by Yurianna Mikolay
Executive Director, Ocean Reef Community Foundation


With members traveling far and wide this summer, this August newsletter’s focus on the direction for our journey ahead presents a perfect opportunity to share a complementary look through the rearview mirror at some of the Foundation’s farther-flung past efforts that led to great things down the road.   While we usually focus on the latest news in our immediately surrounding communities of Homestead, Florida City and the Upper Keys, the interests of our community often reach farther — throughout the county, country and beyond – and results can take time to develop.  There’s much to be said for the perspective that only comes with time and distance.


According to Tennessee Williams, “Time is the longest distance between two places.” In that way, this project is doubly distant.  It started in “the way way back” of 2017 right after Hurricane Irma down in the Lower Keys. Our Florida Keys Hurricane Response Fund gave Keys-wide and supported a fledgling Florida Keys Community Land Trust created to meet the moment in rebuilding the area’s last bastion of affordable workforce housing at the storm’s ground zero on Big Pine Key.

By offering match grants and working to engage partners including the local United Way, Community Foundation of the Florida Keys, Florida Keys Hurricane Recovery Foundation and Monroe County, we helped bring in more than triple our investment and together were able to support the trust’s first four houses.  It seemed a monumental accomplishment at the time and offered hope when it was in short supply.

After helping FKCLT get established, it has been exciting to watch them progress, partnering to bring Rural Neighborhoods into the Keys, secure major capital funding, and make change happen on a greater scale.  This summer, Keys leaders and neighbors gathered to celebrate the kick-off of their next construction project consisting of 31 single-family, 2-bedroom cottages that will be affordable rentals for Big Pine families this time next year.

As Monroe County Mayor David Rice said at the groundbreaking, “Affordable housing defines the future of the Florida Keys,” adding that he wished there were 3,000 FKCLT units.  While this trip is a long one, I would note that the FKCLT’s workforce housing projects are the only such projects successfully brought to that devastated area in the almost five years since the storm.


You may be surprised to learn that, through our Donor Advised Funds, the Foundation has donated tens of millions of dollars to charities all over the country.  Members who use our DAFs give throughout the year to their favorite causes nationwide, often in and from the very communities where they may be summering now.  While virtually all our DAFs donate to Ocean Reef nonprofits and increasingly more give to local charities outside the gates, the majority of DAF grant funds actually go to other states.  Gifts vary year to year and are private, but out-of-state gifts typically total in the millions annually.  DAFs are a convenient way to give in all the places you care about with maximum tax advantage.  Click here to learn more. 


It seems a whole world away, but Google assures me that the distance from Ocean Reef to Haiti is about a thousand miles. A year ago this month the Foundation and Club collaborated to assist those, including so many family members of Associates, affected by the 2021 earthquake.  You may recall that we announced $120,000 in grants to six organizations in quick order with the promise of a complete report to come.   It has been our practice in disaster relief — two hurricanes, two earthquakes and a pandemic on my watch — to meet urgent needs immediately, reserving some funds to respond as new needs emerge and, wherever possible, support longer-term solutions.

One of our initial grants went to build two neighborhood cisterns in the city of Pestel, which lost its water infrastructure in the quake.  Pestel was identified as an area of focus specifically because it has the highest concentration of family members of Club employees and is difficult to reach, and therefore less likely to receive and more in need of assistance.

As news coverage of Haiti would lead you to expect, there have been some detours along the way. After closely following the completion of the two smaller cisterns, each providing clean water to about 4,000 families, we have found the organization that successfully managed the projects to be a reliable partner under very challenging circumstances.

I am pleased to report that our final grant of $40,000 recently went to ESPWA (meaning “hope” in Creole) for repairs to the larger primary water cistern for the city of Pestel, which will provide a sustainable source of clean water for more than 24,400 additional residents, as well as those in surrounding rural communities. A year out from the initial disaster we are at the beginning of a major project that will have a huge and long-term impact on a whole community that we know includes many near and dear to employees. As always, we’ll stay on top of it and share the results when we reach our destination.

While noting that “impact” has very different implications for road trips and foundations, this concludes our summer tour of recent big picture impact made possible by your generosity.