Ignite Ocala raises awareness and funds to support area charities.
Tears welled in Jeanne Henningsen’s eyes as she sat in a conference room a few years ago and listened to depressing statistics about the local women’s shelter, such as that 30 to 50 women were turned away every month due to a lack of beds. Henningsen says she glanced around the room and wondered—Why am I the only one so moved by this?
The second time she heard the stats was at a networking event, and this time she saw shock resonating on the faces of a few friends.
Henningsen says she heard the stats a third time before she was convinced that God was giving her a role in meeting needs at the Ocala Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault Center.
Henningsen, a self-employed leadership coach and consultant, recalls thinking in 2016, “OK, God, what do you want me to do? I can’t write a check for a million dollars for them to have a beautiful new shelter that’s big enough.”
She said she grabbed some friends, and they grabbed their friends and together they formed Ignite Ocala.
The volunteer group’s logo features a distinctive flame image. The organization’s mission is “to create a safe and loving community by partnering with local nonprofits who need their flame to burn brighter in order to fulfill their mission.”
That first year, Henningsen and her team hosted a luncheon for women and brought in speakers on domestic violence. Through the event proceeds, Ignite Ocala was able to help add 38 beds to the domestic violence center. The group has since provided food, clothing and even bus tickets for women and their children fleeing domestic abuse.
While the initial focus was relief for domestic abuse survivors, Ignite Ocala has since helped a number of other organizations with different missions.
Once we made a difference [for the shelter], that’s when we said, ‘OK, who else can we bless here?’” Henningsen recalls.
Through the annual Ignite Luncheon, the group’s signature fundraiser, Ignite Ocala has raised $227,000 since its founding.
In that time, the organization has given $40,000 to Kimberly’s Center for Child Protection for a therapeutic playground and paid two years of rent for an apartment managed by the Marion County Children’s Alliance to provide free housing for domestic violence victims and their children. They have provided funding to Wear Gloves Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to helping those in need earn what they need and paid for children’s summer camp tuition for the Boys & Girls Club of Marion County when the agency’s fundraisers were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On March 10th, the Ignite Luncheon hosted 150 people at the Klein Center at the College of Central Florida. The event raised $62,000, the most the group has ever raised at one time. On April 13th, the money, or Safe & Loving Community Award, was presented to Project Hope of Marion County, a nonprofit established in 2007 by a faith-based community group to provide solutions for homelessness among women and their children.
Each year, Ignite Ocala opens applications for nonprofits to apply for the Safe & Loving Community Award. The organization must have a 501(c)3 tax status, average annual revenue of about $550,000 or less, have a mission in alignment with Ignite Ocala and serve people in the community. Team members select the partner in August and then work from September to March to raise awareness and find sponsors, who provide a large amount of the financial award bestowed each spring. Prospective partners can visit igniteforocala.com/applytoday to learn more.
Those who wish to join the Ignite Ocala volunteer team, make a donation, become a sponsor or contribute a silent auction item can email firstname.lastname@example.org. OS
To learn more about Ignite Ocala, visit igniteforocala.com or facebook.com/igniteforocala