With so many obstacles non-profits face with budget constraints, Florida Insurance Trust hosts its annual Holiday Miracle Contest, which allows three Florida nonprofits the opportunity to win extra money for their organization. This year, we asked our nonprofit members to share how their organization has positively impacted an individual or the larger community this year.

We received many wonderful responses but ultimately, three winners were randomly chosen. Below our three winners share how they made a difference in 2022.

Grand Prize Winner: Boley Centers, Inc.

Second Place: The Children’s Place at Home Safe, Inc.

Shining a Light on Intimate Partner Violence Domestic violence is a serious threat to its victims, and those who endure it experience long-term damaging physical and psychological effects. Children are particularly vulnerable; witnessing violence in their home can lead to educational, social, and behavioral dysfunction. Domestic violence is not only prevalent (one in three women and one in four men experience it), it is also intergenerational, as abusive behaviors are often passed from parent to child.

For 25 years HomeSafe’s Program Supervisor Brian McCarey and his SafetyNet team have provided intensive therapeutic services, crisis intervention, and case management to victims of domestic violence. We help survivors create safety plans, find resources to relocate, navigate the criminal justice system, and work through their trauma. Most importantly, our goal is to disrupt the cycle of violence. Anna* came to HomeSafe after more than a decade of abuse. Her partner was a very jealous man who controlled her teenage son Nelson’s and her every move. For years, he made his family relocate from one dirty, unsafe motel to another. Anna would try to make friends with neighbors, but when her partner sensed she was getting too attached, he would abruptly move the family. As is the case with many abusers, he chronically isolated her from support systems and anyone who cared about her. His control reached a point where he forbade her son from attending school. Amid the fear, trauma and hopelessness, Anna found the courage to contact HomeSafe’s SafetyNet team for help. She began secretly attending HomeSafe’s weekly therapeutic support groups with her son. After several sessions, with the support of her peers, Anna left her partner.

One day, the terrified mother and son arrived on HomeSafe’s doorstep with all of their belongings. HomeSafe helped Anna contact shelters until she could find a vacancy. When they found out that they would finally leave their abuser for good, the mother and son cried tears of relief. Anna and Nelson stayed at the AVDA shelter and then moved to an apartment with Section 8 housing assistance. Today, Anna and her son are finding joy in rebuilding their lives. They still participate in HomeSafe support groups and have started individual therapy. Nelson is excited to have his own bedroom where he can play his guitar. His HomeSafe therapist works at a charter school and was able to get him to agree to return in-person. Previously shy and withdrawn, he has opened up and is thriving at his new school.

Anna shares, “We finally feel free and safe, and we are starting a life that we ever thought was possible.”

*Names changed to protect our families

Laura Barker, Chief Philanthropy Officer

Third Place: Arbor School of Central Florida

Arbor School serves students with disabilities. As part of our program, we provide on-the-job training for our students starting at age 17. This program has impacted our students’ and community partners’ lives in ways we cannot imagine. The unemployability rate for people with disabilities is nearly 80% due to the lack of training and support. Our students learn the necessary skills to get and keep employment, such as taking direction, being independent and reliable, and self-advocation.

Our community business partners are becoming more open and accepting of hiring people with disabilities. 2021-2022 was an inaugural year for our full-time on-the-job training program. We had 5 students intern at the AC Marriott in downtown Orlando. These students completed their coursework and opted to delay their graduation for one year to participate in the program. As a result of this training, all students are working (2 at the AC Marriott) or pursuing secondary education. This would not have happened if they had not had the training that they did. We are continuing the program for the 2022-2023 school year with 3 students. While our program is in its infancy and still small, we are excited by our results and look forward to growing and serving more students.

Wendy Cox Blair, Executive Director

Congratulations to them and thank you to everyone who entered. We will be sharing a few of our favorite entries over on Facebook. Check out our Facebook page and give us a like!

Happy Holidays!