Nestled in Limestone Creek lies the West Jupiter Community Group (WJCG), an organization Lost Tree Foundation has funded since 1998 (just two years after it was founded), with over $460,000 in grants.
WJCG’s mission is to provide a safe and nurturing environment for at-risk students and families so they can pursue academic and personal excellence. Their gold-standard program provides after-school tutoring as well as care on non-school days, and a 9-week summer camp for a licensed capacity of 127 at-risk children in grades K-8. The Center also offers programs throughout the year for senior citizens which help build a stronger community and intergenerational understanding.
“Lost Tree’s funding has had a real impact over the years,” says WJCG’s Assistant Executive Director/CFO, Anna Poulin. “You’ve enabled us to make much-needed improvements and updates. We’ve been able to maintain a top-notch campus for afterschool care, and functional, welcoming, safe spaces where all members of our community can come together to learn, support each other, and celebrate.”
Our grants over the past decade have provided capital for items like a school bus, classroom upgrades, furniture, safety features to better secure the campus, and a shade sail over the multipurpose outdoor court. We’d like to thank Heidi Baldwin, Amy Connelly, Julie Daum, Joan Goodwin, Anne Harrison, Jon Hoak, Paul Jones, Phil Kenny, Steve Kirmse, Janet Lewis, Charles McGill, Sally Neff, John Pew, Betsy Quinn, Margo Rogers, Liz Ruane, Scott Swank, Linda Tullis and Carlene Ziegler who have made site visits to the Center since 2019 to conduct due diligence.
We visited the Center recently to see the results of our grants first-hand. The Center serves as a gathering place to build strong community ties. It focuses specifically on providing after-school care and academic assistance to underserved children from five neighboring schools – Limestone Creek Elementary, Jupiter Elementary, Jerry Thomas Elementary, Jupiter Middle and Independence Middle Schools. Many of these children would otherwise end up home alone after school or on the streets. Here, children can meet with their neighborhood friends and enhance their learning with extra help from dedicated teachers like Jahvon Mobley who has worked at the Center teaching 4th and 5th graders for eleven years. “If I didn’t believe in the program, I wouldn’t be here,” he says. “I’m not just an employee though, I’m also a former student. I benefitted so much from my time here. I wanted to come back and contribute.”
The Center played a large part in Jahvon’s formative years. He remembers feeling happy and encouraged there, and specifically recalls Ms. Runner, the organization’s Executive Director of 29 years who sadly passed away on November 17, 2023. “She kept me on track,” he laughs. “She saw that I had a strong future in the areas of education and leadership, and she was always there for me.” He tries to do the same for the students he now serves. “A lot of these kids wouldn’t have a place to be constructive or productive if they didn’t come here. Most of them have two working parents and the Center supports them like a second family.”
During the summer, the Center runs extensive programming to expand and enrich the lives of area children. These programs focus on vocational pathways for children as well as academic ones. Recently, a local tailor came in and taught the children how to do basic sewing. He also spoke about opportunities for careers in the dry cleaning and tailoring trades. The Center offers classes in gardening, hair braiding and barbering, as well as nutrition and cooking lessons using produce from the Center’s community garden full of herbs and flowers – the result of another Lost Tree grant.
Anna Poulin believes the programs at WJCG are both enriching and empowering. “Many of our children have never even been as far as Fort Lauderdale. We’re able to open their eyes to a world of opportunities through our amazing field trips and classes taught by volunteers from all sorts of career fields. We offer swimming lessons at the Jupiter Community Pool every summer. Through our T3 Trade Program, our students get to experience electrical engineering, auto mechanic work, carpentry, caregiving skills and the culinary world. At the same time as we’re teaching cooking or baking, we’re also practicing measuring skills that involve math. The activities are used to reinforce each other.”
At WJCG, the warmth is palpable, the environment is positive, and the children’s futures certainly look bright.