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Giving Thanks for What’s Truly Important’s as important as ever to be thankful for all that’s near and dear to each one of us.

For many, giving thanks for loved ones or good health are constants. For others, on this Thanksgiving fourteen months after Hurricane Irma forever changed us, it’s appropriate to give thanks to our community for its extreme generosity under the most trying of times. 

But perhaps what we should be most thankful for, though, is the resiliency of the Keys community spirit. We have all witnessed it. We’ve seen those adversely affected rise up, rebuild and assist others whose path to ‘normal’ is perhaps longer or more treacherous. And while we know that needs remain, this holiday season we should be grateful for the cooperative spirit that continues to make the Keys a better, stronger place to live, work and play.

Our community has always shown what it means to Live United in so many thoughtful and meaningful ways. Thanks to the generosity of thousands of local residents, the United Way of the Florida Keys and our nonprofit partner agencies have supported Monroe County for more than 30 years. These organizations conduct important work in educating our children, providing food for neighbors in need and helping ensure that the 46% of hard-working, year-round Keys residents who cannot afford life's necessities can provide for their families. 

This past year, over $1.7 million has been committed or distributed by UWFK in Hurricane Irma relief funds that flowed into the Keys from near and far. That generosity has resulted in big wins right here in our community, from rebuilding daycare centers, to providing free medical care, to serving meals and more.

Even those who have been adversely affected by Irma have found a way to give, whether it’s in the form of time volunteering, helping friends or even an attentive ear. All giving adds up, from weekly workplace giving by hard-working local residents to a one-time hurricane relief donation.

UWFK follows a simple creed; ‘what’s raised in the Keys, stays in the Keys’. Our community has demonstrated a similar theme since Irma; ‘neighbors will help those hurt by the storm, emerge from the storm’. 

Like most, we are also now grateful more of our neighbors are back in their homes this holiday season. Last year at this time, many families spent the holidays having lost their homes and possessions, and deeply uncertain of their future.

While we recognize there is still more to achieve and are grateful for those still working to rebuild our community, we must revel in the accomplishments so far. So, when it’s time to reflect upon the past year before celebrating with a hearty, holiday meal, think about all the good work that’s occurred in the Keys since it was so dramatically transformed. And take pride in being part of the solution.

~an excerpt from The Key West Citizen on Thursday, November 22, 2018