TAMPA — When Rhonda Wills’ husband, Patrick, was dying of leukemia a decade ago, the Brandon Foundation, in its first year, helped the family pry their home from the grips of foreclosure.
For Patrick Wills, it was a small but meaningful consolation, which he verbalized in his final hours, foundation Director Rich Strehl said.
Rhonda Wills was invited Saturday night to tell her story at the nonprofit group’s annual dinner and 10-year anniversary celebration.
Since that first year, the Brandon Foundation has helped dozens of families and local charities with monetary donations, car repairs, bill payments and housing. Saturday, it did so again, doling out checks to 17 of its registered charities, a portion of the $100,000 it donated during the past year.
The foundation hosts five events each year to raise money and works with a host of local businesses that help when they are called upon.
Former American Idol contestant Jeremy Rosado of Brandon performed during the event, held at the Florida State Fairgrounds. Others joined Rhonda Wills in telling stories of how the foundation has helped them.
Most of the families the foundation helps are coping with life-threatening illnesses or other personal catastrophes when the foundation’s Angel Program steps in to help. This year, Strehl said, much of that help came in the form of car repairs. In those cases, local businesses do repairs for free or at dramatically reduced costs, he said.
Sometimes it’s a one-time helping hand, with money to pay a bill here or there, or to make a house repair, Strehl said.
A foundation committee sorts through requests from struggling families, then looks for ways to assist.
This year, the foundation helped 40 families, Strehl said. And this year it also started its Difference Maker program, which allows people to donate online at www.brandonfoundation .info or by calling (813) 689-6889.