The Grace Jones Community Day Care Center has been caring for the children of working families in the Florida Keys since 1958 when Grace Jones, a Bahamian immigrant, recognized the lack of services for minority children in our then racially segregated society. Our “namesake” founded the Center over a half century ago so that all children in the Florida Keys had an equal opportunity to thrive and succeed.
While the 50+ years of service by the Center can largely be perceived as a year-round delivery of award winning day care services for the children of working families, there are several milestones along these five decades that stand out. With space at a premium here, just two milestones are presented now. The first milestone is the fact that the Center, year after year, continues to achieve the highest ratings (the prestigious Gold Seal School Award) from the State of Florida regarding our certifications, program delivery, and general effectiveness. The second major milestone was the COMPLETE REBUILDING of a new facility for the Center after our 50 year old facility was totally destroyed by Hurricane Wilma in 2005.
What does re-building mean? In short, the Center’s building that served the day care needs of disadvantaged children and families in the Florida Keys since 1958, was completely destroyed by Hurricane Wilma in 2005! In the days following what can only be called a monumental disaster, the Board of Directors of the Center faced a critical decision – to close operations forever, to rebuild, or to relocate. For several anxious months after destruction of the Center, one of our “best-case” scenarios was actually to secure placement of the Center’s children with other day care facilities in the Keys. Fortunately, with other day care centers closing then and since the event of Hurricane Wilma in 2005, we chose to rebuild.
Our challenge was formidable – in an immediate community of fewer than 10,000 people (Marathon), the Center needed to raise $2.5 million to build a suitable facility that would last for at least another 50 years.
Our first “miracle” came in the form of a piece of land donated by the MonroeCountySchool District, valued at $1 million. Next, through truly magnanimous financial donations, construction services, and fundraising leadership from a handful of amazing stakeholders and benefactors including Pritam Singh and the Singh Company, the Eckerd Family Foundation, the Cay Club, St. Columba Church, and the Berry Foundation, the Center came into a position to borrow construction funds from a local lender. The “miracle” continued over the next two years as all but the last $90,000 of a $2.5 million project was contributed by private foundations, local businesses, numerous fundraisers, and countless volunteer efforts. This story has a very good ending – the Center was built and opened its doors to children in the Fall of 2007.
While our active Capital Campaign has been shelved out of respect for a community that literally exhausted itself by raising nearly $2.5 million for re-building, we do still have a construction debt of $90,000 and we would greatly appreciate any donations from members of the community that will help us to retire this remaining sum once and for all.