By Yurianna Mikolay, Executive Director
Ocean Reef Community Foundation

The excitement of All Charities Weekend is almost here! A Grants Committee of your peers has been meeting, studying, visiting, vetting, questioning, evaluating, debating and waiting for the numbers to roll in since November 1st.  That’s when the more than 100 Community Grant applications for 2023 funding totaling $3.2 million were due. In January, the committee was joined by community members for another round of site visits in the Upper Keys.  Highlights from our outing illustrate both the need outside the gates and the results of our funding:

  • At College of the Florida Keys we toured the impressive new Upper Keys Center the Ocean Reef community helped build and heard from the head of new Hospitality & Business programs made possible by last year’s grant. This year’s request would help outfit a testing center offering industry certification tests for First Responders, IT, Department of Education Tests for teachers, and Real Estate exams, which Keys residents must currently travel to Miami to take.
  • In the college parking lot we boarded Florida Keys AHEC’s Pediatric Mobile Dental Unit, which the Foundation helped purchase. It was almost a year to the day that the unit began a rotating schedule of visiting Monroe County schools.  In that short time, they have provided more than 9,400 dental services to Keys kids!
  • At the SOS Food Pantry we helped establish at St. Justin Martyr Catholic Church in 2014, we learned that the pantry has seen a 25 percent increase in client visits over the past year due to inflation and the rising cost of living. Monroe County claims the highest cost of living and highest average meal cost in the state of Florida.
  • A visit to the adjacent St. Justin Child Development Center was another good demonstration of our committee’s steadfast follow-up on all grants. The center was granted an extension when the playground project funded during the pandemic was delayed by supply chain issues.
  • Finally, at Jacobs Aquatic Center we reviewed last year’s safety projects and the declining state of the children’s pool and water features, now 20 years old and badly in need of updates.

After each tour, we request and carefully consider feedback from the community members who join us. One member had this to say about our tour: “What an incredible lineup of worthy Charities!  The passion of the people at these organizations was contagious and I came back very enthused by their work as well as proud of Ocean Reef for the work it does to fund them.”

We are squeezing in one last Charity Tour to Homestead next week ahead of the auction, and not long after will know how much funding is available for this year’s grants. If you haven’t been able to get out there and see the work you’re supporting for yourself, there are some great reminders of why you’re really bidding on our fabulous auction items at Thank you in advance for your generosity, it makes a real difference in surrounding communities!