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Fund for critical needs grants gifts

A newly formed fund to deal with critical food and shelter needs brought on by the recession in Mecklenburg County made more than $360,000 in grants Monday. The recipients are five homeless shelters and two programs that offer food and rent assistance. Mecklenburg County government officials, philanthropists and nonprofit agencies launched an emergency fundraising effort on December 2nd with a one-million dollar gift from the Levine Foundation. People have since donated more than half a million dollars. Now, the 18 volunteers overseeing the so-called "Critical Need Response Fund" will start knocking on the doors of local businesses. Foundation for the Carolina's President Michael Marsicano says even companies that have already been hit up by the United Way's annual campaign will get another call: "Remember that the United Way's fund drive now gives grants to these human service agencies July 1," explains Marsicano. "There's not availability of United Way funds for this critical need response at this moment. This added fund drive for this economic crisis, would need to have been done anyway." The Critical Need Response Fund will make grants through March. Marsicano says they haven't set a fundraising goal because no amount would be enough to cover all the community's needs. The largest grant given by the fund this week was $160,000 to help turn the vacant Hall House apartments into temporary housing for homeless families. The next grants will be made mid-January. Cabarrus County has now received a $100,000 gift from Philip Morris parent company Altria to create its own Critical Need Response Fund modeled after Mecklenburg County.