Jacksonville, Florida-based VyStar Credit Union publicly launched its philanthropic arm VyStar Foundation in March 2023. It’s focused on doing good and leading by example through joint partnerships that support youth, military members, veterans, and the community vibrancy in the areas served by the financial institution.
VyStar Foundation shared that it will distribute $197,092 among 10 recipients in its first grant cycle. Those recipients help active military, veterans, and their families. The funding priority was given to organizations focusing on housing, mental health services, food insecurity, employment, and small-business counseling.
Brian Wolfburg, president and CEO of VyStar Credit Union , stated, “It is a tremendous honor to recognize the outstanding organizations that are addressing critical needs in the communities we serve.”
He confirmed the foundation would further propel the credit union’s philanthropic efforts throughout Florida and Georgia. “As VyStar continues to grow, the foundation will serve our new and existing communities, help us build important relationships with community leaders, and support organizations that make a difference each and every day.”
Patricia McElroy is the president of the foundation. She’s vital in overseeing grantmaking procedures, program activities, and day-to-day operations. McElroy stated, “Each of the 10 nonprofit organizations selected as part of this grant cycle are truly making a difference in the lives of our military, veterans, and their families.”
McElroy continued, “It is our privilege to be able to provide them with much-needed support to enhance their efforts. VyStar’s spirit of philanthropy is deeply embedded in who we are along with our commitment to our brave service members.”
10 Programs That Received VyStar Foundation Grants
“It is an honor to serve as foundation president and have the opportunity to work with so many deeply caring individuals both internally and at nonprofit organizations across our communities,” stated McElroy . “We invest considerable thought into selecting the organizations that align with our mission, ensuring that every dollar is wisely utilized to improve the world around us.” These are the organizations that received the first round of grants:
1. The United Way of Northeast Florida, headquartered in Duval, Florida, is a grant-recipient organization because of its Mission United veteran emergency needs program. The program gives active military, veterans, and their families access to a basic needs fund if they need emergency financial assistance to get through an immediate crisis.
2. The Alachua County Coalition for the Homeless and Hungry, located in Alachua, Florida, has been chosen for its commitment to making sure that homeless veterans’ basic needs are met and providing them access to nutritious food.
3. Duval, Florida’s Operation New Uniform Inc. has been selected to receive a grant because it supplies employment and small-business counseling that offers a helping hand to veterans as they adapt from military to civilian careers.
4. In Chatham, Georgia, America’s Second Harvest of Coastal Georgia network will receive a grant because it’s a mobile food pantry that supplies food to active military and veterans at the Hunter Army Airfield in Chatham County.
5. Task Force Hydro 1 in Duval is a grant recipient for offering therapeutic mental health support to active service members, veterans, and their friends and family. It utilizes the curative powers of outdoor recreational activities and the ocean.
6. Veterans Entrepreneurship Initiative in Orange, Florida, has been chosen for a grant because it offers comprehensive support, education, and resources to assist veterans as they adjust to becoming entrepreneurs and add to the economic growth of their communities.
7. Beaches Habitat for Humanity, headquartered in Duval, was selected due to its commitment to improving living conditions for veterans. It does critical home repairs through its Hometown Heroes program, which handles interior and exterior home repairs.
8. In Chatham, the SD Gunner Fund Inc. earned a grant for its service dogs program. The program was established to improve veterans’ mental health by giving them a service dog and supplying training.
9. Duval’s Five Star Veterans Center has been selected to receive a foundation grant since the Weaver Wellness Mental Health Program supplies case management, 24-hour-a-day mental health services, and helpful on-site housing.
10. Northeast Florida Women Veterans Inc. in Duval will receive a grant for the HerSpace program, which supplies a safe space for women to receive intensive case management and secure housing.
“The military grant cycle honors [the credit union’s] roots at Naval Air Station Jacksonville,” stated Wolfburg. “I am grateful to the organizations that are supporting active duty armed forces, veterans, and their families.”
What’s Next For the Foundation?
VyStar Foundation’s next grant cycle will kick off in August 2023. That round will prioritize funding to nonprofit operations that benefit underserved youth. The credit union honors its naval roots by offering programs and initiatives that assist active-duty armed forces members, veterans, and their families. It has a deep respect for the sacrifice and service of military members.
Any 501(c)(3) organization that acts in accordance with the foundation’s strategic giving pillars is eligible for a grant. Those giving pillars are military, youth, and community building.
The foundation strives to ensure that military members, veterans, and their families get the recognition they deserve and the social services they need to be thriving, prosperous community members. It also focuses on empowering young people by offering equitable access to creative learning opportunities. Additionally, it supports community building by nurturing financially strong, culturally vigorous, and interconnected communities.
The credit union’s purpose is to do good. “That simple phrase describes the spirit of philanthropy that is deeply embedded in our organization,” said McElroy. “It inspires our teams in all that we do, whether we’re serving our members, volunteering with nonprofit organizations, or donating to community parents who share in our commitment to improving the places we call home.”
McElroy continued, “We have seen the incredible power of what we can accomplish when we work together for the common good. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to lead [the] foundation to further expand [the credit union’s] dedication to the community.”
In addition to McElroy and Wolfburg, the foundation will be operated by a volunteer board of directors, including Chad Meadows as treasurer, Dana Karzan as Secretary, and Diane Fears as secretary. It will also include community members.
Applications for the youth round will open on Aug. 21, 2023, until September 30.