A brightly lit gymnasium inside of the Tupperware Brands Branch of the Boys and Girls Club of Central Florida was recently converted for a short time into a breakfast space that welcomed more than 150 Osceola County business, law-enforcement and government leaders as well as a multitude of community volunteers. All were gathered for a special annual event – the “Faces of the Future Breakfast” that shared the organization’s ongoing mission, heart and purpose in Osceola County.
Kissimmee Police Department’s Chief Jeff O’Dell, a board member of the Boys and Girls Club, said “If you look at the statistics associated with the kids of this club, you’ll see the impact that the club is having on their lives,” said Chief O’Dell. “I think last school year 100% of our seniors graduated, 97-98% went to college, the remaining percent got meaningful employment – so they’ve just done a lot of wonderful things here and it’s a great place for kids to be able to come and be in a good, healthy and positive environment.”
The Breakfast began with a special performance by the Tupperware Brands Branch Dance Troupe followed by an introduction by two of the youth club members – Sebastian Vasquez and Magali Carneli-Sanchez who served as the masters of ceremonies for the event.
Chris Gent, Vice President of Corporate Communications for the Kissimmee Utility Authority said that the KUA is always seeking ways to get involved in the community and that the Boys and Girls Club is an excellent resource for at-risk kids and kids in single-parent homes – with the KUA specifically allowing these young individuals to do career exploration through special career days where they are brought to tour the KUA facilities – as well as providing funding and volunteer days to give back to the larger community.
“Our whole purpose is to enhance the quality of life in Kissimmee,” said Gent. “Ultimately, we want these students to stay here and have careers here, have jobs here, raise their families here – so if we provide a quality of life and an education and a hope for the future here – then they are more likely to stay and become engaged in the community.”
Gent further added that KUA sees its role as one of making a current investment that is intended to pay dividends in the future. Furthermore, Gent added, events like this bring business and community leaders together to see the results of the decisions that are made by the leaders every day and the impact that it has on the Kissimmee community.
After an emotional rendition of the National Anthem was performed by another youth club member – Jacqueline Sipio, with every attendee rising out of their seats to honor the flag, a video was played to showcase the operations and achievements of the club over the past year.
Another influential branch of law enforcement was also present at the breakfast. Osceola County Sheriff Russ Gibson and several of his deputies watched from a table close to the front. Sheriff Gibson stressed how important it is to focus on the children as they represent the future – and that no matter what that individual child’s background or upbringing, they must have an equal opportunity to pursue success. He noted that having a place for children to go to is crucial because without guidance, the outcomes will almost always be negative. Sheriff Gibson said that everyone is seeking to end the prison pipeline and having these kinds of resources is a big step to getting there.
“I was an at-risk kid myself growing up,” said Sheriff Gibson. “I was a person who rummaged through trash bags full of clothing to find something to wear. If I didn’t go to school one day, there were times when I would sit at home and cry, wondering what the kids had for lunch that day because of me being hungry. So I know what it means for these children to have an opportunity like this, to have people that care for them and help them succeed and thrive in life.”
Gary Cain, the President & CEO of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Florida thanked all of the community members who came out to support the club so early in the morning. He reminded the crowd that since 1944, Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida has provided at-risk youth from the local community, a safe place to learn and grow. The overall club membership totals more than 15,000 young people at 35 Clubs and middle school sites in seven counties, including the Tupperware Brands Branch where this breakfast was taking place. Ultimately, Cain emphasized, the mission of Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida is to inspire and enable all young people, especially those from disadvantaged circumstances, to realize their full potential as productive, responsible and caring citizens.