The JOY Center
Jul 19, 2023 7:30 AM
Bonnie Barnes, Volunteer
The JOY Center

Twenty-eight percent ( 28%) of the full-time residents of the Upper Keys are seniors aged 65+.

As you know, each winter a large influx of “snowbirds” increases the number of senior residents.

Since 2018, Just Older Youth,Inc. has offered a variety of vibrant and engaging programs for the active seniors who populate the Upper Keys, both locals and snowbirds. Currently, the JOY Center - the “Teen Center for People Over 50” is open one day a week from 9-5 at St. James Church in Islamorada.We are funded by donations and grants. The JOY Center has survived hurricanes and Covid through perseverance, creativity and dedicated volunteers who run the program. For example, during Covid we transitioned to all-virtual classes which were a lifeline for seniors isolated in their homes.

In 2022 we resumed meeting in person. Our current class offerings include tech, yoga, ukulele, book club,,Storytellers Cafe, Mah Jongg and a card game called “5 Crowns.” Past activities have included a writers’ group, line dancing, sign language and a stretch, strength and balance class. During the season, the average attendance, both in person and on Zoom, is 80-90 people per day and 45-50 people per day in the slow season.

For the past five and a half years, all of our classes have been offered at no charge. We are a

501(c)(3) organization funded by private donors, as well as grants from the Ocean Reef

Community Foundation, the Community Foundation of the Florida Keys, Islamorada Community Entertainment (I.C.E) and AARP. We pay our teachers and a part-time program director who coordinates classes and teachers, sends a weekly newsletter to 800+ people and runs the center. Volunteers assist at the center and help with community outreach.

We are seeking funding to expand our curriculum and offer activities two days a week. Proposed new classes are Conversational Spanish, Cardio Drumming and Art. We would also like to resume our weekly speaker series and are open to offering other activities of interest.

Business Sponsorships are another important source of funding. One of our first business sponsors was Midway Cafe in Islamorada. You may have heard about our Ukulele JOY group. In addition to multiple gigs around town, they play at Midway Cafe the first Sunday of every month from 9-11 AM. Midway generously donates $100 to JOY and feeds the musicians. All of our Business Sponsors are given recognition on our website, in our weekly newsletter, on our social media and at the JOY Center. Of course, we encourage all JOY members to patronize our Business Sponsors. Please contact Denise Downing to learn more.