The Ocean Reef Community Foundation has granted the Florida Keys Children’s Shelter $48,000 to help fund a Recreation Coach, Life Skills Coach, and Education Coach, all three employed full-time at the 19-bed Youth Center in Plantation Key.

“Our strategic plan created by our Executive Council and productivity expert Elisa Levy in 2017 called for employing staff with bachelor’s degrees and specific expertise to provide a more quality experience for the youth ages 11-17 who live here,” said Florida Keys Children’s Shelter CEO Ben Kemmer. “Whether a young person stays with us for just a few nights or for months, the coaches make a difference.”

“We’re thankful for the Ocean Reef dollars that are helping fund the gap between government grants and the salaries needed to attract and retain skilled professionals,” Kemmer said. “Our cost of living is higher than other areas receiving the same funding as we do. And here in the Keys we’re competing with tourism. You can make more money working in a restaurant or retail store than the wage that the state budgets for us to pay youth support staff,” he said.

The Ocean Reef Community Foundation also granted nearly $4,000 for Florida Keys Children’s Shelter residents to participate in educational field trips this summer, organized by Reef Environmental Education Foundation.

The grant to the Children’s Shelter was among the largest of the more than $1.3 million distributed by Ocean Reef Community Foundation to dozens of nonprofit organizations. Other programs in the Upper Keys receiving the largest grants this year included the Guidance/Care Center, Habitat for Humanity of the Upper Keys, Take Stock in Children, Key Largo YMCA, Key Largo School, and Florida Keys Community College. For a full list of programs funded, visit the Community Foundation’s web site at