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 both annual programs and emergency needs. Examples of annual programs include the Back-to-School Bash in August, the Angel Tree gift drive in November and December, the two after-school programs during the school year, the summer day program at Forest Lakes Park, Camp SoZo, Little League, Foster Kid Care kits, and more. We also support larger needs, such as vans, operating expenses, and emergencies. During the COVID-19 crisis, Friends of SoZo Kids Inc. has overseen numerous food drives and collected money to support cyclical and emergency needs.
How We Are Run
A 10-member Board of Directors oversees the planning and operation of Friends of SoZo Kids. Officers are LaRae Donnellan, president; Linda Casey, vice president; Jeanne Cooper, secretary; and Pam DiPetrillo, treasurer. Other Board members are John Jamison, Barb Galpin, Carey Jones, Tom Jones, and Chris Rowe. Board members will serve one- or 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.