United Way of the Florida Keys continues to serve hard-working, paycheck to paycheck residents in the Keys, helping make our community a better place to live and work. Through local partnerships and in-house programs, UWFK is proud of all that has been accomplished for these residents in the last half of 2019, and is grateful to all who have helped make this work possible.
In July 2019, through UWFK’s Community Investment program, 20 local nonprofit partner agencies were selected to work alongside UWFK, receiving a total of $233,000 to provide 12 months of services in UWFK’s focus areas of childhood education, access to nutritious food, safety net services and Hurricane Irma recovery. These local organizations offer 26 programs to serve more than 15,000 Florida Keys residents.
As UWFK’s nonprofit partners began reporting on their work, UWFK was excited to see that some have already exceeded their remarkable goals. Together, 1,175 children received daycare or after-school programming so they have a safe learning environment while their parents work; almost 20,000 bags of groceries have been distributed and nearly 383,000 meals have been served to reduce hunger in the Keys; and almost 3,200 residents have received medical or healthcare services so we have a healthier community; plus much more—in just six months.
Kawana Staffney, of the Boys and Girls Club of the Keys Area, reported their partnership with United Way provided summer camp for 173 Lower Keys children. “Without this support, parents would have to leave the workforce or, even worse, leave children at home alone to retain employment. The help with fees and providing a safe place for students to be gives parents comfort and peace of mind. They can then focus on work and maintaining their families without added stress and worry.”
In addition to local partnerships, as an affiliate of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, during the same 6 months UWFK has provided 2,034 free books mailed monthly to 129 children, improving early literacy and setting Keys children up for success. UWFK has focused on providing this service to low income residents, knowing that 69% of parents in the program reported having less than 5 age appropriate books at home for their children, prior to enrollment. Only 10% reported having more than 20 books at home.
Additionally, UWFK’s volunteers are currently working hard to provide the only free tax preparation service in Monroe County and, so far, the number of returns completed has increased significantly over this time last year. This service helps Keys residents maximize their tax return so they are better able to provide for their families, making our community more affordable.
Looking forward to the future, the merging of United Way of the Florida Keys and United Way of Collier County coming together as the United Way of Collier and the Keys ushers in increased operational ability, access to additional resources and relationships, and opportunities to enhance and expand programming essential to the Monroe County community. Current programs and funding will continue serving the Keys community. As always, priorities and funding will still be determined by and for our community, led by local staff and an advisory board.
To help with these local decisions, volunteers are needed to review and score applications during site visits to agencies applying for funding. Site visits will be held the week of March 23-27, 2020, with locations throughout the Keys. Each year, site visit volunteers are impressed by the often-unseen work of our nonprofit partners and the challenges they tackle. UWFK uses volunteers’ scores as a factor in this competitive grant process. If you are interested in volunteering, please go to KeysUniteWay.org/SiteVisitVolunteers.