To all our devoted members and friends of the Society:
On behalf of the entire Board of Directors, and the newly formed Board of Governors, thank you for your support. We hope this newsletter will make you proud to be a part of our Society. We have had an extraordinary year and we are not done yet! We have made history with the land purchase and raised the bar for the quality of life in Key West. We have made major gains in the protection of the environment and we have educated and excited thousands of people of all ages about our unique and special ecosystem.
•In January 2005, both the City and County Commissions made their final votes to go forward with the land purchase.
•In April 2005, we formed the Board of Governors, a group of financially blessed people who have been supporting the Society for years. They came together in Key West to approve and support a business plan that will make the Society and the Garden self-sustaining in five years. Many made pledges and committed to help raise funds. They will meet twice a year and work with the Chairman, Richard Keefe and myself to implement the plan. We are looking to double the size of this Board in 2006.
• On July 26, 2005, the 5.5 acres of adjacent land, formerly the County administration site, was officially purchased by the City for the Key West Tropical Forest and Garden. This purchase now links an additional 2 acres of waterfront land already part of the Garden property. The plan and vision can now begin. • During the months of May through September, we executed several grants. A major grant from the Eckerd Family Foundation to utilize the garden for “at risk” students of Monroe County in science education has been completed. It entailed the planning and development of 30 lessons plans for K-5th grade to meet State and National standards in Science. Through the efforts of master degree graduate students from the Nicholas School of Earth and Sciences at Duke University, an oversight committee and staff from the Monroe County school system, we are poised to request funding for beginning this program in fall 2006. We also executed a grant for an orchid exhibit on the waterfall wall from Stanley Smith Horticultural Trust and an assessment grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Sciences.
• On October 1, we will have a total of four self guided tours, thanks to the support of the Edith Munson Foundation and a lot of hard work by Joanne Meyers,. Please be sure and take the new Courtyard Tour. Over 20 threatened or endangered plants fill this great educational trail. By year’s end, we will be adding a 5th tour through the butterfly habitat, which is home to many rare butterfly attracting specimens. Also be sure to visit our visitor center. A new reception counter was donated by Rick and Susan DeKayser. We also now have 2 children’s education films thanks to Duke University and the Eckerd Family Foundation.
• November will mark the beginning of our next major project: a new wetland habitat, 1.5 acres of new tropical forest and and a boardwalk system around the existing Desbiens Pond. Native orchids and epiphytes in the trees will be planned and construction drawings will be done in this phase. Infrastructure and some plantings will commence during late 2006. Look for a new entry and signage on College Road. Funding is nearly completed for phase one of this three phase project. Donations are welcomed! Please make sure you read our FUNDING NEWS article.
A big round of applause to Richard Keefe and all the board members who worked on the grants. This effort has been ongoing since January. Please keep in mind that many of these grants are project specific and need matching funds. I have listened to comments in the community that the Society is “swimming in money.” That is far from the truth! We are making many big projects happen in our infancy. Many of these expenses are not reimbursed until work is completed. It is critical to continue to have working capital in order to attain these awards. Those funding general operating support are critical to our ability to be successful. And while our volunteers play a critical role for in-kind matches, certain staffing is necessary to complete reports, record accounting and making sure deadlines are met. Funding organizations require audits and tedious financial reports. While the word “non-profit” has the connotation of “good will,” major donors look upon us just like any responsible business to spend their money wisely and in a timely manner and make progress. Your financial support through membership and fundraisers are vital to matching these grants and improving our tropical forest and botanical garden. We hope you are pleased with our progress and are proud to be a part of the team!
– Carolann Sharkey