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More than ever, Manatee County charities are relying on this year’s Giving Challenge


Much like past years, the 2020 Giving Challenge is offering a chance to support hundreds of charities in Manatee and surrounding counties.

But this year’s event is especially crucial for the charities and communities affected by COVID-19, said Susie Bowie, executive director of the Manatee Community Foundation.

“It’s easy for people to feel powerless at a time like this, but the Giving Challenge is a perfect opportunity for people to come together in whatever way works for them,” she said. The 24-hour challenge begins at noon on Tuesday and ends at noon on Wednesday, supporting nearly 700 charities between Manatee, Sarasota, Charlotte and DeSoto counties.

And with continued support from the Patterson Foundation, every contribution has twice the impact. The foundation will match up to $100 per donor, per charity for donations made at

The Giving Challenge — hosted by the Community Foundation of Sarasota County — allows donors to address hunger, addiction, education, housing and more than a dozen other causes.

Project Light of Manatee, located off 14th Street West in Bradenton, was depending on the Giving Challenge more than ever before, said Charles Cunningham, president for the board of directors.

The program started teaching English to adults more than two decades ago. Students leave the program with a newfound confidence, ready to help with their child’s classes and to pursue new jobs or volunteer opportunities.

Cunningham said demand was growing, along with the need for support, but the COVID-19 pandemic was causing uncertainty about his future budget.

“I can’t predict how our donor base is going to turn out,” he said.


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Thanks to the Bradenton Herald for supporting local nonprofits and keeping our community connected!

ByVin Mannix


Posted Apr 26, 2020 at 12:03 AM

April has been a landmark month for Project Light of Manatee, which has been quietly doing yeoman’s work helping English language learners in our community for years.

The nonprofit just marked its 25th anniversary.

It was also honored with the Florida Literacy Coalition’s 2020 Excellence In Education Award.

“We’re moving in the right direction and people who are advocates of literacy and family literacy all think we’re doing the right stuff. That means a lot,” said Charles Cunningham, Project Light’s board chairman. “We are probably the finest nonprofit in Bradenton nobody’s ever heard about.”

Quartered in a humble Bradenton storefront at 1104 14th St. W., it is powered by a devoted volunteer-based staff led by tireless program director Elena Farkas, who “redid the curriculum so it meets what students need,” Cunningham said.

Besides English language courses, that would include computer courses, writing classes and citizenship test preparation as well as a social service roadmap for students to get jobs, apartments, childcare, transportation and more.

“Services that help them so they can become a greater part of the community,” Cunningham said.

Project Light’s current enrollment is around 250 students with plans to expand to 300 next year.

“The last two years we’ve experienced a big increase in student population, so we realized we had to step it up,” he said. “We’re doing some real good stuff, but we appreciate more funding and we need people to know we’re there.”

Want to help? Call 941-745-1659 or 907-227-5514. Or email:

Project Light thanks Vin Mannix and the Herald Tribune for featuring our organization and impact in Vin's People. We are honored to serve our community and look forward to what the next 25 years brings. With much gratitude to our local papers for keeping us connected during this difficult time.