Three Central Florida Organizations with Innovative Solutions to Address Economic Disparities Advance in $100,000 Challenge

GuideWell Mutual Holding Corporation (GuideWell), the parent to a family of forward-thinking companies, including Florida Blue, the Blue Cross and Blue Shield plan of Florida, and the Lake Nona-based GuideWell Innovation Center, today selected three Central Florida organizations to receive seed money to implement their innovative ideas to address economic disparities.

Gospel, Inc., Family Promise of Brevard, and Poverty Solutions Group were selected from a group of 12 regional innovators across Central Florida to receive $5,000 in funding. They will also advance to GuideWell’s Growing Resilient Communities challenge finals in October for the opportunity to compete for a $40,000 state grand prize. Funds will be used to accelerate the development of their place-based approaches that focus on addressing economic inequities that exist in their respective local communities.

The three organizations from Central Florida advancing to the state finals include:

• Gospel, Inc. (Lakeland) – Offers a safe convening place where the local homeless, community leaders and other key stakeholders can advocate for positive change. A thriving tiny community now stands in Lakeland, where former homeless residents are finding belonging and purpose after grappling with various economic and personal challenges. Gospel, Inc. aims to solve chronic homelessness by applying best practices and resources of input forums, entrepreneurship skills workshops and regular health and wellness clinics.

• Family Promise of Brevard (Cocoa) – Believes that every family should have access to safe, affordable housing and essential resources that will help residents achieve self-sufficiency and lasting independence. Family Promise of Brevard is focused on expanding existing shelter programs to create stabilization and prevention and to address the educational and economic disparities in Cocoa’s underserved communities that will elevate residents out of poverty.

• Poverty Solutions Group (Orlando) – With a commitment to reducing poverty, Poverty Solutions Group offers 24 hours of training, mentorship and support to help Cohorts of Circle Leaders, residents with an income below the federal poverty line, develop their own plans for economic stability. Some plans include creating a new business venture either as supplemental income or as a future full-time endeavor. The challenge funding will support the organization’s next phase, which is to offer a formalized process to help launch the new business ventures of the residents that they support.

“We want to applaud all of the applicants for demonstrating their passion and willingness to innovate, collaborate and drive change for the people and communities in Central Florida,” said Kirstie McCool, executive director of GuideWell Innovation. “This challenge is designed to empower local residents to help jumpstart their communities and create long-term economic prosperity, which in turn can lead to healthier and stronger communities.”

According to a September 2020 report by the Urban Institute called Creating Places of Opportunity for All there is a direct correlation between the economic prosperity of a person’s neighborhood and their health.

In July, GuideWell issued the statewide challenge to entrepreneurs, nonprofits, innovators and organizations to advance community-based entrepreneurship, financial literary, as well as access to educational, legal and health resources.

Aside from Thursday’s event in Central Florida, three other regional virtual pitch events are taking place throughout the state. All finalists from each region will be invited to present their approaches and compete for the grand prize of $40,000 at the Growing Resilient Communities challenge statewide showcase on Wednesday, October 27. Like the regional pitch competitions, this year’s statewide event will also be held virtually.

All competition participants will also receive the unique opportunity to attend the GuideWell Growing Resilient Communities virtual town hall event on Thursday, October 28, an invitation-only, collaborative gathering, bringing together experts and stakeholders from across the state and nation to focus on improving economic disparities in Florida communities.