May 6, 2020

Dear Key family,                                                                   

We hope our Key family continues to stay safe and healthy. We want to take a moment to extend our heartfelt gratitude for your support before and during this time of uncertainty – THANK YOU!  Your kind actions and words of encouragement are a reminder that we are all on this journey together.

It is our highest priority to continue providing essential and critical supports to the more than 300 adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities we serve.  We are providing care and love to those in our day and residential programs, all of which are operational. Our front line direct support professionals and nurses are working tirelessly to safeguard our client’s health and well-being continuing their heroic work with our cornerstones of kindness, love, dignity, and respect.

We are encouraged by the safe, smart, and step by step actions being taken towards Florida’s reopening plan.  The issuance of federal and state plans for reopening has us discussing the best ways to go about phasing in the reopening of our day programs entirely and how that would include our group home residents.  We will be reviewing all the recent state and local guidelines, advice, and resources to assist us in the recovery process by implementing best practices to prevent the spread of germs and continue measurement of what we all hope will be the decline of COVID-19 cases.  To date, the Key Center has had no COVID-19 positive cases for clients or staff.

The Re-Open Florida Task Force report included recommendations regarding Phases 1, 2, and 3 of the reopening.  For Phase 1, Governor DeSantis adopted some, but not all, of the task force recommendations, and said that he is considering the task force recommendations along with other factors such as data, metrics, and advice from health experts, all of which will be used as he continues to formulate and implement his re-opening plan.  Unfortunately, the mandated no-visitors policy is still in effect for group homes and long-term care facilities until the Governor issues a subsequent order. We have confirmed with the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) and Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) that the mandated no visitor policy stays in place until further notice.  As many residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities have been affected by COVID-19 caution continues. Even though group home environments are in complete contrast to nursing homes, the concern for some of the most vulnerable residents endures.  As our State transitions into reopening phases, we look to the visitor restrictions lessening.  In the meantime, we continue to actively encourage our families to stay connected, including using virtual platforms, setting a scheduled time to connect each week, reading  together over the phone or video chat, sending a short video greeting, and sending  letters, cards or artwork. This year’s Mother’s Day will be different for all mothers across our nation.  A possible idea is for families to plan a drive by the house with honking and waving to their loved ones if they think this is something that would bring them joy and understanding. 

On a positive note, our retail stores safely opened on May 4, 2020, as part of the Phase 1 reopening.  We are following the safety guidelines issued by the Governor and CDC.  During April, the stores received a facelift and processed the continuing donations.  We are operating at no more than 25% of stores building occupancy.  As the retail stores generate 30% of our annual operating budget, safely opening with masks, Plexiglas barriers, frequently sanitizing common surface areas, and social distancing measures is a good sign of moving towards our new normal.

On our financial side, we have been authorized for the Small Business Administration Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) that may be a forgivable loan.  We are also pursuing FEMA Section 502 funds to reimburse for emergency protective measures taken to respond to the COVID-19 to include PPE supplies, isolation room set-up, cleaning and sanitizing supplies, staff overtime, and other expenses.  The FEMA reimbursement process can take up to two years.  We also received notice that we will be receiving a $10,000 gift from the Citrus County Hospital Board.  COVID-19 has made fundraising more difficult while we are still meeting our client’s day and residential needs.  We were thankful for the opportunity to participate in the national “Giving Tuesday” held on May 5th on Z104.3, 96.7 Fox, and Citrus 95 local radio stations, allowing us to share our beautiful story about the precious people we serve, especially during these extraordinary times.

As the Key Training Center continues to respond to the rapidly-changing COVID-19 situation, we have decided to be on the right side of this pandemic, and transition our beloved summer fundraising events into virtual events this year. The 38th Annual Reach for the Stars, the 44th Annual Run for the Money, and the 11th Annual Walk a Mile in my Shoes events will take on a new face this year, and we are asking for our community to be involved with us. This transition into a virtual fundraising field will enable our supporters to stay engaged while remaining safe and healthy.  We are even more excited to include our clients, families, staff, and supporters on this new venture and look forward to our community’s support.  Typically, our events take place in July, but this year we are starting the fun a little early.  Our activities will begin on May 1st and will continue until July 30th.   Stay tuned for more information!

It is important to recognize that the COVID-19 pandemic affects everyone causing anxiety and stress. Here are some helpful pointers to practice:

  • Stay close to your normal routine.  Try to balance your life by getting close to the pre-pandemic days as possible.
  • Limit the amount of COVID-19 news or radio coverage.  Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.
  • A chaotic, unorganized life can lead to a chaotic, unorganized mind.  Keep your life inside your home, organized, predictable, and clean.
  • Start a new ritual.  Do something special every day.  Take a walk at a specific time.  Connect with family and friends over the phone, or virtually during the evening to discuss your day.  Having something special during this time will help you look forward to each new day.
  • Access behavioral health services if your anxiety becomes unmanageable.  Use telehealth or other remote supports to reach out for help.

If you have any questions or concerns, please call:

Melissa Walker, Executive Director                             352.795-5541 ext. 203

Theresa Flick, Director of Program Operations             352.795.5541             ext. 224

Barbara Branch, Director of Day Services                   352.795.5541              ext. 244

Cole Kiser, Director of Residential Services                352.795.5541              ext. 227

Tinker Bowen, Director of Key Center Foundation     352/795.5541              ext. 106                      

We will continue to update you and our community of any changes to our operations.  We know these are trying times, but we will get through COVID-19 together!


Melissa Walker

Executive Director

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