September 15 — Wesley House Family Services has been helping children for almost 100 years.
Grace Epperly, Development Coordinator for Wesley House Family Services of the Florida Keys, joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM this morning to talk about the organization.
Wesley House is a full case management agency and it began in the 1920s with the preschool, Inez Martin Child Development Center in Key West. Based on the needs of the community, the services grew and now include all the foster care placement for children within Monroe County.
Epperly said, “We license and train foster parents. We have another division called Strengthening Families. That’s for people that may be in a crisis situation and they’re at risk of losing their children. That’s a short-term intervention program. We work with them to empower them to be better parents and get the resources they may need. That’s an interim moment.”
Healthy Families Monroe is a free voluntary program for women who are pregnant or their children are three months of less. The entire family participates until the child is 5 years old and they graduate from the program.
Epperly said, “That gives them better education to have a strong parent/child relationship. It’s a great, great resource for the community.”
Adoptions for children in foster care are also done.
Foster parents are always needed in Monroe County.
Epperly said, “We’re continuously recruiting for foster parents. We do typically three to four training sessions throughout the year, depending on the interest in the community. The reason that we’re constantly recruiting is because we want to have a pool to draw from.”
Wesley House is never certain when a child will need their services and having a healthy group of foster families will help place children near where they come from so the situation isn’t quite as traumatic as it could be.
The children can stay in their school and keep their group of friends they may have made.
Epperly said, “Also we do have a need for people that can handle siblings, you know, multiple kids together, and then we also have a great need for people that would be willing to foster teenagers as well, particularly in the upper Keys.”
Mike Stapleford of KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM said, “Fostering certainly is demeaning, yet very rewarding. I’ve spoken with several people who are foster parents or have been and certainly they find it very, very fulfilling.”
Epperly said, “We like to say your’e raising hope and fostering dreams. You’re being that one person who is that ray of hope for these kids. Anybody who’s going to offer love and stability to a child can be a foster parent.”
Stapleford said, “We have a lot of caring people in the Keys, a lot of people who want to make a differenced and this is one way where they can make a profound difference in the life of a child.”
The efforts of Wesley House does take the help of the community, through volunteering and fundraising.
Wesley House Family Services Holiday Village and Belighted Bike Ride will be held from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday, December 3, at the Coffee Butler Amphitheater inside Truman Waterfront Park. The event includes a visit from Santa and about 25 community booths providing something free for the kids.
The bike ride will take place at 8 p.m., leaving from the amphitheater. Last year there were about 2,000 bike riders. It will follow the same route as the Fantasy Fest parade.
Sponsorships are available and will be out within the next week.
The annual meeting for Wesley House will be held September 26 at Williams Hall. A reception begins at 5 p.m. and the meeting will be held from 6 to 7. An RSVP is required by tomorrow.
Epperly explained, “Our board members, we meet every month for about eight months. In every September we do our annual meeting and this is what we open up to the public, so if anyone is interested in learning more about our programs and about Wesley House, possibly joining the board once we have a vacancy, we would love to have you attend our annual meeting.”
Anyone interested in helping or attending the meeting, call Wesley House at 305-809-5000 or click here: https://www.wesleyhouse.org/