After nearly 22 years, I am writing to express my gratitude to everyone who, in one way or another, has helped make Amigos For Kids what it is today. In 1991, when I was 17 years old, I and several friends got together to create a new nonprofit organization to serve abused and underprivileged children and families in South Florida.
Very often I come across folks of all ages who share their personal Amigos stories with me. Each of these stories is special. Sometimes they’re emotional testimonials from adults we helped as children, who feel forever indebted to Amigos for changing their lives. Occasionally there are stories from volunteers who impart how rewarding their Amigos experience has been. Sometimes testimonials come from supporters, who with little means, have gone one out of their way to send their annual $10 donation to Amigos For Kids.
I am humbled by these heartfelt anecdotes, as they validate our organization as a true cornerstone in our community.
Amigos For Kids, through the work of our board, staff and volunteers, does so much every single day to respond to the great needs of our diverse community. From our after-school program, to our programs to strengthen families, to our partnership with Miami-Dade County Public Schools, Amigos is always at the heart of the issues affecting children and families across South Florida.
We also have become a respected national leader in advocating against child abuse through our powerful message, “There’s no excuse for child abuse!” We have accomplished so much in these first two decades, but there’s still so much to do.
On Sunday, our volunteers will come together as hundreds of us once again join Santa in order to spread joy and grant specific holiday wishes to thousands of deserving children in our community. Consider this: the 50 children we helped during our very first holiday toy drive caravan 21 years ago are today in their mid to late 20s or early 30s — a lifetime of memories made special by the efforts and contributions of one very special organization. This will mark the 21st time we put on our holiday toy drive as an Amigos family, and it will be an extra special occasion for me.
I have had the privilege of being at the helm of this amazing organization for many years, and it has been my most humbling honor. Although building something as special as Amigos For Kids is no easy feat, and there have been many learning experiences along the way, if I had to do it all over again, I would not change a single thing. Each person who has been involved, and everything we have been through together as an organization, has made us greater and stronger. Today, as I hand the reigns over to our new chairman, Pedro Capó, and take on a new role of chairman emeritus, I do so knowing that the future of Amigos is bright and in the best of hands.
The love and affection I have received from this experience will carry on and live in me forever. I thank God, as we could not have done all of this without His merciful and abundant love. I thank my parents for igniting a spark in me to serve others for as long as I can remember. I thank my family and friends for always being at my side and supporting everything we’ve done. I thank our sponsors, big and small, for their generosity and caring. I thank the media for sharing our message. I thank our elected officials for believing in us. I thank my fellow cofounders, and our board members over the years for giving so much of themselves. I thank our staff, especially President & CEO Rosa Maria Plasencia, for their selflessness and for always keeping our mission true.
Last but not least, I thank each and every one of our supporters and volunteers for their constant reminder that there is a lot of goodness in our community. Mil gracias, amigos.
Jorge A. Plasencia is cofounder and chairman emeritus of Amigos For Kids.