By Brian Biggane
Earning her undergraduate and master’s degrees in social work proved to be excellent preparation for Aggie Stoops’ current role as a member of the board of directors and one of the key benefactors of HomeSafe of Palm Beach County.
Established in 1979 before evolving into its current mission in the 1990s, HomeSafe offers four group homes around the county for children ages 7-17, as well as an apartment complex for ages 18-23, serving about 80 at-risk youth and young adults a year.
“HomeSafe deals with difficult cases,” said Jeff Stoops, Aggie’s husband.
“We’re pretty much one step away from lockdown,” Aggie added. “There are only five agencies working in therapeutic home care in the state of Florida and HomeSafe is one of them.”
Aggie worked at Florida Baptist Children’s Home and did placement for the Florida Sheriffs Youth Ranch while a student at Florida State University. She left the health care industry to raise her own four children, but with them out on their own she sought out an opportunity to return to the field and has found it.
Jeff, 65, and Aggie, 64, who live in coastal Delray Beach, began their involvement with HomeSafe in 2014, and Aggie was named to the board two years later. In 2021, the couple made a $5 million contribution to the organization.
Marketing and Events Director Chere Camus Brodi said those funds have been instrumental in recent renovations of HomeSafe campuses in both Boca Raton and Lake Worth Beach.
Other campuses are in West Palm Beach and Royal Palm Beach, and HomeSafe’s 13-unit Palm Place apartment complex in Palm Springs is for aged-out participants.
Most of the children, all of whom are referred to HomeSafe from other agencies, have spent much of their lives in substandard family environments or foster homes and are down to their last chance. For that reason, the campuses house only 12 residents, with each getting a room to themselves, as well as a dedicated therapist 24 hours a day.
“We’ve gone from shared rooms to independent rooms, because the current science says giving them control and independence is the best thing,” Aggie said.
Residents typically attend local schools and are otherwise not restricted to campus. “We have outdoor facilities and a basketball court, acres of space at most of our campuses.
They can run away, but most don’t have a place to run to,” she said.
The program has produced many success stories, with students moving on to higher education at schools such as the University of Florida and Palm Beach State College.
While the residences are very different from sober homes, Jeff Stoops said some municipalities have pushed back rather than welcome them.
“We were in protracted negotiations in Wellington,” he said, referring to the Royal Palm campus. “A lot of people were like, ‘We’re very sympathetic to your cause but we don’t want you in our backyard.’ It was pretty intense.”
Nonetheless, Aggie said, the authorities relented and there have been no complaints since.
The Stoopses’ philanthropic endeavors stretch far beyond HomeSafe. Jeff, who will retire in December after serving as CEO and president of SBA Communications for the past 22 years, is also chairman of the board of the Community Foundation for Palm Beach and Martin Counties. SBA Communications is a worldwide owner and operator of wireless communications infrastructure based in Boca Raton.
The couple supports numerous other organizations through their Stoops Family Foundation. Jeff earned his law degree from Florida State and is a board member of Seminole Boosters. The couple makes a point of attending every home FSU football game.
As for HomeSafe, its initiatives include Healthy Beginnings, which attempts to assess the status of every child born in Palm Beach County before the mother even leaves the hospital.
“We come in with our information and brochures, letting them know we’re there,” Aggie said. “Most parents are fine, but there are those who need assistance.”
For more information on HomeSafe, visit www.helphomesafe.org.
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