About Friends of SoZo Kids Inc.
Friends of SoZo Kids Inc. is a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated exclusively to supporting the Help Agency of the Forest Inc. (aka SoZo Kids). Our mission is to raise funds and find volunteers to support SoZo Kids programming for children living in abject poverty in the Ocala National Forest. We do this primarily by connecting the time, talents, and treasures of Villagers and others living in surrounding communities with the needs and wants of SoZo Kids.
The State of Florida granted our status as a 501c3 nonprofit effective March 1, 2020. Our federal EIN is 85-0552306. As of May 15, 2020, the IRS authorized us as a 501c3 nonprofit. Therefore, all donations to Friends of SoZo Kids Inc. are tax-deductible.
Friends of SoZo Kids Inc. evolved from the SoZo Kids Club of The Villages. We decided to change our name to avoid confusion between the SoZo Kids Club (our previous group) and SoZo Kids (the organization we serve). Friends of SoZo Kids Inc. clearly describes who we are. Becoming our own 501c3 allows us to remain in compliance with all legal and tax requirements of the State of Florida and the IRS.
Major Program Support
Friends of SoZo Kids Inc. exists to support Educational Needs, Basic Needs, and Emergency Needs. We provide volunteers, supplies and other gifts in kind, and financial support, as appropriate.
Educational Needs include two after-school programs during the school year, the summer day program at Forest Lakes Park, Camp SoZo, and a soon-to-be initiated Friends of SoZo Kids Scholarship Program.
Basic Needs include food drives, foster kid care kits, Undies & Sneakers Drive, school supplies collection, Back-to-School Bash, Thanksgiving and Christmas meals, Angel Tree, and other special needs as they arise.
Emergency Needs include grants for such things as purchasing a "new" used van, fixing a broken water pipe, removing a meth lab and clearing land near an after-school center, and so on.
How We Are Run
An 11-member Board of Directors oversees the planning and operation of Friends of SoZo Kids. Officers for 2021 are Linda Casey, president; Ed Latimer, vice president; Jeanne Cooper, secretary; and Pam DiPetrillo, treasurer. Other Board members are LaRae Donnellan, John Jamison, Barb Galpin, Tom Jones, Chris Rowe, Eileen Streu, and Vickie Ebersole. Board members serve two-year terms on a rotating basis and may serve two consecutive terms.
We are no longer a “membership club.” Therefore, we will no longer be accepting “member dues.” However, because we will still need money to offset our Friends of SoZo Kids Inc. operating expenses (e.g., office supplies, marketing, fundraiser support, etc.), we will be using approximately 8 percent of donations to Friends of SoZo Kids Inc. to cover operating expenses (NO money goes toward staffing). The balance will be used exclusively to support the programs and services of the Help Agency of the Forest Inc. (aka SoZo Kids).
Supporting Help Agency of the Forest Inc.
Donations of monies or in-kind gifts to Friends of SoZo Kids Inc. will be used exclusively to support the Help Agency of the Forest Inc. (aka SoZo Kids), not any other group or charity, nor to pay for salaries.
The Help Agency of the Forest Inc. is a nonprofit founded in 1993 by Pastor David Houck. We share a common goal of addressing the effects of the physical and psychosocial challenges and income deprivation of children living in poverty in the Ocala National Forest. For more information about the Help Agency and SoZo Kids, go to www.sozokids.org.