FRIENDS OF FOSTER CHILDREN of SOUTHWEST FLORIDA
Our Mission: To provide abused, neglected and abandoned children in Southwest Florida with the social, educational and financial support the state does not.
Our Goal: like our mission, Friends of Foster Children (FFC) strives to fulfill the needs of every child who enters, or is at risk of entering the foster care system in Southwest Florida, regardless of whether they reside in a foster home, with a relative, non-relative, in a shelter or residential facility. We follow the child wherever they are placed.
Our History: FFC (previously known as the Foster Care Council) was launched in 1999 by Stan and Cathy Appelbaum and, Dr. Les and the late, Lynn Schultzel. The first year the organization provided for a handful of children, it now annually serves over eight hundred children. In 2000, FFC was staffed by one part time director and a handful of very talented and dedicated volunteers. In 2013, FFC has 3 full time and one part time staff and over a hundred volunteers.
What do we do? We have two primary programs that provide services to the children in need, Project Enrichment, and our tutoring/academic mentoring program, the Education Train. FFC believes that education is key to breaking the cycle of abuse and neglect.
- Project Enrichment: Provides activities and needed items to the children we serve so they feel “normal”. It allows our children to take part in a wide range of opportunities, such as karate classes, dance lessons, after-school activities, summer camp, sports teams and music lessons. Project Enrichment also provides birthday and holiday gifts, equipment and school clothing.
During the long summer vacation months, with the help of Project Enrichment, our children are able to attend summer camps and enjoy field trips and other fun activities. Our hope is to help these children feel “normal” and boost their self-confidence by providing the many vital resources and services they would not otherwise have.
- Education Train: Provides individualized one-on-one tutoring services to the children we serve. Our children are set back educationally every time they experience a placement change or other traumatic event. Most of them are never at one school long enough to adjust to their new surroundings and learn the basic academics and social skills necessary to be a successful student.
Highly trained tutors, who are really academic mentors, work one-on-one with our children. Students are pre and post-tested to track their progress and accurately assess specific needs. Ninety-four percent had improved grades on their report cards and ninety-five percent of children tutored in 2012 were able to keep the same tutor, providing much needed stability.
Fundraising Events: FFC has two major fundraisers during season. The Comedy Cabaret, launched by Dr. Les Schultzel, has been a seasonal fixture for over twelve years. Top comedians from America’s best comedy clubs are booked (pro gratis) thanks to Schultzel family connections, and the entertainment rivals anything to be found in New York or the West Coast. The 2013 Comedy Cabaret is scheduled for December 7, 2013 at the Naples Beach Hotel.
Boots & Boogie Bash is our signature event held at the end of season. This is a fun-filled high energy fundraiser with great music, dancing and entertainment and where boots, hats and bandanas are the dress code for the evening. This year’s event is scheduled for the Saturday, April 26, 2014 at the Pavilion at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club.
Our Board: Friends of Foster Children has a very active, 15-member board This includes three founding members: Stan & Cathy Appelbaum and Les Schultzel, MD; plus our President, Doug Campbell (retired corporate executive); Vice President, Dick Westfall (CPA/private equity entrepreneur, retired); our Treasurer, Suzanne Meiners-Levy, Esq. (Advocate Consulting Group); Kevin Brachle (Fidelity Investments); Susan Erb (Merrill Lynch); Bill Diamond (Executive Director, The Carlisle Naples); Alison Douglas, Esq. (Cummings & Lockwood); Jim Henderson (William C. Huff Moving Companies); David Scott Madwar, MD (Concierge Physician); Walter Schacht (Gibraltar Private Bank & Trust); Mark Schwartz (Owner, Stormforce) and Christian Spilker (VP Land Management, Collier Enterprises)
Our Volunteers: In addition to our 21 professional tutors, we have 30 – 50 volunteers for each of the two major fundraising events; and for our children’s events we have 120 volunteers for the Gift of Giving; 20 Chaperones for our field trips and outings; and 20 each for Lynn’s Picnic and the Tempur-Pedic Mattress Day event. Some of these volunteers attend multiple events, but also, many of our supporters love to be chaperones on field trips and help the children for the Gift of Giving.
To the Naples Children and Education Foundation. For the past eight years, with your support, we have been able to help improve the lives of thousands of foster children in our community.