Two North Florida Organizations Named Finalists for the Florida Blue Foundation's Sapphire Awards
Two local nonprofits are finalists for the Florida Blue Foundation’s prestigious Sapphire Awards to recognize excellence in community health care statewide. The awards are part of the Foundation’s annual Community Health Symposium, taking place in Orlando May 9-10, that brings together health advocates from across the country to discuss major health issues. Pat Geraghty, president and CEO of GuideWell and Florida Blue, will announce the Sapphire Award winners at a dinner on May 9th.
The I.M. Sulzbacher Center for the Homeless began life as a NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) project in 1995 and found a home in a vacant warehouse, under a highway overpass, behind the jail. When it opened its doors, it served men only and the dormitory consisted of pallets, within painted spaces, on a concrete floor. There was no air conditioning and scant heating. From that humble beginning were added bunk beds, a women’s shelter, a families’ shelter, children’s building, medical clinic, medical street outreach, satellite medical clinic, veterans outreach, veterans dorm, medical respite, medical clinic expansion, school-based medical clinics and the completion of the $22-million satellite Sulzbacher Village for Women and Families that includes a health and dental clinic for all children living in Health Zone One. Today, Sulzbacher is one of Florida’s premier homeless service providers. It has become a nationally recognized leader of innovative approaches to ending homelessness but most importantly, it is the safety net for the community’s most vulnerable citizens.
The second local award finalist is Pine Castle, which helped pioneer the philosophy that individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) have the right to lead full and productive lives. Founded in 1952 on 10 acres covered in Australia Pine trees for children born with intellectual or developmental disabilities, Pine Castle transitioned to serving adults with IDD in 1965 when public schools started accepting children of all abilities. Today, Pine Castle serves a population that has been historically deprived of preventive health care and quality acute health care. Health-related services include a full-time clinical site Registered Nurse for the day training program, a full-time residential program Registered Nurse and mental health counseling. It also provides day training for nearly 300 adults, five group homes housing 36 adults, workforce training and employment on campus for about 250 individuals as the largest employer of persons with disabilities in Northeast Florida, and an employment agency to help individuals find meaningful work in the community at minimum wage or higher.
About Florida Blue Foundation
Florida Blue Foundation enables healthy communities by making grants, building coalitions and rewarding best practices. More than three million people in Florida have received direct health services as a result of grants made to nonprofit organizations since our founding in 2001. Florida Blue Foundation is a trade name of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida Foundation, Inc., an Independent Licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.
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Toni Woods is a Senior Media Relations Consultant for Florida Blue. She has worked in communications for more than 20 years in the health care, energy and sports industries, working with media around the world. She is a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism.