Volume V | April 29, 2020
Week 5: Building Roots & Growing Wings
In this issue:
  • So They Can Fly
  • Mighty Roots: An Interview with Ready for Life Pinellas
  • Building the Dream Team: Meet the RFLB Board of Directors & Staff
  • A Closer Look: Meet Nathaniel Cochrane
  • Thank You for Joining our Roots!
So They Can Fly
Housing , Education , Mentoring , and Removing Barriers, all the ways RFLB offers support, resources and guidance foster youth transitioning to adulthood, serve one great purpose: to immediately improve their quality of life.

Improving the quality of even one life has an immediate impact for that youth and for the community. Lost gifts and talents are revealed, dreams are reignited, and hope is instilled.

The cycle of abuse, trauma, poverty, illness, desperation and crime is broken and a strong, resilient, gifted individual is revealed who is uniquely needed in the world.

Statistics show us what the youth tell us. When we listen to their needs and work together as a community to meet those needs, we show them that we care. When they see we care, they realize they matter. When they realize they matter, they stretch, they reach, they grow and they fly.

“What the best and wisest parent wants for his own child, that must the community want for all
of its children.”

~ John Dewey

Mighty Roots: An Interview with Ready for Life Pinellas
In October 2019, before we had a board, before we had space, Pam Bress led a few devoted students (myself, Betsy Farmer, Kyleigh Barbour) on a class trip to get schooled at Ready for Life Pinellas (a place, up until that point, had only existed in Pam's dreams.)

It was a profound and life-changing experience for each of us- most importantly it set a decades worth of piled kindling in Pam's heart on fire!

We can't thank you enough, RFL Pinellas for drawing the map, planting the seed, growing such strong and mighty roots and then letting us tap in!

Pam, myself, Betsy, Kyleigh and Brevard County will never be the same!
Building the Dream Team: RFLB Board of Directors & Staff
From the Start
On December 26, 2018, after visiting one of her young clients in jail, Pamela Bress, senior staff attorney at Brevard County Legal Aid, decided to tackle the problems her clients faced as they aged out of foster care. Ms. Bress believed that if her 20-year-old client had lived in a safe place, had access to mental health counseling and help passing her GED and landing a job, that she would not have been involved in the criminal justice system and lost her two young sons to foster care.

Through her research, Ms. Bress became affiliated with a venture in Pinellas County called Ready for Life (“RFL”). RFL has a 10-year track record of success helping young adults as they make the challenging transition from foster care to adulthood.  She recruited Julia Irvin, former Executive Director of Connect 25, Dr. Kim Deffebach, PhD in Child Psychology, Lisa Soloway, President of Lift Up Young Lives, Betsy Farmer, Director of Community Outreach for the Housing Authority of Brevard County, and Kyleigh Barbour, a former foster youth, to co-found RFLB, a not for profit 501(c)(3) organization that would focus on getting unaccompanied youth and teens aging out of foster care Ready for Life. 
Pamela Bress, Esquire
Executive Director
Julia Irvin

Julia was the Executive Director of Connected by 25 from 2009- 2012. We will never forget our first lunch meeting with Julia as she explained her experience with Connected by 25 to Pam & I saying, " I feel like I was doing what I was put on this earth to do.

* Read more about the incredible experience and leadership she brings to the RFLB team here
Betsy Farmer
Vice President/ Fundraising Committee
Director of Community Outreach- Housing Authority of Brevard

As with all things Betsy sets her mind to accomplishing for the improvement of the most vulnerable lives in Brevard, the mission of RFLB is already benefitting wildly from Betsy's many talents. Through HABC and relationships she' been busy building with policy makers in D.C. , Betsy & Pam have secured some of the first FYI Hud Vouchers for foster youth in the country.

* Read more about this hero for Brevard here
Lisa Soloway
Realtor, EXP Reality

As one of our founding community resource partners, Lisa and Lift up Young Lives are already changing RFLB lives!

* Read more about this phenomenal partner program here

Corrie Dunkin
Secretary/ Fundraising Committee
RFLB Executive Assistant

* Read more about Corrie here
Kyleigh Barbour
Youth Council
Housing Authority of Brevard

"When I was in the system it seemed like my goals were out of reach, impossible if you will. Ready for Life pulled the wool out from over my eyes and made me realize that my goals were sitting right in front of my face, not only that, but that they were going to help me get there too. I don’t know where I’d be without this amazing program."

Nathaniel Cochrane
Member/ Fundraising Committee
Real Estate Acquisition Manager
  "By educating and raising awareness in our communities, I believe we can foster a better understanding of these youth and their unique circumstances and thus foster the caring relationships they need in order to grow and develop into productive community members, and future leaders."
* Spotlight on Nathaniel below
Leslie Purdy
President, Leslie Purdy PA,

*Read more about Leslie here
Philip Scarpelli
*Read more about Phil here
Working together as a community to assure that all youth transitioning out of foster care into adulthood find a path to success is critical to our mission at RFLB as well as the mission of BFP. Thank you Phil & BFP for the work you've done to elevate & listen to youth voice and give choice to these amazing young adults. Through shared resources, creative problem solving and genuine care, we are honored to be on this team in assuring these youth find their own unique path to success!
John Watson
Youth Council

*Read More about John here
RFLB A Closer Look
Get to Know RFLB Board Member, Nathaniel Cochrane
Nathaniel, tell us a little about
yourself and why you chose to serve on the Board at RFLB?
I was born in Brooklyn, New York to caribbean born parents. I have a BA in Communications with an emphasis on Interpersonal skills from Brooklyn College.

When I'm not spending time with my 2 beautiful children Thalia (15) and Makiah (almost 14), I manage my parents family owned grocery store, ‘Green Foods Market’ and own a Real Estate company.

My interests include: nature, experiencing the world's cultures, spending time with family, and plant-based food.  I love sharing what I have learned in life with others-it's truly one of my greatest joys. 

I decided to get involved with Ready For Life Brevard after I met Lisa Soloway of ‘Lift Up Young Lives’ and she invited me to a meeting at RFLB. The program was aligned with my belief in helping provide essential resources and opportunities to ‘aged out’ of foster care young adults.

When it comes to youth aging out of foster care, or unaccompanied youth, what issues are you passionate about changing for this population and why?

Even though I came from an amazing family that loved and cared about me, 'life happened' and I had a brief experience with homelessness. During this period of my life, it was not difficult to see how blessed I was to have already graduated high school and received a trade school certification. Everyday I thought about how tough it would be under those circumstances to not have any of these basic tools and especially to not know someone who cared about you.

After this experience, I began volunteering at The HOPE Program in Brooklyn and loved the experience serving formerly incarcerated men and women. During the course of being an assistant resume/skills facilitator, I learned a great deal more about the huge needs and absence of skills for so many. I would get to know these folks and many would say they wished they had learned these skills earlier.

All of these experiences fed my passion to provide access to sustainable resources and a safe, nurturing environment that makes it easier to develop life skills and job readiness. I am also passionate about creating awareness and normalcy to this ‘hidden’ population. By educating and raising awareness in our communities, I believe we can foster a better understanding of these youth and their unique circumstances and thus foster the caring relationships they need in order to grow and develop into productive community members, and future leaders.

Do you see RFLB as a part of the solution? Why or why not?

Ready For Life Brevard and its partners and affiliates are definitely a great part of the solution for serving these youth. Not only is it a place to find resources and support for needs like housing, food, education, life skills and job readiness, it's a place where they can find guidance from a network of consistent, caring adults who are committed to helping them see and believe in their incredible potential.
Thank You for Joining Our Roots!
We couldn't have done this without the amazing support of our community partners, volunteers and donors!

  • RFLB accepted 4 new clients
  • We provided our clients with critical services during Covid-19 and the month of April like: legal services, access to emergency housing, groceries, gift cards, books, journals & art supplies
  • We provided a donated and refurbished laptop computer to an EFSC student client
  • We continued tutoring sessions through zoom
  • RFLB in collaboration with BYLC started a zoom youth support group
  • We've established stable housing through FYI HUD Vouchers for 4 young adults & we have 4 more in process
  • We received multiple very generous donations during a pandemic despite the cancellation of our first fundraiser!
  • We're looking forward to a fantastic post- Covid celebration with this amazing community at our Founders Day Brunch- Date TBD!

I  f you have not yet joined and would like to be a part of our roots read this RFLB URGENT HELP NEEDED list to find out how you can make a difference for a youth in transition!