LETTERS FROM OUR EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
March 21, 2015
So far we've done some pretty incredible things at The Botanic Gardens at Kona Kai Resort. Our core mission of "education, restoration and transformation" is realized each day with our Upper Keys Fairchild Challenge [UKFC] student environmental education program, our unique TYUP™ garden tour and our website, kkbg.org, loaded with information on "Why Plants Matter."
Creating a permanent botanic garden with our limited resources is quite untraditional - but Kona Kai has always been somewhat untraditional. Most botanic gardens begin with one person's dream and someone else's endowment. We're still missing the endowment, yet our dream lives on, embodied in the hearts of our staff, visitors, local school students, parents and teachers.
In the past year, the number of visitors and guests taking our exclusive TYUP™ tour designed to "Transform Your Understanding of Plants," has almost doubled while our UKFC student education program increased enrollment by some 35%, reflecting renewed participation from all Upper Keys schools and the addition of our high schools. Furthermore, we're delighted to report more and more guests, after being "TYUP'd," are making a supporting donation, helping ensure a future for The Botanic Gardens at Kona Kai Resort.
The departure of our ethno-botanist, Rick Hederstrom, in the summer of 2014, could have negatively impacted The Garden, but we quickly brought aboard botanist Emily Magnaghi whose skills and focus have proven to be just what we needed. Under Emily's influence, the focus of our TYUP™ has sharpened and our UKFC programs have expanded, improving both our educational and public outreach. Furthermore, Emily's love of the outdoors is bringing subtle, yet significant, changes to our Garden landscapes.
So, what's missing? Funding — the bane of all gardens. There's much more we could do to expand our educational and transformative outreach, but each idea leads to needing more staff and staff requires reliable funding. Perhaps, in time, it will come. With our four year record of accomplishments we can now apply for a small grant for 2016. If awarded, perhaps we'll be able to add a staffer to meet our growing educational, outreach and technical needs in mid 2016.
In the meantime, your tax-deductible donations and TYUP™ contributions really do make a difference, so please continue to support our efforts. All funds go directly to meeting the financial operating needs of our Garden programs. Nothing you donate goes to resort operations, landscaping, or to any other organization — every dollar remains within our 501c3 non-profit, directly supporting our educational and outreach programs.
You can support us in other ways as well: come judge one of our UKFC challenges, a three hour committment; purchase something from our evolving botanic art gallery; simply staying at Kona Kai helps us pay our staff botanist and purchase plants. And, don't forget to tell everyone about us, in person and through the web. Share our Facebook posts and a link to our website, kkbg.org, especially with friends who are coming to the Keys, so they too can be "TYUP'd."
Finally, you (and all your friends) can shop at smile.amazon.com, selecting us* as your non-profit of choice — simply register once and your every purchase results in a donation. Taking any, or all, of these steps helps secure a strong future for The Botanic Gardens at Kona Kai Resort.
"Plants are as close to biological miracles as a scientist could dare admit ... you might think we gardeners would value plants for what they do. Instead, we value them for what they look like," writes author and entomology professor, Douglas W. Tallamy.
Here at The Botanic Gardens at Kona Kai Resort, with every TYUP™ and every UKFC student, we aim to increase one's understanding and appreciation of 'what plants do.' It is an exciting challenge. "Transforming Your Understanding of Plants," as many of you know, results in a better understanding of why and how our biosphere works, assuring all a better, healthier and happier future.
Thanks in advance for your support.
March 21, 2014
Recently, environmental scientist Kiki Mutis told me: "If you study plants, you study the whole world." Her statement struck me as something I had never really considered; yet if you think about it, Kiki's statement rings true and is especially important to us today.
We practically take it for granted that people have "made our world." Yet, it's a fact that, along with us, plants have been both protagonist and partners as we've "made our world." Therefore, shouldn't we think of plants as "partners" as we continue creating our world?
Here at The Botanic Gardens at Kona Kai Resort, we think so. We think "Plants as Partners" is a significant message for the 21st Century. As we enter our 4th year, our Gardens have evolved into a non-profit educational tropical botanic garden with a unique message. Like many new entities, we are daring to be different, with our message of "Plants as Partners."
In these first three years our unique, "Transforming your understanding of Plants," tour, our educational partnership with The Fairchild Challenge and our expanded ethnobotanic website at kkbg.org have all begun to have an evolutionary impact. Also evolutionary, twenty-first century technologies offer humankind unique new opportunities to learn even more from plants. Thanks to your help, the first step, in transforming humankind's view of plants, has taken root here at The Botanic Gardens at Kona Kai Resort.
As we move into our fourth year, your continuing financial support and encouragement is ever more important. Along with financial support from Kona Kai Resort, your donations water our current efforts. But, additional funding is needed for an educational coordinator, a fundraiser, a horticulturist and a marketing specialist.
As noted in past annual letters, our Gardens were not born from a generous endowment, as are most botanic gardens. Without such an endowment, our efforts and public message will remain limited. Thus, this year, we'll be seeking endowments to assure perpetuity for our long-term goal of a twenty-first century world where people have taken "Plants as Partners." Continuing to share your passion about our garden mission, opening your wallets and, lastly, spreading the word that The Botanic Gardens at Kona Kai Resort are transforming people's understanding of plants, are the best ways to help us secure the larger funding it will take to continue growing The Botanic Gardens at Kona Kai Resort.
Remember, all generations need to understand that plants are both partners and protagonists in our lives. That is the role The Botanic Gardens at Kona Kai Resort has assumed. We look forward to your continuing support.
March 21, 2013
Plants are our best industrialists and our most environmentally conscious citizens. Plants 'manufacture' the air we breathe, the food we eat, the raw materials for many of the things we make and for the energy we consume; while cleansing and recycling what they [and we] use. Plants do all this using only sunlight, air, soil nutrients and water. Each living, breathing plant has a name, a story to tell, a complexity and beauty all its own, and a value to us. We have a lot to learn from these living things that have been around for millennia, since without them we would not be here at all.
This year, and in the years to come, we hope to tell that story, evermore effectively, to many more people. But we need your help. In two years we've enlightened over 1000 visitors and as a Satellite Partner of The Fairchild Challenge, we've shared our message with over 300 local students. This year we aim to show at least 1000 more people through our ethnobotanic Gardens and expect to double student and teacher participation this fall through our Fairchild Challenge Satellite programs. Yes, it's a small number, but we're making a big impression! While our Gardens are only a tiny speck in the botanic world, we aim to become a virtual worldwide ethnobotanic teaching garden by the close of 2013, promoting the crucially relevant role that plants have in our own survival.
Because The Botanic Gardens at Kona Kai Resort is a nonprofit botanical garden operating upon the grounds of a small for-profit resort, we are, in the nonprofit world, both unique and potentially misconstrued. The Gardens was born not from a generous endowment, but of my personal vision of a world in which we all understand that plants are like people.
Until now the AEFFK*, our nonprofit, has subsisted on funds donated mainly by my wife and me. However, the level of resources required to sustain and expand our educational outreach far outstrips our capacity to continue funding The Botanic Gardens at Kona Kai Resort. We now need your financial assistance.
With your generous tax-deductible contributions, we'll continue growing our successful school and public educational efforts. We'll expand our message through kkbg.org and mount museum quality ethnobotanic exhibits for public enlightenment. For the longer view, with your assistance, we'll fund the acquisition of the property upon which we operate.
When I first began to learn about fundraising last year, I quickly realized how many worthy causes seek your financial assistance. Thus, I constantly remind myself that our Gardens are simply a "speck" in the universe; "a seed seeking germination." However, here in the 21st century, both our mission and our vision are of the utmost importance; we're germinating a new ethnobotany, a "21st Century ethnobotany" that will enrich our lives by increasing the awareness of the importance of plants in our lives, helping preserve our lives here on earth. Please consider keeping us alive and growing by donating what you can and becoming a garden member or patron.
Thanks again for your time, attention and support. Your donation can be made at https://fundrazr.com/campaigns/6R0Xa, at kkbg.org or by mailing a check payable to: AEFFK-KKBG.ORG. As always, you can contact me directly at: email@example.com.
After years of planning and planting, our gardens opened to the public eighteen months ago. Surrounded by Everglades National Park, the US National Marine Sanctuary and John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park – The Botanic Gardens at Kona Kai Resort is located in one of the most unique ecosystems in the continental USA. And, with some 3 million visitors passing through the Florida Keys annually, we are beginning to be noticed. We simply couldn’t have chosen a better location for a new botanic garden. We’re thrilled that in our first eighteen months we’ve accomplished most of our 2011 and 2012 goals:
All in all, I’d say it’s a pretty impressive record for our first eighteen months; one that we are very proud of and thrilled to be building upon each day.
In the coming months, along with our on-going goal of continuous improvement and expansion of our 42 garden zones, we’re striving to secure a donor or sponsor to facilitate bringing our first “museum” exhibit to The Gardens; find a sponsor to fund the costs of implementing a tropical ethnobotanic living wall; and launch a 24 month effort to raise funds for a conservatory-exhibition space with expanded parking and a tropical roof garden. Pretty ambitious goals. But, in order to succeed, we believe it’s necessary to set the mark high.
As you might conclude, we’re striving to make The Botanic Gardens at Kona Kai Resort an indispensable part of the Key Largo community and tourist economy. Remember, the idea for The Botanic Gardens at Kona Kai Resort was born out of the scientific theory that “Nearly every organism on this planet depends on plants for their survival.”* It is with this awareness that The Botanic Gardens at Kona Kai Resort invites you to grow your appreciation and understanding of plants and their relevance to humanity along with us!
We invite your comments, suggestions and, of course, financial assistance. Don’t hesitate to contact me at my e-mail address below or by calling us at: 305-852-9766.