The SAMMinistries nonprofit dedicated to preventing homelessness has received a $2.2 million donation from a pair of local philanthropists representing the largest single donation in the ministry’s 28-year history.
La Prensa de San Antonio.- The SAMMinistries nonprofit dedicated to preventing homelessness has received a $2.2 million donation from a pair of local philanthropists representing the largest single donation in the ministry’s 28-year history.
By Tony Cantú
Supporters of the ministry since 2008, George and Kym Rapier made the sizable donation during a Thursday ceremony at the SAMMinistries Transitional Living and Learning Center at 5922 Blanco Rd. With the donation, the organization’s budget will soon top $8 million – a $3 million increase in two years – officials said.
The donation augments a recent $1 million appropriation in federal stimulus funds.
“We are thrilled to build upon a successful partnership with SAMMinistries because their programs are essential to reducing poverty for the future benefit of the San Antonio community,” said George Rapier.
He also issued a challenge to SAMMinistries to raise an additional $2 million by the end of September: “Kym and I challenge the San Antonio community to match the full $2 million. A gift to SAMMinistries is a wise investment in San Antonio’s future by helping families in all stages of homelessness – those families in danger of homelessness, those experiencing homelessness and those transitioning to independence.”
A medical doctor, he is the founder of WellMed Medical Management Inc. – the state’s largest primary care provider for seniors – for which he serves as chairman and CEO. His wife, Kym, is founder and president of Silver Life Fitness, a WellMed subsidiary offering no-cost health classes to older adults.
“We are hopeful that the residents of San Antonio will recognize the great contribution SAMMinistries makes to the city, and join us to support the ministry financially,” the doctor said.
Ministry spokeswoman Erika Hizel said the donation comes at a time of increased demand for the ministry, with a greater number of families falling into homelessness as a result of economic recession.
A recent report pointed to a 16 percent increase among families becoming homeless since the onset of an economic downturn marked by mass layoffs and home foreclosures.
The heightened demand for services is evident in the ministry’s increased assistance levels recently: “Since September 2009, we have helped 5,355 people in the area of prevention with assistance with rent and utilities representing 1,710 households,” Hizel said. “The average disbursement totals about $904,” she added.
She praised the Rapiers for their donation, noting they have been prominent supporters in the past. Hizel noted the donation – which exceeds even government grants typically in the million-dollar range – came as a surprise to staff.
“They have given smaller donations in the $100,000 to $200,000 range which have been very significant to us,” she said. “It was a pleasant surprise, like a Christmas gift that came in April.”
SAMMinistries CEO and President Navarra Williams agreed with Hizel regarding the contribution’s timing. In addition to helping the ministry exceed its typically sized budget, ministry coffers also have benefited from a $1.3 million increase with the move of the emergency shelter from Commerce Street to its Haven for Hope homeless facility, he said.
“This gift from the Blake, Kymberly and George Rapier Charitable Trust could not have come at a better time,” Williams said. He said the bulk of the money, $2 million, would be used for the range of ministry services, but particularly toward homeless prevention and Haven for Hope operation. The remaining $200,000 is earmarked for Furniture for a Cause, the ministry’s social enterprise retail furniture store at 5254 Blanco Rd.
A big part of the ministry’s appeal among donors is its preventive measures, life skills training and engagement with those assisted, Hizel noted. The philosophy is more of providing a hand up rather than a handout, she suggested.
“Our philosophy is to teach a person how to fish,” she said. “Even when we provide disbursements, people are required to attend financial classes and we have a case manager follow up with them in three months.”
The Rapiers have been supporting the ministry since 2008 with an initial $300,000 donation to help launch the non-profit’s Homeless Prevention Program, which helps individuals and families remain in their existing homes and avoid becoming homeless.