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ABQ Journal

Albuquerque Heading Home, an organization that seeks to eradicate local homelessness, strode ahead of an organization that creates recreational experiences for those with disabilities, to win the Great Grant Giveaway on Friday morning.

The giveaway is organized by the Albuquerque Community Foundation, a local nonprofit organization that manages a community endowment. Earnings go into grants that are awarded to selected local nonprofits, according to the foundation’s philanthropic services director, Kelli Cooper.

Rather than making all the disbursement decisions itself, the foundation, for the second year, gave each of the 65 tables at its Friday morning breakfast at Hotel Albuquerque an oversized check worth $500 ($200 from the foundation and $300 from table sponsors).

The foundation then let each table decide who should get its check.

The possible recipients were National Dance Institute of New Mexico, Albuquerque Economic Development Foundation Inc., Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central New Mexico, ABQ BioPark, Global Opportunities Unlimited Inc. and Albuquerque Heading Home.

The foundation picked one organization from each of its six fields of interest: arts and culture, economic and workforce development, education, environmental and historic preservation, health, and human services.

The attendees watched videotaped synopses of each organization’s goals and plans to use additional funding. Then each table considered its options and cast a vote.

Albuquerque Heading Home walked away with the biggest chunk of funding after 20 tables – almost a third – picked it. The organization also received a $5,000 check from one of the foundation’s major sponsors, New Mexico Educators Federal Credit Union, as well as $1,150 from other attendees who made individual contributions, for a total of $16,150.

Global Opportunities Unlimited was picked by 17 tables and it got $440 in donations from attendees. Adding in a check from major sponsor Lovelace Health System, the organization received a total of $13,940.

“This is just amazing,” said Global Opportunities Unlimited executive director and founder Dustin Berg, 29. “I’m so proud to have community support for the work we’re doing.”

That work involves taking groups of people on hikes using wheelchairs redesigned for outdoor recreational use; it also organizes fishing outings and wheelchair-basketball tournaments. The organization has served about 120 New Mexicans who use wheelchairs, and has an annual budget of about $80,000, said Berg, the only full-time staffer who has a team of between 30 and 40 volunteers.

He started the organization in 2005, after barely surviving a 2003 motorcycle accident in the North Valley.

He plans to use the money to buy more equipment for the wheelchair basketball group, and toward retrofitting an all-terrain vehicle, he said.

In all, the foundation saw its six selected organizations get a total of $69,940. “The event personifies community spirit and generosity,” said Cooper.

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