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Hurricane Irma Disaster Relief

UWFK has raised $1.6 million for hurricane relief efforts, 100% of which will be used where it is most needed in the community.  Thanks to the generous contributions of friends and supporters around the world, UWFK’s Hurricane Irma Disaster Relief fund is being distributed to nonprofits and individuals throughout Monroe County, for direct hurricane recovery aid.  

Click here for stories about hurricane relief throughout the Keys.  

Thanks to the overwhelming generosity of friends and supporters near and far, UWFK is changing lives in Monroe County. More than half of this fund has been raised by United Way Worldwide, United Way of Florida, United Way of Miami-Dade, and other United Ways around the world for our recovery work in the Keys. While our United Way of the Florida Keys is a local 501(c)3 dedicated to serving our community, being part of this global network has given us access to funds our community wouldn’t otherwise have. 

The United Way is often the organization people seek out when they want to support hurricane relief work. By giving to UWFK, supporters know they are donating to a local nonprofit within an internationally recognized network. Money for our relief fund has come from around the world, from a displaced Harvey resident still living in a Texas shelter who gave $5, to corporate partners like Publix, Wells Fargo, Comcast and Florida Blue who are investing in the area they serve every day. 

Immediate, Short-term Recovery Efforts

Within 1 week and again at week 3 immediately following Hurricane Irma, the United Way of the Florida Keys disbursed two rounds of mini-grant funding intended to provide fast financial assistance to local, previously vetted agencies already assisting with hurricane relief efforts in the Keys.  Through the 16 partners who received funding, UWFK provided assistance to over 1300 Keys families.  In addition, 1 partner leveraged United Way funding for additional grants from 4 other foundations or organizations.  Mini-grants totaled $116,500, plus the matching grants. Below is a list of what types of services were funded, and the approximate amounts.

Since then, UWFK has provided funds for hurricane relief efforts to a total of 32 community partners throughout Monroe County.  Our focus will go beyond the immediate impact to also include mid and long-term recovery efforts. This assistance is part of UWFK’s mission to support working families in the community. 

The work we are doing with UWFK’s hurricane relief fund will change many lives in the Keys community. We have already supported thousands of Keys residents from our youngest by replacing damaged items at childcare facilities creating a safe space for children to once again thrive, to our oldest by assisting a senior citizen on a fixed income in replacing her hot water heater as she had no hot water for 4 months following Irma. We will continue to get hurricane donations out into our community and into the hands of those who desperately need it. 

Long Term Recovery Efforts

As time has passed from the initial devastation, UWFK’s focus has shifted from providing immediate relief to how we can assist in the community’s rebuilding.  

In May 2018, UWFK announced 2018-2019 Community Investment grant recipients totaling $496,000 to support 26 nonprofit programs providing access to nutritious food, childcare support or safety net services for those suffering from Hurricane Irma’s devastation. Recognizing the overwhelming need currently faced by our community, this is triple the amount typically allocated in for this annual funding cycle. The 19 local non-profits have been awarded funding for 26 programs.

2018-19 grant recipients providing access to nutritious food include:

  • BURTON MEMORIAL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH, $15,000, to supply groceries through their food pantry and hot dinners once a week and on holidays.
  • FLORIDA KEYS CHILDRENS SHELTER, $18,750, to provide residential children with healthy home-cooked meals and snacks daily.
  • FLORIDA KEYS HEALTHY START COALITION, $10,000, to provide food and nutritional supplies for families.
  • FLORIDA KEYS OUTREACH COALITION, $14,000, to support their primary and secondary food pantries in Key West.
  • INDEPENDENCE CAY, $7,500, to provide hot meals and shower/laundry facilities in Marathon.
  • KEYS AREA INTERDENOMINATIONAL RESOURCES, $20,000, to stock and maintain their Marathon food pantry.
  • METROPOLITAN COMMUNITY CHURCH KEY WEST, $14,000, to deliver meals and groceries to elderly Key West residents.
  • MONROE ASSOCIATION FOR REMARCABLE CITIZENS, $5,000, to provide a nutritious lunch for residential and community clients with developmental and intellectual disabilities.
  • STAR OF THE SEA FOUNDATION, $70,000, to purchase a refrigerated box truck with a lift gate used to distribute food countywide, and obtain bulk and recovered food throughout the Keys.
  • WESLEY HOUSE FAMILY SERVICES, $17,500, to provide breakfast, lunch and afternoon snacks as well as a weekly backpack of food for children enrolled at the Inez Martin Daycare Center in Key West. 

2018-19 grant recipients providing early childhood or after-school care include:

  • BAHAMA VILLAGE MUSIC PROGRAM, $10,000, to support before and after school music lessons for children in the Lower Keys.
  • BOYS & GIRLS CLUBS OF THE KEYS AREA, $19,000, to waive summer camp fees for Big Pine children.
  • BURTON MEMORIAL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH, $10,000, to provide childcare scholarships for Upper Keys children.
  • FLORIDA KEYS HEALTHY START COALITION, $9,000, to provide early childhood education programs countywide.
  • GRACE JONES COMMUNITY CENTER, $25,000, to offer childcare scholarships for children of working parents in the Marathon area.
  • MARATHON RECREATION CENTER, $25,000, to provide after-school and summer care for children of working parents in the Marathon area.
  • ST COLUMBA EPISCOPAL CHURCH, $27,500, to provide free childcare including snacks, tutoring, and transportation at The Hammock House in Marathon.

2018-19 grant recipients providing safety net services:

  • CATHOLIC CHARITIES OF THE ARCHDIOCESE OF MIAMI, $32,500, to provide emergency financial assistance.
  • DOMESTIC ABUSE SHELTER, $20,000, to purchase a van to provide countywide transportation for shelter residents.
  • FLORIDA KEYS AREA HEALTH EDUCATION CENTER PROGRAM, $7,500, to provide a dental health program, mental health assessments, and no-cost primary care services for Monroe County children.
  • FLORIDA KEYS OUTREACH COALITION, $18,750, to prevent homelessness of financially challenged individuals and families throughout Monroe County by providing emergency assistance.
  • GOOD HEALTH CLINIC, $50,000, to expand free primary care and advanced medical care to low income residents through a satellite office in the Marathon area.
  • INDEPENDENCE CAY, $10,000, to operate a transitional shelter in the Middle Keys.
  • KEYS AREA INTERDENOMINATIONAL RESOURCES, $40,000, to help Middle Keys families with obtaining or maintaining housing.

UWFK’s round of $221,300 in funding announced in June 2018 will support long-term recovery efforts throughout Monroe County: 

  • $108,800 - Florida Keys Outreach Coalition’s Quick Assist Program and Keys Area Interdenominational Resource’s Shelter Needs Program will provide county-wide financial direct case management assistance for clients with storm-related losses. Recognizing the overwhelming need for emergency financial assistance, UWFK began a direct case management program in October 2017. Now that the height of the crisis has passed, the program is transitioning to UWFK partner agencies already providing this much-needed service year-round.  
  • $22,500 - Florida Keys Community Land Trust: United Way of the Florida Keys supports the building of the first home in Big Pine through the Florida Keys Community Land Trust. Affordable housing is one of the most challenging needs in our community and UWFK is proud to be at the forefront of supporting this effort to rebuild houses made uninhabitable by Irma and also provide housing to those whose homes were destroyed.  The Florida Keys Community Land Trust seeks to address the affordable housing crisis magnified by Hurricane Irma by developing privately funded, permanently affordable rental housing through the community land trust model. They will construct Keys Cottages, energy efficient and resilient homes that go up quickly, and the first 4 homes will be available as rentals by the end of 2018.  
  • $75,000 - Long-Term Recovery Group Monroe County: The Long Term Recovery Group Monroe County, Florida (LTRG) was formed to help address the damage created by Hurricane Irma and to better prepare for future disasters. The LTRG functions in two important roles; to connect and coordinate nonprofit services to storm victims and to fill the funding gap to assist families when all other funding options have been exhausted.  The LTRG is working with foundations across the country to secure funding for administration expenses and direct client assistance.  UWFK’s funding shows local support for Monroe County’s own recovery and is a critical part of demonstrating our community’s commitment to recovery.   This support will assist storm victims in desperate need for help with rebuilding their lives. 
  • $15,000 - Legal Services of Greater Miami: Legal Services is the only provider of free civil legal services to the low income residents of Monroe County and Miami-Dade. With UWFK support, Legal Services will provide legal assistance dedicated to serving Hurricane Irma victims in Monroe County.  The need for free legal services has been increasing over the last 3 months and disaster relief professionals estimate that the peak demand for legal help will be 12-18 months after the storm. This funding will allow their team of attorneys to assist Keys residents in navigating the many legal challenges following a disaster.  

The combined $717,300 for long-term recovery efforts complements UWFK’s previous relief work which began just days after Irma and has addressed unmet needs such as rental assistance, childcare scholarships and mental health counselling. The $1.6 million now allocated or disbursed by UWFK into our community will truly change lives throughout Monroe County. 

Thank you to each and every one of our supporters, volunteers and community partners. Together we will rebuild the Keys community. UWFK's mission to fight for working families in the Keys has become even more critical since Hurricane Irma and, with your support, we will continue to do so.