Published Thursday, December 6, 2023

Bank of America’s Jodie Hardman (at right) present the award to OCOA board members and staff George Seda, Joseph Coschignano, Wendy Ford, Johnola Morales and Warren Hougland. PHOTO/OSCEOLA COUNCIL ON AGING

We are excited to announce The Osceola Council on Aging (OCOA) was awarded the Bank of America 2023 Neighborhood Builders Award.

The grant will give the OCOA $200,000 in funding to support our overall mission to empower seniors, disabled adults, and disadvantaged families living in Osceola County, while also supporting educational and leadership initiatives for Council staff.

Historically, Bank of America (BOFA) honors Neighborhood Builder Award recipients in multiple different capacities and recognizes organizations across the country, which serve as support catalysts to enrich communities; from advancing economic mobility, to developmental training, and from racial equality to social equity.

According to the BOFA website, diversity and inclusion are key characteristics of the Neighborhood Builders program. Funding grants are primarily intended to build an organization’s capacity to respond to the ever-changing needs within communities.

“The Council on Aging is an essential nonprofit organization serving the health and wellness of our most vulnerable neighbors,” said Jodie Hardman, Senior Vice President, Market Executive at Bank of America. “They were selected for their excellence and innovation in serving critical issues like food insecurity and healthcare.”

The funds, made available over the next 24 months, will also be utilized for nutritional programs hosted by the OCOA and furthering staff development.

“This grant through BOFA will exponentially help strengthen and expand the OCOA’s nutrition programs,” Council on Aging Grants Manager Lisa Wright said. “One of our current focuses is to address food concerns in our community by promoting access to meals through our food pantry. Our Meals on Wheels program will also be a focus. The increased funding will allow us to be better staff meal delivery routes while also covering expenses related to meal preparation, packaging, and logistics.”

The OCOA will also invest in social service program enhancements and staff development to deliver more impactful and efficient services to improve outcomes for the Osceola community. Most awards do not allow these flexibilities, and BOFA sees the need to allow such tools and funding to bring agencies to the next level of service.

“Nonprofits are the backbone to our local community as they are on the ground working closely with individuals, families and community members to better understand the obstacles many are experiencing; by developing programs and services which will help alleviate or eliminate these barriers, we help them chart a path toward economic opportunity,” Hardman said.

Though the first time the OCOA has received the Neighborhood Builders Award, we have collaborated with BOFA for more than two decades as recipients of their Charitable Foundation through community response grants, which address local needs such as workforce development and education.

The OCOA is excited to continue to forge partnerships with key stakeholders such as BOFA, while expanding community and government agency collaborations to maximize outcomes. By engaging in innovative programs like Neighborhood Builders, we can continue to reach a wider audience to ensure no Osceola resident is left behind.

As we end this year, and move into 2024, I am proud of the expansive reach we have attained in helping community residents. In 2022 alone, we served 200,000 meals through our Meals on Wheels program and donated more than two million pounds of food through our two food pantries. We provided $4 million in emergency assistance, with more than $1.5 million provided in home repairs. Finally, I am proud to say 500 OCOA volunteers provided almost 30,000 hours in community service to our organization.

As you can see, our reach is expansive, and with this additional funding from BOFA, we will be able to continue serving our existing clients, while adding even more.