loyce-grigsby_web.jpgSpecial to South Florida Times

FT. LAUDERDALE — When Loyce Grigsby relocated to South Florida from the Washington, D.C., area, she was struck by the small number of black neighbors in her posh beachside community. Grigsby was further concerned about the high number of poor black families in which members of the third and fourth generations depend on public assistance.

As a result, Grigsby started The Millennium Institute, a nonprofit whose goal is to break the generational cycle of poverty in Broward County.

The institute will hold its inaugural fundraiser this month as part of the popular Winterfest Boat Parade in Fort Lauderdale. Grigsby said a big, bold fundraiser is necessary for the big, bold work that her organization envisions for itself.

“I know that when people who are looking to change their lives receive information and the know-how to make it happen, they can break old habits that keep them stuck,” said Grisgby, 70, owner of a thriving D.C.-based business. “Many families are dependent on the system because that is all that they know.”

Hundreds, if not thousands, of would-be entrepreneurs in the inner city do not pursue their dreams, she said, because the fear of “going without” is stronger than the belief that they can achieve their goals.

Danielle Guerin, the institute’s acting executive director, said the organization offers an array of services to children and families to help transform lives, including classes to help them break the cycle of poverty.

“We’re not interested in merely filling a class to meet contractual requirements. We want to connect with each and every person in the class to find out what makes them tick,” she said. “We want to help them to dream again, to inform them that not only is it their right to dream but to also pursue their dreams. Most people who are on public assistance have stopped dreaming.”

“We help families to take baby steps, if necessary, by creating an individualized action plan that is tailor-made for them,” Guerin said. “And we include the whole family, from setting educational goals for the kids to career goals for the parents. We help people to believe in themselves.”

The fundraiser will be a dinner cruise as a part of the Winterfest Boat Parade. Guerin said it will come complete with butler-served hors  d’oeuvres, an open bar and fine dining, along with a live band for dancing.

“We’re interested in partnering with corporations and local businesses to sponsor this event,” Guerin said. “All sponsors will benefit greatly because of the exposure they will receive and for being in alignment with an agency determined to transform lives.”

The Winterfest Boat Parade is a nationally televised event, the seventh largest spectator event in the nation, generating $42 million for the local economy.

What: The Millennium Institute’s Cruise for a Cause fundraising event

When: 6 p.m. to midnight, Saturday, Dec. 10

Where: New River, downtown Ft. Lauderdale

Cost: $165 per person. Purchase tickets at tmisite.org

Contact: For more information, call Shae at 954-766-4581.

Photo: Loyce Grigsby