Please join our team. Our volunteers are the backbone of the organization. If you would like to know more details about our programs, please contact us. We are available to speak to groups or to answer individual questions. Contact Franklin’s Promise Coalition at 850-323-0176.
For more detailed information, feel free to review the attached FAQs.
For More Information:
Contact Franklin’s Promise Coalition
192 Coach Wagoner Blvd.
Apalachicola, Florida 32320
Transfer of Eastpoint Fire Donations
Why wouldn't / couldn't Franklin’s Promise sign the contract with Franklin County? The Board of Franklin’s Promise Coalition was concerned about the legal implications of a particular provision and needed time to research those items in the IRS code and Florida State law as well as seek legal counsel. We tried to negotiate with the County Attorney and were told by him on August 9th that it was not an option. We were aware that we could legally turn over funds to another non-profit designated by the County as the ESF-15. We felt an obligation to the donors and the Fire Victims to protect these funds until we had clarification.
Franklin’s Promise Coalition did sign the contract with one clause removed which read “If Franklin’s Promise is no longer Franklin County’s ESF-15, designated as the agency to collect donations for the Wildfire, then the ownership of the Special Account shall be transferred either to Franklin County or a charitable organization selected by Franklin County within 30 calendar days written notice from Franklin County to Franklin’s Promise. However, if Franklin’s Promise is no longer Franklin County’s ESF-15, it shall continue to be bound by the terms of this contract for five years after the date that Franklin’s Promise is no longer Franklin County’s ESF-15.”
The Coalition’s Board of Directors agreed with all other elements of the contract including stipulations requiring that the fire victims funds be subject to full transparency, including potential audit and public record laws. The County refused to accept the contract. The County Attorney's reply to the Board Chairperson on the morning of August 20, 2018 was “As I mentioned during our meeting on August 17, 2018, it would have been a good meeting had it been held six weeks ago, but now it is too late.”
Was it different than previous contracts? For the past decade Franklin’s Promise Coalition has worked coordinating donations and volunteers for the Franklin County Emergency Management services through several major disasters. We never had a contract. We were simply included in the Franklin County Emergency Management Plan approved by the County Commission and filed with the State. The Board was presented the first ever contract on July 24th.
Why did it take Franklin’s Promise so long to report the details of each donation to the County Commission? In the first few weeks after the fire our staff was overwhelmed with the sheer volume of donations pouring in to us. We submitted all of the deposits to Emergency Management Services every two weeks but we were not able to report with the level of details requested by the Franklin County Board of County Commissioners until August 16.
Did you not want to sign the contract because you were going to keep the money? Franklin’s Promise Coalition has pledged from the first day that 100% of the funds would be spent to benefit the fire victims. No administrative fees have ever been or will ever be taken by the Coalition for disaster aid. In fact our total organization including staff, Board of Directors and volunteers have worked tirelessly for hundreds of hours as our collective contribution. There was never any intention of keeping the money, none of it.
From the beginning, the intent was to get each of the victims into a safe place to live. Under the direction of the County’s Emergency Management Director, priority was placed on setting up the temporary travel trailers and housing as step one. Donated goods were distributed from the beginning. Step two was to support the County’s plan for a Community Development Block Grant. It would include using the funds to supplement the State grant which would fund new residential manufactured homes for the folks who lost their houses and repairs for those who suffered damages to their home.
How much extra are board members and staff making for doing this work? None, absolutely zero. The Coalition has three paid staff. While all of them supported the fire relief effort, no one was paid extra. In fact, even Coalition contractors and the Conservation Corps crew members worked at the Coalition's expense to staff the Firehouse Command Post and manage the donations. With the help of amazing volunteers, the coalition was able to provide 495 hours of volunteer time in the first week alone. That first weeks efforts are valued at $11,548. Volunteer hours reflecting the entire 8 weeks since the fire are being collected and will be reported, but be assured no one was paid anything extra, and nothing from the fire victims funds.
What will happen to the money now? The County Commission instructed that all funds be turned over to them by close of business on August 21, 2018. In response, the Coalition’s Board of Directors at a special meeting on August 20, 2018 passed the following motion, “It is the intention of the Board of Directors of Franklin’s Promise to comply with the request made by Thomas Shuler, as Franklin County Attorney, that the funds held by Franklin’s Promise for the benefit of the Lime Rock Disaster victims be transferred over to the County, pending review and advice of legal counsel in order to protect the interest of the intended beneficiaries, the victims of the Lime Rock fire, Franklin’s Promise Donors, and Franklin’s Promise’s continued mission to provide assistance to the residents of Franklin County.” Our Treasurer submitted a check for the full balance of the fire victim funds to the Franklin County Clerk's office on Tuesday, August 21, 2018. Future expenditure of the funds will be up to the County Commission.
Why don't you just give it to the county /fire victims? The Coalition’s intention was to work with the Franklin County and Emergency Management to address housing, both temporary and long term. The first goal of temporary housing was completed with the support of Capital Area Community Action and the State. Utility poles, water/sewer services and connections of the travel trailers used over $36,000 of the fund. Please note that these same power poles and water/sewer connects will be used for the permanent housing, so no funds were wasted. For the long term, the plan was to support the State’s Community Development Block Grant and use the funds to eliminate barriers which may prohibit a family/individual from benefiting. Lastly, just over $5,000 was used for back to school clothes, shoes, and backpacks/supplies for the 77 school children of the impacted neighborhood.
Why didn't you spend more of the money on the fire victims by now? The Coalition’s intention was to follow Franklin County’s plan to address housing, both temporary and long term. Currently, the temporary housing needs are met. The first goal of setting up temporary housing was completed with the support of Capital Area Community Action and the State. Utility poles, water/sewer services and connections of the travel trailers used over $36,000 of the fund. Please note that these same power poles and water/sewer connects will be used for the permanent housing, so no funds were wasted. For the long term, the plan was to support the State’s Community Development Block Grant and use the funds to eliminate barriers which may prohibit a family/individual from benefiting.
Is an independent audit still planned? Yes. Roberson and Associates has agreed to support the Coalition to ensure full transparency.
Are a lot of the household donations being put up in storage in case of a hurricane? No, not at all! These donations were intended for the fire victims, they should go to the fire victims. Many of them have been handed out to the fire victims in their temporary housing. The larger items like mattresses, sofas and furniture are being given to individual fire victims when they have a place to put them. The rest is being stored until they are needed.
How many kids lost their homes in the fire? There are 77 children are school aged in the entire neighborhood, 12 of whom lost their homes. We refer to the entire neighborhood as being impacted to the fire. Eleven (11) children were three years old and younger. Priority was set by the Franklin County Emergency Management Director, emphasis was placed on those victims who had no place to sleep. A special back to school program was held for the 77 impacted school children.
How are victims needs being prioritized? The Franklin County Emergency Management and the social service case worker for the fire victims developed a priority system based on the ages and health of victims, home ownership and rental status and needs of each family. Children and elderly individuals were a priority. All unmet needs relative to housing were given priority.
How is it decided who gets things first? Those people/families who lost their homes were given priority. Once temporary housing was established, then food was delivered for the entire neighborhood. Supporting permanent housing was the Coalition's priority.
What's going to happen to all the household goods now? They will be managed by the County through the Emergency Management Director.
What should I do if I'm a fire victim and I haven't gotten any help? Contact Franklin County Emergency Management at 850-653-8977.
What can residents do to help the Eastpoint Fire Victims now? Volunteer with Franklin County Emergency Management, call them at 850-653-8977.
What other programs does Franklin’s Promise Coalition support?
Franklin County Food Pantry
Serves an average of 366 families biweekly and over 400 families during the holiday season. Distributed over 11.5 million pounds of food at a cost of $260,941 and in-kind value of over $187,200.
Holiday Outreach (Toys for Tots)
Since 2010, over 650 families have been served, over 1800 children have been provided toys/books and over 60 seniors have been provided holiday gifts. Total funds allocated by Franklin’s Promise Coalition is $54,485 plus over $75,000 in-kind support from community partners.
Senior Care Network
The Franklin County Food Pantry partners with the Elder Care Community Council of Franklin County to deliver groceries and fresh vegetables to more than 50 homebound seniors. The Coalition partners with the First Baptist Church of Opelika (AL) and Auburn University each spring to organize a week of home improvements and outreach to senior citizens. From roof repairs to yard clean-up, over 40 projects are completed by volunteers each Spring.
Arts in Resilience
The Arts in Resilience initiative focuses on strengthening existing and developing new partnerships which strategically utilize arts activities to enhance individual resilience and build stronger communities. The program serves the residents of this low-income rural region by engaging a broad range of participants, particularly under-served populations and providing access to artistic excellence while stimulating creative problem solving. Since 2009, the initiative has served as a rural program model for the State of Florida, supporting other communities to develop successful programs.
Prosper Franklin (poverty reduction)
Over 400 community members have been trained, over 240 families have completed the “Getting Ahead” curriculum, and over 100 educators have been engaged to end poverty. Total funds allocated to poverty reduction by Franklin’s Promise Coalition, $76,529.
Franklin Youth Partnership
Current initiatives are to support a Youth Leadership Council at Franklin County Schools who will examine the challenge of student absenteeism and propose potential ways to improve school attendance. The Coalition also supports the schools with trained mentors who will encourage on-time graduation, life skill development, and exploration of career pathways.
Conservation Corps/ED Corps
Since the Apalachicola Nature Trail Pilot Project in 2015, 76 opportunity youth have been trained, earning over 287 industry certifications, completing over 80 conservation/construction projects, and responding to 3 natural disasters. Over $822,491 has been invested into the community through training stipends and wages, and overall the impact has exceeded $1,015,018.
Volunteer Connect is an online volunteer and agency database which matches volunteers to service opportunities in the Forgotten Coast region. The Coalition collaborates with over 40 institutions, agencies, organizations and community groups who utilize volunteers to fulfill their missions and complete projects that impact critical community needs.
Franklin's Promise Coalition is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.
Visit us at the Van W. Johnson Jr. Community Service Center , 192 Coach Wagoner Blvd., Apalachicola, Florida 32320