Lake Worth Charity Makes Holiday Contributions Count

Tis the season for charitable giving, and choosing where to spread your meager holiday surplus is harder than ever this year. But folks who donate to one Lake Worth charity don't have to worry about whether their dollars will be spent wisely.

For the Children  made Florida Trend's list of "best" charities in a 2008 survey, based on the percentage of the budget spent on fundraising, and judging from their latest annual report, they haven't lost the knack for pinching pennies. CEO and founder Reginale Durandisse ("Ms. Regie" to all) says more than ever this year she's partnering with other entities to meet programming needs.

For the Children, founded by Durandisse in 1999, will spend only a pittance on fundraising this year while providing quality after-school programming, keeping about 400 Lake Worth kids gainfully occupied after school every day, doing two hours of homework followed by classes ranging from cooking and video production to computer repair and drama. All the teens are required to do one community service project every quarter -- helping the elderly paint local houses or tutoring younger kids.

The total percentage For the Children spent on fundraising in 2008, the latest report available, was a mere $2,688 out of a budget of more than $1.3 million. A sum of $1,220,901 went straight into programming.

To gauge just how good that is: compare to the Fort Lauderdale charity named by Florida Trend as one of Florida's seven worst: National Save the Sea Turtle. In 2007, that charity spent a whopping 90.2 percent of its budget on fundraising: a total of $3,692,102 versus $194,191 spent on programming.

Ms. Regie says donations were way down this year, as they were for most charities. "For example, one donor gives us $75,000 every year; this year they gave only $25,000," she says. "Right now, I'm doing the projections for next year: Our budget should be $1.4 million; next year, if we bring in $400,000, I will be surprised."

And their wish list for this holiday and the new year? "Our greatest need is for extended space," Ms. Regie says. The charity is now housed in a brightly painted building on Douglas Street, and the City of Lake Worth recently voted to donate the land. "We need funding and volunteers for building, engineering, and construction. We want to add an additional 24,000 square feet of space so we can provide services for 300 more kids."

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