VIDEO: Crosswinds Youth Services Assist Youth To Reach Their Potential
By Maria Sonnenberg, Space Coast Medicine & Active Living // October 21, 2014
CENTRAL FLORIDA HUMANITARIAN ORGANIZATION
ABOVE VIDEO: In addition to helping runaways, the Crosswinds shelter houses children removed from abusive home environments by the Florida Department of Children and Families, and youths having difficulties at home and needing a cooling-off period while counseling resolves family issues.
“We Have Incredible People Helping Us”
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – Forty years ago, the Space Coast community joined in sorrow over the discovery of several graves of murdered children. The youngsters had all been runaways. All had been murdered.
“There was a great outcry to help runaways,” said Jan Lokay, president and CEO of Crosswinds Youth Services. “There were no services at the time for them.”
It was clear that an emergency shelter was needed to protect runaway and homeless youth, and the community – guided by leaders such as Judge Clarence Johnson and psychologist Dr. Robert Lehton – united to create Crosswinds’ first program, a crisis shelter for youth, now known as the Robert E. Lehton Children’s Shelter.
The organization continues to provide its critically needed 24/7, 28-bed crisis shelter for young people ages 10 to 17, but Crosswinds also continues rising to other needs facing today’s youth.
“As needs changed, more services were provided,” said Lokay.
In addition to helping runaways, the Crosswinds shelter houses children removed from abusive home environments by the Florida Department of Children and Families, and youths having difficulties at home and needing a cooling-off period while counseling resolves family issues.
The organization’s philosophy focuses on providing the right opportunities so all children in Brevard can reach their full potential.
The obstacles these young people face are difficult even for adults to handle, problems such as homelessness, abuse and neglect and extreme family instability, but Crosswinds is there for them, regardless of the problem.
“Today’s young people are facing great challenges,” said Lokay.
“We have more complex problems. It’s been very difficult for Brevard families these past few years.”
Current programs also include transitional housing and skills training for young adults 16 to 21 as they work on becoming self-sufficient, street outreach for homeless youth to help get them off the streets, counseling to reunite and strengthen families, help for youth aging out of the foster care system, and intervention for young offenders.
Crosswinds is particularly proud of collaboration with local law enforcement that created the Brevard Civil Citation initiative. This initiative gives youths with minor offenses a second chance by offering them an alternative to arrest.
In 2013, Crosswinds touched the lives of more than 5,500 young people and their families through its programs, information and referral and outreach. For Lokay, the greatest reward of the job is hearing back from former clients about their success.
“On a weekly basis, we get people in their 20s, 30s and even 40s making contact with us to tell us how they’re doing,” said Lokay.
Just one of many stories, a teen left at the shelter by her mother, underlines the organization’s efficacy.
To help the young woman achieve her dream of becoming a forensic pathologist, Crosswinds, with the help of the Eckerd Family Foundation, awarded her a scholarship to attend a medical conference.
This experience led to her decision to attend Cornell University.
The nonprofit was named 2003 Agency of the Year by the National Network for Youth.
In 2008, Crosswinds was selected as Nonprofit Organization of the Year by the Melbourne-Palm Bay Chamber of Commerce. In 2013, the Titusville Chamber of Commerce chose it as its Nonprofit of the Year.
Lokay credits the organization’s success to a devoted staff, a dedicated board and continued support from residents of the county, from the Board of County Commissioners to local churches, businesses and individuals.
“We have incredible people helping us,” she said.
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