Myra Janco Daniels, Founder and Former CEO of the Philharmonic Center for the Arts, saw a challenge that she could not ignore…the 11,500+ children in Collier County who go home to an empty house after school. According to the Sheriff’s Department, this is the time when at-risk latchkey children are unsupervised, bored and are more likely to get into troubling situations.
In May 2013, Myra gathered together a small group of men and women to form the Latchkey League. The League’s mission is to support and provide educational, cultural and recreational activities to promote positive development for latchkey children’s future. The first goal was building a new youth center in cooperation with The Salvation Army. The League, together with a lead gift from Janet G. Cohen in memory of her daughter, supplied the $5 million required for the center and this was fulfilled in just three years. For a group of men and women who meet for once a month for six months a year plus their fundraisers,,.this was an astounding achievement. The Fran Cohen Youth Center was successfully completed and opened to children in April 2017.
The Center offered children a world of new experiences. The programs included dance, music, art, theater, pottery, culinary and communications classes. The Center also offers mentoring and tutoring assistance. Many of our League members are directly involved with the children and Bob Young does a wonderful job of coordinating our League volunteers with the Center programs.
Joan Eshkenazi, a well-known artist and potter, works with the children to create pottery on a generously donated wheel and kiln. Members Judy Stanley and Nancy Ryan are on hand to help with these projects. The children are proud of their creations and they have displayed them at our meetings.
The Center has a commercial kitchen where staff and volunteers work with the children helping them learn about basic food preparation and healthy diets. The computer lab is always busy, and we are grateful to member Hanna Hess, who matched a generous gift for the funding of a 3D specialty printer. There classes in music and the arts and the halls are filled with the sounds of happy, excited children. Our current League President, Judy Tedder, created a book nook in the Center where the children can read and borrow books. Book donations and funds for the purchase of books have been generous and very appreciated. League member Nancy Wallace spends time reading to the children.
The importance of reading is stressed and that are finding knowledge and pleasure in books. With the successful completion of the Fran Cohen Youth Center in April 2017, the League became incorporated in order to continue its support of The Salvation Army Center and offer support in the form of grants to other organizations that change latchkey children’s lives. One of their first grants was given to New Horizons of SW Florida to support their programs.
Since that time, other grants have been given to Golisano Children’s Hospital-Naples, Lighthouse-Naples, Pathway to Early Learning Education Center and FunTime Early Childhood Academy.
The major fundraisers of the League are the latchkey parties and events hosted by members in their homes, private clubs and public venues. Through our parties and private donations,the League has been able to raise over half million dollars. The League is run by an enthusiastic board of 12 people under the leadership of Judy Tedder and many volunteers who work very hard. Every member and many generous people in our community have contributed to our mission’s success. Latchkey children are a very important part of our community and our future.
We welcome you to join with us in this mission; and, if you are interested, please click on www.LatchkeyLeague.org for a membership form.