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Suncoast PCA on track to raise $17,000 for Ready for Life

Since 2016, Suncoast PCA members have been generous supporters of our mission. Each year, they are tasked with an internal goal of raising funds for Ready Life, and every year they exceed by a mile! In 2023, Suncoast PCA is on track to raise $17,000, and all funds will go to support changing lives beyond foster care. Gifts from organizations like Suncoast PCA are crucial to sustaining our work with former foster youth in the community, and for that, we are so grateful for this partnership.

Did you know that national statistics show that 50% of former foster youth exit the system without High School completed? And that less than 3% of those in foster care will ever earn a college degree? 47% of young women exiting foster care are pregnant or parenting by the time they turn 18, and 1 in 4 people aging out of foster care will become homeless in the first year on their own. For the clients at Ready for Life, Inc. a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to helping former foster youth make a successful transition to adulthood, the plight of former foster youth is significantly turning around, thanks in no small part to the longtime partnership and support from the Suncoast Porsche Club members.

Porsche Club member and RFL co-founder Bud Risser (right) with co-founder Gerry Hogan (left) and CEO Kathy Mize (center) at RFL's Night in the Park

We recently caught up with three Porsche Club members who have become deeply involved with RFL, and we asked them to share their thoughts about the organization; Bud Risser, one of the Founders of RFL nearly 15 years ago; Glenn Gomer, who has been supportive of the organization for approximately 7 years as a volunteer and now Co-Chair of the Advisory Council; and Steve Wells who met RFL about a year ago and is in the process of getting matched with his first Mentee.

We asked these three gentlemen a few questions about what compelled them to help RFL, what was surprising to them about the challenges faced by former foster youth, and what they thought you, as their fellow Porsche Club members, may like to know about what your generous support provides.

Bud Risser, one of the Founders of Ready for Life, and a Member of the Suncoast Porsche Club for 20 years.

Bud Risser Shared:

The story of the wonderful support the Suncoast Porsche Club has given Ready for Life is personal for me. In addition to being a co-founder of Ready for Life, I am a long time Porsche owner since 1976, and as a Suncoast Porsche Club member for more than two decades, I am especially grateful for the critical financial support and the volunteer support the Club gives toward the RFL mission. On behalf of those whom we serve, thank you so much for your continued leadership.

The story about starting RFL started out simple enough… Fifteen years ago, a good friend of mine, Gerry Hogan (Turner Broadcasting) and I were appr

oached by David Fischer, the leader of the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay, who asked us to create a program in Pinellas County to help foster care youth when they became adults at eighteen. We thought, with 80 or so kids aging out each year, how hard could that be? Little did we know…

We began by hiring Kathy Mize, who remains CEO of the organization and is at the helm leading the passion-filled team we have at RFL today (which includes former foster youth on staff, leading edge experts, and a small “army” of volunteers and community partners.)

When you learn what these kids have had to go through just to survive in the foster care system, you can’t help but respect them.

Our real learning began as we met with the kids themselves and heard firsthand about the issues they had to deal with before we came into their lives. -- The stories when we began – as now – are compelling.

Our first youth employee gave us a crash course on our mission. She was born in a jail in Ocala and lived in 32 placements in her 18 years in foster care. She came to work by bus – more than an hour each way and taught us so much about the realities of life after foster care and the overwhelming challenges she faced. We are glad we could help her leverage her own resilience by removing barriers and finding ways to fill in learning gaps that could otherwise have stopped her. Today she is a wonderful adult with her own children…. And she is the first of hundreds of these resilient former foster youth who are now successful adults.

Ready for Life provides help with housing options, mental health, physical health, dental health, transportation solutions, financial literacy, literacy, legal help, education, parenting support, and matches them with a Mentor so they have someone

who cares that they are alive. Our biggest challenge right now is that the vast majority of those we serve are struggling these days for a place to live.

Over 80% of current RFL intakes report that they are homeless

With your help, we also teach them how to shop, meal plan, cook, prepare for hurricanes, and we provide hot meals at the office for those who live in places without a kitchen. We have showers, washer and dryer, and clothing for those who are homeless and can coach them to gain skills for getting a job and line them up with interviews.

Personally, I offer my sincere appreciation for your financial support and a special thanks to the Club members who have joined our volunteers and mentors, hosted fundraisers, and spread the word about the vast needs we fill. You are making a big difference here that is changing hundreds of lives for the better. I encourage you to come by the Skill Center in Largo, FL for a visit and take one of our tours. Let us thank you in person and show you what your support makes possible every day.

Glenn Gomer, Member, Suncoast Porsche Club, Co-Chair of the Ready for Life Advisory Council.

Glenn Gomer Shared:

I first encountered RFL when I attended a local Porsche Suncoast Dinner Event. Whilst I was there, I learned about RFL and how they helped youth who had aged out of foster homes. While hearing the various plights of youth I decided I had to get involved.

My first interaction occurred at a Porsche Suncoast annual meeting hosted at Ready for Life. I had no idea what to expect. While I was there, I encountered several youth who told me about their lives and eventual journey that led them to RFL. During this encounter one of the youths asked me questions about how I went about buying my first home. We went into some details from obtaining a mortgage, typical home maintenance costs, obtaining Homeowners as well as Federal Flood insurance. The encounter seemed rather normal to me. The following year I went to the same dinner. Whilst I was there, I met again with the same RFL youth. She thanked me so much for the information I had given her the prior year and told me about she was about to buy her first home. It was then that it hit me how just taking a few minutes out of time was so important and impactful to the youth.

RFL is so important for the foster youth they serve. Once the youth come to Ready for Life, they are able to slow the world down. They realize that there are people there who genuinely care for them and will help them out of their individual situations. In many ways RFL becomes either their new family or a compliment to their blood related family.

93% of young adults in parenting programs at RFL have custody of their children – a monumental shift in the norm for those who were raised in the system

I was looking to help a charity or group that I truly believed in. Once I learned about the RFL core mission, the excellent leadership team, and their extraordinary results, I was hooked.

I hate to see children abused or taken advantage of by others, in particular their own parents. So, when I learned what RFL mission was and how successful they were with youth I had to join both in terms of time and financial donations.

Q: What would you share with your Porsche Club members about why they may want to line up beside the former foster youth served at RFL?

Most everyone reading this article has been blessed with the financial ability to own the finest cars in the world. Over the years, I have been lucky enough to have owned almost every Porsche model.

Ready for Life is “the Porsche” of Aged out of Fo

ster Facilities. They simply are the best. I cannot overstate how your time and money will go to a fantastic cause that will help youth today, tomorrow and throughout life.

Q: You’ve been involved for several years with RFL, is there any advice you’d give one of your Porsche Club friends just starting to get involved with RFL?

Expect surprises. Many of the young people with whom I have been involved have had less than a stellar upbringing. So, when you talk with them, listen, and then listen again before speaking. Many of the youth are very distrustful of adults. It takes a great deal of time for them to believe and take your advice. You have to stick with it and give the kids space and time. But once they start trusting you there is no better feeling in the world.

Steve Wells Porsche Club of America Member since 2022, is new to the Suncoast, and is in the process of getting matched with his first Mentee at RFL.

Q: How did you hear about Ready for Life?

I moved to Florida from New Jersey in September of 2022.

As a Porsche Club of America member, I was interested in meeting some new Porsche enthusiasts from the Suncoast Region.

On Saturday November 12th 2022, there was a wine tasting & dinner at Mike Kwasin's home that I attended.

It was a charity event to benefit Ready for Life. (RFL)

This was my first, but not my last interaction with Ready for Life.

Q: What was it about RFL that had you want to get involved?

I have always had a heart for foster children, so vulnerable and at the same time, so overly exposed to some of the worst things about humanity. To be honest, I never gave much thought to what happened to foster children as they aged out of the foster system.

My eyes had been opened to a new need. I wanted to get involved, I wanted to make a difference in someone else's life besides my own or my family. I have lived a blessed life and I wanted to help those in need. I believe God gives you blessings, so you share them with others.

Q: As you start engaging with RFL and choose where and how you would like to be involved? What’s surprising? What’s fun? What’s important?

What is surprising is that Ready for Life exists. There is no other organization other than RFL, that I am aware of, that provides the much-needed support & services to former foster youth.

What's fun is meeting new people, participating at fund raising events of all kinds and all the while, knowing that you are making a difference in someone else's life. Although I am not directly involved in the RFL mentoring program as of yet, I am sure it will be

rewarding for all involved.

I think it would be amazing to have a direct, positive impact on a young person's life!

What's important is Actually Making a Positive Difference in someone else's life, not just thinking about it. Many of these young adults lack the guidance and direction that many of us probably take for granted. This is something many of us can provide.

Q: What would you share with your fellow Porsche Club members about why they may want to line up beside the former foster youth served at RFL?

Life is hard enough, even when you grow up in the best of circumstances. I can't imagine trying to succeed in life without even the most basic of needs being met. (i.e. Having structure, a place to call home, being loved, a sense of security, food, clothing, hygiene, etc.) All the things that help people develop into high functioning adults. Never mind the disadvantage of not learning through observation... How do I act? How do I wash my clothes? How do I cook? In the business world, How do I dress for an interview? How do I act in an interview? Personal life, How do I live within my means and not go into debt? Who can I turn to for guidance, advice & wisdom? The list goes on and on...

This is where RFL comes into the picture, providing much, if not all of the above. These young adults can go one of two ways...down the Right Path or down the Wrong Path. It is all too easy to go down the Wrong Path. To paraphrase a familiar quote: "All it takes for evil to succeed is that good people to do nothing." I consider myself a good person. My perspective is, I can't help Everyone, but I can certainly help Someone. I want to help those aging out of the foster care system to choose the "Right Path" and become happy, healthy, functioning members of society. I can't think of a better organization to partner with to accomplish this, than... Ready for Life! Maybe you can help Someone too?

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