Published Wednesday, May 17, 2023

The Osceola Council on Aging (OCOA) is thrilled to announce the Orlando Magic Youth Foundation (OMYF) chose our organization as a recipient of their top grant of $100,000 for our Building Strong Families program.

This donation is a testament to the OMYF’s dedication to improving the well-being of vulnerable populations while consistently supporting health and wellness initiatives, education, and the arts, across Central Florida.

The Building Strong Families program, which focuses on restoring, stabilizing, and strengthening families, also provides health and human services for low-income families at risk for homelessness. With OMYF’s generous support we will continue delivering these essential services to the Osceola community.

The initiative assists with rent and/or mortgage assistance, utility assistance, employment services, healthcare, and nutritional services. The project also targets to improve the safety and security of children by supporting a stable home environment, which lessens the chance of homelessness and potential truancy.

According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, on a typical single night in 2022, more than 30,000 unaccompanied youth were counted as homeless. Of that number, 91% were aged 18-24. Further, the Alliance estimates more than 500,000 unaccompanied children and young adults annually experience homelessness for longer than one week. By providing case management services under our Building Strong Families program, the OCOA can better plan and coordinate available resources to support self-sufficiency and safe, stable, housing for local families.

“Having a safe, stable, place to call home is foundational to the wellbeing of a child and critical for their development,” said Laura Cutchens, Orlando Magic Youth Foundation’s Executive Director. “The program provides many of the wraparound services that will enable these families, and ultimately the children, the opportunity to thrive in our community.”

With that said, the OMYF grants $1 million annually to Central Florida non-profits to support their missions.

In 2022, the OCOA provided emergency services such as case management, nutrition assistance, rent/mortgage assistance, utility assistance and weatherization/home repair to more than 10,000 households, inclusive of 50,000 underprivileged family members. Overall, we were able to serve more than 227,000 residents in the Osceola community last year.

Building Strong Families program acceptance is based on an adjusted gross income equal to or less than 200 percent of the poverty level. Proof of residency in Osceola County is also required. Additionally, a family must have school aged children enrolled in Osceola schools and be in an unstable or transient home environment.

For families accepted, a case manager collaborates to develop a family case plan. Upon completion, the case manager outlines goals and milestones to reach independence and self-sufficiency.

Continuing education programs are also offered under Building Strong Families for the homeless, and/or low-income families. Currently, a construction pre-apprenticeship program called YouthBuild is available, along with advanced manufacturing, welding, and electronic board assembly training.

Acceptance criteria for all educational training programs includes a Test of Adult Basic Education (TABE) with a sixth grade reading and math skills exam, a clean criminal background check, an ability to lift 40 pounds, a high school diploma or GED, reliable transportation and childcare, a clean drug screening, and the ability to stand for extended periods of times. If accepted, the assistance program pays tuition, lab work, supplies, transportation, and uniforms according to the individual’s need.

As I have stated thousands of times, the OCOA cannot do the work we do without the help of our community partners. I want to personally thank the Orlando Magic Youth Foundation for this generous grant. We are proud to be in partnership in supporting Osceola residents with such an amazing organization.

If you or someone you know is in an unstable home environment, call the OCOA for more information; or go to strongfamilies/. To make an appointment to discuss eligibility, call 407-8468532, Ext. 231.

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