Surrounded by lavish landscaping, protected by manned security gates, some BallenIsles residents find themselves living in a bubble, unaware and immune to the travails of their neighbors just a few miles away.
The BallenIsles Charities Foundation is working to change that.
Residents have donated almost $2.4 million to support Palm Beach County not-for-profit and civic organizations since the foundation started seven years ago, Secretary Bob Anton said. The foundation will distribute another $575,000 to 46 organizations March 12.
“I pinch myself with how big we’ve gotten,” said Vice President Mary Ann Champlin, who has been with the foundation from the beginning. “We have been able to tell the story of the needs in the area. Our effectiveness at that is growing.”
Champlin said she was one of those residents who was blind to the needs of the community for the first few years after she moved from Connecticut — until her college-age son started working at a sandwich shop on PGA Boulevard. He would come home from work and tell her, “Mother, you’re living in a bubble.” She realized he was right.
“I was living in paradise, but that is not what’s happening outside,” Champlin said.
She started volunteering at Allamanda Elementary School, which received a BallenIsles grant last year to buy books that appeal to 3rd, 4th and 5th grade students.
The foundation gives grants to civic, educational, environmental and health and human services organizations that work in northern Palm Beach County. An 11-person grant committee picks the recipients.
In its infancy, the foundation awarded $125,000 to 12 organizations, Anton said. It has been able to give more by tugging on heart strings.
The foundation showed a 23-minute video highlighting the stories of people from 16 agencies at two receptions in the fall. There wasn’t a peep from beginning to end, Champlin said.
“The tissues were coming out,” she said.
And people started increasing their donations without being asked.
This year, Palm Beach Gardens police will get a mobile fingerprinting device to identify elderly people and children if they get lost. Firefighter-paramedics will get support for a new fall-prevention program that focuses on building core strength in the elderly.
The foundation also provides school readiness kits for homeless families helped by Adopt a Family.
BallenIsles support helped The Arc of Palm Beach County start a music therapy program for people with developmental disabilities and The Weitz Construction Academy at Seminole Ridge High School to allow students to build a Habitat for Humanity home.
Palm Beach Gardens Fire Rescue bought a $19,500 pediatric simulator to train for child trauma patients.
The foundation adds eight or nine programs every year, Anton said.
It’s all part of the foundation’s mission: “Making a difference.”