Help Repair Our Shelter Basketball Court

By | News

Choose us for the Newman’s Own Foundation Holiday Challenge as the need has never been greater for Florida Keys children.   

Specifically your Giving Tuesday gift will help repair the basketball court at our Jelsema Children’s Center in the Upper Florida Keys. The well-used baskets already needed replacement but were further damaged by Hurricane Irma. This will be the first phase of the upgrade of this outdoor area as work toward our dream of having the basketball court repaved and erect a concrete pavilion to house a ping pong table. 

The Florida Keys Children’s Shelter counselors across the entire county are working directly with families affected by Hurricane Irma. For 30 years, we have been providing a safe place for children and teens. Our no-cost residential facilities are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. and we have provided housing, food and counseling to children from Key Largo to Key West as their families rebuild after Irma.

  • GIVE

On behalf of the children who will use this basketball court daily for years to come…THANK YOU.


Help Spread the Word!

Help make our community, safer, stronger and healthier. Right here. Right now.

By | Uncategorized

Dear Friends,

As we come to the close of our fiscal year, we reflect on the continued support from our community. Through the challenging times to our successes, your unwavering commitment to the Children’s Shelter has been humbling. We thank you for lifting us up and cheering us on each and every day.

Because of you, nearly 500 at-risk children and families in the Florida Keys and Key West had a safe place to stay and a hot meal, or the counseling and resources they needed to get through a crisis or the guidance and encouragement to get off the streets and make a better life for themselves. On behalf of them and our committed team of professionals, thank you for your generous contributions and partnership.

We recently helped Ralph a high school senior graduate on time who was headed down the wrong path. He was referred to our Community Based Counseling program for truancy and a narcotics arrest – possession and under the influence. When we met him, he was scared and worried he wouldn’t graduate high school because of failing grades and now the new drug citation. We met with him weekly at school and worked with him to make a plan for graduation. The plan was for Ralph to attend school daily, no more absences, make up all class work by staying after school three times per week, complete extra coursework online, make up or repeat tests and saying “no” to drugs. We worked closely with his teachers and family and used motivational techniques, supportive counseling skills, encouragement and positive reinforcement with Ralph so that he grew confidence that he could do it. Today he is drug free and is graduating with his senior class on time! He is also applying for grants so that he can attend Florida Keys Community College to become a professional.

Every day, your support makes stories like Ralph’s possible.

Today, we are launching our Fiscal Year-End Campaign. Our goal is to give an additional 100 boys and girls the tools to live a full, safe life. You see, even though we helped nearly 500 people this year, there are still almost 200 youth in our community that need our help.

Our goal for this campaign is raise $25,000 by June 30th. Your gift is extremely important because it will offer immediate resources, like shelter, food, clothing, medical care and counseling, for 100 more kids in our community.

Would you be willing to make a special Fiscal Year-End donation of $50, $100, $200 or whatever you can afford to help us meet our goal and give 100 more kids the tools to live a full safe life?

Your donation is helping to make our community safer, stronger and healthier. Right here. Right now. Please click below to make your donation.

Personal Info

Donation Total: $50

Thank you so much for your help.

Ben Kemmer, Co-CEO, and William Mann, Co-CEO

Ocean Reef Community Foundation Awards $29,000 To Florida Keys Children’s Shelter

By | News

The Ocean Reef Community Foundation’s (The Foundation) Community Grants Program awarded the Florida Keys Children’s Shelter (Children’s Shelter) $29,000 to support its Essential Care Fund. The Essential Care Fund is dedicated to providing emergency funds to the children and youth residing in its residential program; last year serving 106 kids. More often than not, the kids arrive with only the clothes on their back; lacking basic necessities. This grant award makes it possible for the Children’s Shelter to give them what they need, when they need it. Beyond shelter and counseling, the Essential Care Fund helps to provide stability and start the healing process while in care. “As we strive to help our kids heal and begin a new a life, we need the help and investment of others to give them the necessities of an ordinary childhood. And that’s exactly what The Foundation is helping us to achieve.” Says Bill Mann, Co-CEO, Children’s Shelter.

The monies will help to underwrite the operating expenses, approximately $40,000 annually for: medical, dental and personal needs; education, school and program supplies; extra-curricular activities and recreation; clothing and shoes; and behavioral incentives and allowances. Ben Kemmer, Co-CEO, “With The Foundation’s support, our kids feel proud when they get their new haircut and clothes or have the supplies they need to complete special school projects. They can have some fun too while on outings like bowling or going to Dave & Busters. We thank The Foundation for their continued support.”

Since 2001, The Foundation has awarded the Children’s Shelter with 12 grants totaling $238,000. Last year, the award was dedicated to the Children’s Shelter On the Go – Family Van Project. A 2016 Toyota Sienna, SE eight passenger mini-van was purchased and is used daily by the residential team to transport the kids; ensuring a safe, reliable, fuel efficient and comfortable ride for their most precious cargo.

2017 Check Presentation: From left: Bill Nutt, ORCF Board Chairman; Brad Copeland, FKCS Board Chairman; Ben Kemmer, FKCS, Co-CEO; Karen N. Holmes, FKCS CDO; and Janie Sims, ORCF Grants Committee Chair.

Children’s Shelter On the Go – Family Van Project

About Ocean Reef Community Foundation Grants Program

The Foundation’s Community Grants Program funds dozens of charities in the areas of Education, Youth, Health & Family Services and Community in Homestead/Florida City and the Upper Keys each spring. The program has awarded more than $6.1 million since 2008. To learn more, visit the Community Grants page at

About Florida Keys Children’s Shelter

The mission of the Children’s Shelter “Safe Kids, Strong Families, and a Healthy Community” drives every facet of its programming. Serving Monroe County for almost 30 years, the private not-for-profit Children’s Shelter has touched more than 24,000 lives through its five programs: emergency shelter, group homes, residential respite, community-based counseling and homeless and runaway youth drop-in center. For more information about the Children’s Shelter or to learn how to get involved, please call Karen N. Holmes, Chief Development Officer at (305) 852-4246 ext. 222 or email her at

Important Message from the Florida Keys Children’s Shelter

By | News

Dear Friends,

You may have read recent articles about the Florida Keys Children’s Shelter. Because you are a valued supporter, we want to take a moment to let you know where we are as an organization, what we have done to improve safeguards, and where we plan to go.

Over the course of almost 30 years, the Children’s Shelter has improved more than 24,000 lives in the Florida Keys and Key West through our five no-cost programs. The overriding mission of the Children’s Shelter is to protect the health, safety, and well-being of the youth under our care. Our passion for serving the community is unavoidably accompanied by certain challenges, which we are certainly willing to take on. Sadly, we have witnessed a steady increase in at-risk youth dealing with a history of severe mental and behavioral health issues, often combined with alcohol and substance use/abuse.

This awful combination has, unfortunately, led to some tragic outcomes that have deeply affected the youth, their families, and our team. In 2014, we experienced the shocking revelation that one of our youth care workers was arrested for sex-trafficking involving two minor females who resided in our shelter but chronically ran away. Then last year, we were deeply saddened when one of our residents attempted suicide under our care, and later passed away. This year, we and other upstanding organizations were hit with a lawsuit alleging a failure to protect a 17-year-old girl from being sold into sex trafficking. In each of those incidents, we cooperated fully with all appropriate authorities – including the Monroe County Sheriff Office, the Department of Children and Families, Our Kids, Wesley House Family Services, and other agencies – by providing all information requested.

To do everything possible to ensure that incidents like these never happen again at the Children’s Shelter, we have taken the following steps:

  • In the 2014 case, the youth care worker was terminated immediately, and eventually was found guilty and sentenced to 32 years in federal prison. Even though the investigation showed that the Children’s Shelter had followed all employment screening and safety protocols, we have increased our safeguards by conducting routine employee background screenings and additional staff training, added security cameras and alarm systems, and revamped our screening and intake process and no longer automatically accept all placement referral.
  • The 2016 death of the young resident was a tragic reminder that we all must be constantly aware of signs of trouble among those we work so hard to help. Leadership at the Children’s Shelter initiated an internal review of current policies and procedures to ensure that our practices not only meet but in fact surpass mandated supervision, safety, and education protocols for licensed residential facilities in Florida. We added enhanced record-keeping, training, and lifesaving and safety equipment, offered grief counseling to our residential youth and to our team members.
  • Earlier this month, we reached a confidential settlement that resolved allegations by a then-17-year-old youth who chronically ran away in 2012 and became involved with sex traffickers.

We see the tremendous necessity for our services in the community. Knowing the extent of this need and all the challenges that accompany it, the Children’s Shelter will continue serving the most vulnerable youth in the Florida Keys and Key West, always with the highest standards of compassion and care. Our goal is to give these boys and girls the tools to live a full, safe life. At the same time, we recognize that when youths are determined to run away or engage in risky behavior and self-harm, they will succeed. That’s why we will remain diligent to identify potentially dangerous behaviors early and intercede swiftly and appropriately.

We thank you for your continued support, and for believing in us. We are so grateful to have the opportunity to serve the community.


William Mann                       Ben Kemmer 

Co-CEO                                   Co-CEO

If you should have questions or concerns, please contact us at (305) 852-4246 or email us at or We thank you for your continued support, and for believing in us. 

Free Tax Preparation Courtesy of United Way of the Florida Keys/VITA and FKCS

By | Events, News


The Children’s Shelter is proud to partner with the United Way of the Florida Keys on the VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) program. VITA provides tax preparation services for qualifying individuals and families at NO COST!

Please bring the following documents:

1) Government issued Photo ID (Both spouses must be present if filing jointly)

2) Original copies of your Social Security Card or ITIN for all members of your household

3) W2 from employers / 1099s / Interest statements / Unemployment

4) Form 1095-A if you had coverage with the Healthcare Marketplace (Obamacare)

5) Direct Deposit Information – checkbook

6) Any tax-related documents
**It is helpful if you have last year’s tax return with you**



Paradise Paint Out 2017 Raises $71,000 For Florida Keys Children’s Shelter

By | Events, News, Past Events

The nine-day cultural event brought 20 of the best Plein Air artist from across the country and the pond to raise awareness and much needed fund for Monroe County’s at-risk children and families.

The Florida Keys Children’s Shelter (Children’s Shelter) hosted the Paradise Paint Out 2017 (PPO) on January 11-19, 2017. This first time event for the Children’s Shelter raised $71,000 which directly benefits their five programs serving the at-risk children and families of Monroe County, Florida. Bill Mann, Co-CEO, Children’s Shelter states “We are grateful for the community support as the monies raised helps to provide the much needed free programming we make available to all residents”. The nine-day paint out featured three cross-county wet room galleries drawing more than 600 visitors and 20 of the top Plein Air national and international artists. The one-of-a kind event, sponsored by Ocean Sotheby’s International Realty, was the perfect backdrop for the artist to paint “En plein air” or in open air of some of the iconic sceneries of the Florida Keys.

“Ocean Sotheby’s International Realty is proud to support the Florida Keys Children’s Shelter through our sponsorship of the Paradise Paint Out,” said Russell Post, Broker of Ocean Sotheby’s International Realty. This event provides an incredible opportunity for art lovers to watch and meet some of the finest Plein Air painters from around the country while also supporting some incredible causes within our community.”

Some highlights included a Full Moon Nocturnal Paining at the Florida Keys County Club in Marathon, Artist demonstrations at Grimal Grove in Big Pine Key and Little Basin Villas in Islamorada, the Mid-Way Finale at the 15th annual Mayors Ball in Key West, Florida Bay Preservation Day from the land and water, and the Finale & Preservation Night reception, a partnership with Florida Bay Forever.

The Finale & Preservation Night reception drew upwards of 160 attendees at the stunning new gallery, Our Place in Paradise in Islamorada. Guests viewed 250 pieces of art using mediums ranging from water color, pastel, oil and acrylic, enjoyed entertainment by Dave Feder and catering by A Little Taste of Paradise. The evening also featured a $500 cash prize People’s Choice Award that went to Jason Sacran from Fort Smith, AK and a $1,000 cash prize Artist’s Choice Award that was a tie between Haidee-Jo Summers of Lincolnshire, England and Jason Sacran. The proceeds for the evening benefited both the Children’s Shelter and Florida Bay Forever.


“Florida Bay Forever was thrilled to partner with the Florida Keys Children’s Shelter to create the Paradise Paint Out. Our mission includes bringing awareness to the Florida Bay as it supports a vibrant Florida Keys,” said Elizabeth Jolin. “The Florida Keys is enhanced by a healthy resource and healthy kids. We were honored to be a part of bolstering support for the undeniably critical role the Children’s Shelter provides to our community.”


Children’s Shelter Executive Council Member, Betsy Keteltas and Children’s Shelter Volunteer, Paula Friedman, co-chaired the philanthropic event.

“It was an honor to work on the 2017 Paradise Paint Out with such an extraordinary team. The artists embraced the Keys through their paintings as well as their full immersion in our wonderful communities. The hospitality and generosity of the locals barred none. It will be a tough act to follow in 2018, but we accept the challenge,” says Keteltas.

“I am proud to have been a part of the 2017 PPO success. Making the Paint Out a Keys wide event and including the Florida Bay Preservation Day inspired the artists to new heights. I have heard from several of the hosts who housed our artists what a satisfying experience they had. The artists could not have been more appreciative of our efforts on their behalf and of our extraordinary little piece of Paradise,” says Friedman.

“For being a first time event for the Children’s Shelter, we are so pleased with the awareness it raised for the organization in the community,” says Ben Kemmer, Co-CEO at the Children Shelter.

The event was made possible by a Monroe County Tourist Development Council grant and sponsors Ocean Sotheby’s International Realty, Florida Bay Forever, Little Basin Villas Islamorada, Islamorada Beer Company, Plein Air Magazine, Our Place in Paradise, Dave Feder and a Little Taste of Paradise, Shell World and 25 hosts that housed the artists.

About the Florida Keys Children’s Shelter

The mission of the Florida Keys Children’s Shelter (Children’s Shelter) “Safe Kids, Strong Families, and a Healthy Community” drives every facet of its programming. Serving Monroe County for almost 30 years, the private not-for-profit Children’s Shelter touched more than 500 lives last year through its no-cost programs; emergency shelter, group homes, community-based counseling, respite services and drop-in center for homeless and run-away youth. For more information on services or learn how to get involved, please go to or call (305) 852-4246 ext. 222.

15th Annual Mayor’s Ball in Paradise

By | Events, News

Oh YES, of course, the 15th Annual Mayor’s Ball in Paradise. I must put that on my calendar! It is a wonderful event and helps take care of me and all my friends at the Florida Keys Children’s Shelter. You better hurry! It is sure to be a sellout again this year!

Saturday, January 14, 2017
6:00 Reception – 7:15 Dinner and Dancing with Prime Movers
Casa Marina Beach Resort, Key West
$160 per person or $1500 for a table of 10

Call Janey at 305-731-4741 or email her at

Tables are filling up fast. See you there. Thank you SPONSORSHIPS are available.

Visit invite on Facebook

15th Annual Mayor's BALL in Paradise