“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” – Anne Frank

Dear Friend of FKCS,

Reflecting on this quote by Anne Frank, I often wonder if our thank you cards and appreciative gestures have been sufficient to communicate our gratitude for what you already do to improve the world…especially in our small corner of it. We can only make a meaningful difference in the daily lives of our local children with your support! Sometimes
a mere “thank you” does not sum up our true appreciation. We hope that you and your families remain heathy since my last update and that you will find this latest information helpful in seeing the progress we have made along with what we have planned for the near future.

As always, it is my goal for FKCS to continue delivering the greatest care and compassion for the youth and families we serve – children from ages 6 through 17 in our residential program as well as children and young adults ages 6 through 21 in our community-based programs. Our team was challenged with new needs and concerns this year. We met those
challenges and created programs, like our Jelsema Learning Center, to meet those needs, enriching and enhancing the lives of youth in our community. Through thick and thin, we have remained an intact and strong team. In fact, our programs all operated at full capacity this year. Between our core dedicated employees and our management leaders, we continue to maintain and draw strong Board members and FKCS advocates, even during these times of uncertainty.

We have an amazing community that has stood with us, assisting in the realization of our potential to impact children and their families. This is no easy task. We see the results caused by the damaging behavior of some people. They can act senselessly and maliciously. But thankfully, others can, and more often do, exhibit extreme compassion and altruism. In my 21 years with FKCS, I have witnessed enduring and collective consideration for the kids of Jelsema Children’s Shelter and Poinciana Group Homes. People want to help. They want to give and to make a difference in a child’s life.

However, the pandemic’s crippling consequences continue worldwide. Well into the foreseeable future, asking for, obtaining and maintaining funding will be our primary challenge. Our historical fundraising has been halted for the last 15 months due to COVID-19 restrictions but plans for creative fundraising events and frequent promotion of FKCS programs for 2022 are underway.

What great expectation I have for this next year and beyond! We plan to address the needs of youth aging out of childhood by creating and funding supportive transitions to adulthood. The innovative answer to providing a safety net to this group is called “Transitional Living”. Transitional Living programs provide and assure safe lodging, occupational and academic assistance, life and coping skills, coaching, counseling and more. Clients who will benefit the most are those who lack the parental supports and resources afforded in a traditional sense.

If you have a moment, please visit our website – www.fkcs.org – and take the new virtual tour of our Jelsema Children’s Shelter in Tavernier. Our welcoming atmosphere with colorful murals painted by local artists, add to the sense of home and safety for all who come through our doors. We invite you to imagine what it might feel like as a young child being placed with us. “Will I be okay here?” “Will this place be safe?” It is difficult to understand the trauma so many of our children have endured. But we take solace in the fact that once they are in our care, healing can begin. These are just a few of our latest initiatives. We are so grateful that you have played a critical partnership role in making all this possible and helping us care for these children. We look forward to ‘improving the world’ with you in this new fiscal year!

A thousand thanks!
Ben Kemmer, CEO
Florida Keys Children’s Shelter