by Yurianna Mikolay, Executive Director, Ocean Reef Community Foundation

A number of exciting developments taking place Keys- and even world- wide in the first few months of 2022 trace their roots back to the Foundation and the Ocean Reef Community’s generosity a few years ago.  It’s gratifying to see seeds we planted (funds raised and donated) all the way back in 2020 bearing fruit!  Join us in celebrating reaping what you helped us sow.

First, there were ribbon-cutting celebrations for a new Pediatric Mobile Dental Unit at public schools in the Upper, Middle, and Lower Keys in January.  The unit is enabling Keys AHEC to bring a dentist and a dental hygienist to schools throughout the Keys on a rotating basis. Badly needed services include dental exams, X-rays, cleanings, fillings, sealants, and dental education. Our $50,000 match grant in 2020 helped The Waypoint Foundation, which came up with the concept, to leverage our funding and raise the first $100,000 towards the unit.  Procuring the unit was delayed by the pandemic, but today it is a successful project that will positively impact the vast majority of Keys children and a great example of our Grants Committee’s follow up processes which saw it through to completion.

Shortly thereafter, on International Thank You Day, signs of appreciation went up and pizza parties for all shifts took place at Mariners Hospital in Tavernier, Fisherman’s Community Hospital in Marathon, and the Lower Keys Medical Center in Key West. It was a fitting final grant from our COVID-19 Relief Fund, wrapping up an almost two-year and $1.38 million effort with a literal thank you to the healthcare heroes who have borne the brunt of the pandemic. We are grateful to the local United Way for coordinating the events we sponsored.  Of course, we provided significant support to families, healthcare, vaccination events, education, and outreach along the way to those events.

One totally unexpected product of our pandemic response effort came in a February email from grant recipient University of Miami, letting us know that Dr. Sonjia Kenya has been invited to make a presentation later this month at the International Public Health Conference on the expansive and innovative outreach project we funded.  UM explains that this is an extraordinary opportunity that demonstrates real potential for our initiative to serve as a model worldwide.  I was quite proud to review the results in her presentation and to see our logo on it.  Sometimes our grants surprise even us with their reach!