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United Way of the Florida Keys
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As a United Way of the Florida Keys Small Business Partner, you will receive special recognition at all UWFK events, your logo placement on our website, recognition in a press release sent to the media, and a free ticket to our Annual Meeting. To sign up,    click here.




UWFK Board member Rebecca Horan was recognized as an "Unsung Hero" at the Community Foundation of the Florida Keys' annual luncheon honoring volunteers on January 30th in Key West. Rebecca is an agent with Atlantic Pacific Insurance. A United Way of the Florida Keys Board member for the past three years, she has served as Board Secretary and is currently Chair of United Way's Community Investment Committee. Her colleagues on the Board described Rebecca as "a great leader and passionate about United Way's mission to help our Keys neighbors in need."

Kate Bauer-Jones has been named the new President / CEO of United Way of the Florida Keys. Bauer-Jones replaces Margie Smith, who resigned last month to join her husband’s investment management firm in Islamorada. The new United Way President has an extensive history in nonprofits, having worked in leadership roles with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Collier County and YMCA of the Palms in Collier and Lee Counties. Most recently, she served on the education team with United Way Suncoast in Tampa.

After receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Virginia, she worked as a teacher of primarily special needs children both in Florida and in a high risk public school in the South Bronx. She received a Master’s in Education, Management and Innovation from Western Governor’s University, and is currently working towards a Doctorate of Philosophy in Education Leadership and Policy Studies from the University of South Florida. 




Bauer-Jones said she is “honored to have been given the opportunity to take on a leadership role in such a strong organization as United Way of the Florida Keys.” She said her work at United Way will “focus deeply on the needs of the Keys’ most vulnerable citizens, particularly children and those who are hungry.”  She praised her predecessor, Margie Smith, for doing “such remarkable work growing United Way’s impact and presence throughout the Keys,” and said she believes United Way “is uniquely poised to bring together the resources of the community, including the creativity and partnership of many businesses, individuals and organizations.” 

Leah Maki, United Way Board Chair, said the agency is “thrilled to have found someone as talented and personable as Kate to lead United Way to the next level in the Keys. She has a lot of great ideas for growing our donor base and increasing our impact on the Keys community, and we’re very excited to have her on board.” 

 Bauer-Jones and her wife Beth will reside in Key West.  Her first day at United Way will be Monday, January 26th.

More than 14,000 Keys households—48% of the total—are struggling to afford basic needs like food, housing and health care, according to a groundbreaking report released November 11th by United Way of the Florida Keys.    

United Ways in six states commissioned Rutgers University to conduct the research for the ALICE report, which stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. The report spotlights a large segment of the population that is working hard—sometimes at two or three jobs—but is still barely able to make ends meet.    

“ALICE folks are our child care workers, mechanics, home health aides, store clerks, office assistants and other workers who provide invaluable services we all rely on in our daily lives,” said Margie Smith, President of United Way of the Florida Keys. “But as hard as they are working, all it would take is one emergency–a serious illness, an expensive car repair, a damaging storm—for them to spiral into poverty.”    The ALICE report is groundbreaking, Smith explained, because it more accurately portrays the extent of financial hardship in Florida. Federal poverty guidelines have not been updated since 1974 and are not adjusted to reflect cost of living differences, Smith said. “This is significant in an area like the Keys, which has traditionally had the highest cost of living in the state.”    

The ALICE report states that 12% of Monroe County households are at or below the federal poverty level, but an additional 36% of households are in the ALICE category—barely getting by. “You really need to combine these two groups,” Smith said, “in order to get a true picture of how many people in our county are struggling financially.”    

The ALICE report contains cost analyses of basic household expenses like housing, food, child care and health care for all 67 Florida counties, and compares these costs with household incomes. It concludes that in Monroe County, a bare minimum “household survival budget” would be $24,020 for a single adult and $61,962 for a family of four. Only 51% of Keys households are making that much or more. “And these figures are very conservative,” Smith said. “Health care costs, for example, include only out-of-pocket expenses, not premiums. Housing costs are the cheapest housing you can get in an area.”    

When ALICE households don’t have enough income, Smith said, they have to make difficult choices to reduce their expenses. “For instance, they might leave their child with a neighbor instead of putting him or her in an accredited facility, which could jeopardize the child’s safety and learning opportunities. Or they might skip preventative health care, which could cause a serious health problem in the future.”   

It’s important to add, Smith said, that the whole community suffers when ALICE households don’t have enough income. “When ALICE children aren’t ready for school, they add a burden to the educational system. When ALICE households can’t afford preventative health care, they place future burdens on the health care system, increasing insurance premiums for everyone.”    

Smith said United Way is releasing the ALICE report with the hope that it will encourage state and local decision-makers to initiate policies and programs that will support working families who are struggling to continue living in the Keys.   “We have been serving this fragile population for many years through our funding of food pantries and child care programs,” she said. “We care about them and want their lives to be better.”    

To access the complete ALICE Florida report, click here.

To access the six-state ALICE report, click here.

Publix Supermarkets was honored as the top company donor at United Way of the Florida Keys’ 33rd Annual Meeting, held recently at Hawks Cay Resort. The 2013–14 workplace campaign at Publix brought in $120,983 in support for United Way. 

In addition to Publix, the top five company donors in 2013–14 were Mariners Hospital ($24,221), Monroe County Schools ($19,470), Hawks Cay Resort ($16,003), and the Florida Keys Electric Cooperative ($14,758). Also honored at the United Way Annual Meeting was Iberiabank, which had the highest participation in its workplace campaign. 100% of Iberiabank employees in the Florida Keys donated to United Way in 2013–14. Board Chair Leah Maki welcomed the 60 donors, prospective donors and agency representatives who attended the United Way Annual Meeting. She had special words of thanks for the five sponsors of the annual event—Publix, Hawks Cay, Centennial Bank, Florida Keys Electric Cooperative and Mariners Hospital. Raffle donors included Hawks Cay and Key Largo Chocolates.

United Way President Margie Smith, third from left, congratulates Publix representatives Steve Levine, Vivian De La Torre, Kimberley Seitz, Paul Bean and Tim Maloney for their company being the top money-raiser in the 2013-14 United Way workplace giving campaign.  Photo by Denis Amed.

Maria Jones, Board Vice Chair, gave an overview of United Way, and told meeting attendees that if they didn’t learn anything else about United Way that day, the most important thing to remember is that all money raised in the Keys stays in the Keys. 

United Way President Margie Smith, who has announced her resignation effective December 31st, noted that the revenue raised by United Way has increased by 54% in the last five years— from $245,000 to $377,000. Later in the program, Board Chair Maki thanked Smith for her exceptional service to United Way, noting that “Margie’s workplace presentations about United Way—and her ability to connect with such diverse audiences—have been a big reason” for the increase in revenue. Smith also described United Way’s “community impact” work. She said United Way “convenes the discussion” to encourage businesses, nonprofits and government to work together to address community needs. She cited United Way’s role in getting fresh meats and produce delivered to food banks throughout the Keys. United Way also conducted a survey of parents about their summer childcare needs, she said, with the goal of creating more summer childcare programs at prices parents can afford. 

Rebecca Horan, Community Investment Chair, thanked the 12 nonprofit agencies United Way funded in 2013-14 for their important work. She introduced Pastor Kerry Foote of Burton Memorial Church, and Elizabeth Adams of Star of the Sea Outreach Mission, who said United Way funding had helped them provide food to the needy. Stephanie Kaple of Florida Keys Outreach Coalition, described how the United Way-funded Activity Center at FKOC helped homeless mothers and children. 

Candy Fincke, Past Board Chair, presented a list of 58 “leadership donors,” who had donated $1,000 or more in 2013-14, and 67 “emerging leaders,” who had donated between $500 and $999. She also acknowledged long-time United Way donors, leading off with Mary Chase of Iberiabank, who has been a United Way donor for more than 40 years.  Leadership and emerging leader donors received special pins and long-time donors received certificates. Fincke herself received a plaque, thanking her for her service as Board Chair. 

Assistant State Attorney Tanner Demerry installed 16 Board members at the Annual Meeting. The 2014-15 Board includes Leah Maki, Chair; Maria Jones, Vice Chair, Trich Worthington, Treasurer; Mindy McKenzie, Community Impact Liaison/Secretary; Candy Fincke, Past Chair; and Tina Boan, Jessica Cranney, Nikki Dunn, Marilyn Fraelich, Andy Griffiths, Rebecca Horan, Richard McChesney, Denise Preuss, Richard Tamborrino, Whitney Trentine and Dianne Weitz. 


Margie Smith, President of United Way of the Florida Keys since January 2010, will leave the agency at the end of this year to join her husband’s investment management firm in Islamorada. Smith said she is excited about her new position but sad to leave a job that has been so much a part of her for almost five years. “As President of United Way I’ve had the unique opportunity to see a detailed picture of who we are as a county, and to interact with so many public service-minded individuals,” she said. “What we have here is special.  I’ve never felt so profoundly connected to a community as I have here in the Keys.”

Smith will join her husband Cale’s firm, Islamorada Investment Management. “This was Cale’s own creation,” she explained. “He’s an independent, registered investment adviser and a fiduciary, which means he’s required by law to act solely in the best interest of his clients. His firm has grown a lot in the past few years and he’s ready now for a major expansion. I’m going to help with that.”


United Way of the Florida Keys has been raising funds to support nonprofit agencies in the Keys for more than 30 years. The funds are raised primarily through payroll deductions in the workplace, and all funds raised in the Keys, stay in the Keys. “We’re very sorry to see Margie go,” said Leah Maki, United Way Board Chair, “and very grateful for her outstanding service.” Maki noted that United Way’s annual revenue has increased substantially since Smith became President. “Margie’s workplace presentations about United Way—and her ability to connect with such diverse audiences—have been a big reason for that,” she said.

When Smith arrived in 2010, United Way had raised $245,000 the previous year. Last year, the agency raised more than $400,000.

In addition to providing funds for local nonprofits, United Way of the Florida Keys plays an important role in convening discussions between the nonprofit, private and public sectors to address critical community needs—for example, providing more and better quality food to local food pantries Keys-wide.  Smith made this “community impact” work a priority for the agency, also launching efforts to increase childcare options for Keys parents, expand summer food programs for children, and collect school supplies for needy Monroe County students in the annual “Stuff the Bus” drive.

As a result of these efforts, United Way has become more visible and well regarded in the Keys. “One of the things I’m proudest of,” Smith said, “is that now people all over the Keys know who United Way is and that we have a unique role to play in addressing community needs. While we’ve been supporting the community for over 30 years, we are doing more now and engaging more people in our work than ever before.”

Smith has a Master’s in Public Administration from Southern Illinois University. When she moved to the Keys from Washington, D.C. in 2005, she left behind a career in aviation that started in the field but became increasingly focused on advocacy and organizational reform.  She staffed a Congressional commission that wrote legislation to both restructure the way the aviation industry is financed and regulated and create the federal government’s first Performance Based Organization at the FAA. Smith also represented the nation’s public airports before the federal government at the American Association of Airport Executives, while simultaneously volunteering as the Executive Director of a local nonprofit.  She was a finalist for the prestigious White House Fellowship in 2001. 

Smith resides in Islamorada with her husband and two daughters.

United Way of the Florida Keys will conduct a Keys-wide search for Smith’s replacement, as well as talking to candidates who have led United Ways in other parts of the country.

“We want to find the very best person possible to replace Margie,” Board Chair Leah Maki said. “These are very big shoes to fill. Our ideal candidate will be able to continue the great work Margie’s done and build on it.” The new President will take over on January 1st.



To view our "Stuff the Bus" press release, click here.


Are you having a hard time finding an enriching, affordable summer program for your children that accommodates your work schedule? United Way of the Florida Keys is leading an effort to address barriers to getting kids quality summer programming, and come up with solutions that work for you. Here’s your chance to weigh in on your childcare needs! The first step to coming up with solutions Keys-wide is to document the need. Just fill out our brief, confidential online survey and be part of this effort to create additional affordable options for Keys families for summer 2015 and beyond. You can find the survey here in English.  For a Spanish version of the survey, click here.  The deadline for filling out the survey is the end of July. Or if you would like to be part of the solution in some other way, contact us at (305) 735-1929. Thank you! 



United Way of the Florida Keys helped launch the Spring social season with two different events--a Jazz Brunch in Islamorada and a "Friend-Raiser" in Key West. 

The lavish brunch, including everything from sliced smoked salmon to shrimp and grits, was catered by Kaiyo and the Green Turtle Inn. Live music was provided by the Island Jazz Ensemble. The 74 attendees also enjoyed endless champagne and a Bloody Mary bar. Sponsors of this event included: Publix, Marker 88, Ocean Sotheby's International Realty, Community Bank, The MIX, The Reporter, Florida Keys Electric Cooperative, Regan Insurance Agency, CBT Construction, RMB Construction, Postcard Inn, Islamorada Investment Management and Southern Wine and Spirits.

More than 100 people attended our “Friend-Raiser” in Key West to find out about the recent work of United Way and to honor local donors. Community leaders and UWFK leadership donors (giving $1,000 or more annually) gathered at the home of Guy Ross and Michael Ruiter for the evening reception.  Several Key West restaurants and catering companies donated hors d’oeuvres for the event, including Azur, Bistro Sole, Café Sole, Camille’s, Doubletree Grand Key Resort, Great Events Catering, Southernmost Beach Café, Square One – New American Table, Three Fine Cooks Catering, and the Westin Key West Resort.  Historic Tours of America donated the invitation graphics. Host Committee members included Dale Bittner, Andy Griffiths, Rebecca Horan, Debbie Mason, Richard McChesney, Mindy McKenzie and Denise Preuss. UWFK Board Chair, Candy Fincke, and President, Margie Smith, welcomed guests and thanked donors for their support.

See below to view photo albums from the two events.  

Jazz Brunch photos donated by Sandra D. Spaulding Photography

Friend-Raiser photos donated by Roberta DePiero

Key West Friend-Raiser
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United Way of the Florida Keys will distribute a total of $155,000 in grants to 15 nonprofit agencies in 2015-16.

The 15 agencies were among 17 that applied for funding in one of three United Way focus areas: access to nutritious food for people in critical need; early childhood or after-school care with an educational or positive behavioral component; or safety net services, including information and referral or short-term emergency response.

2015-16 grant recipients providing access to nutritious food include: 

Burton Memorial United Methodist Church - $15,000 for the Daily Bread food pantry

Domestic Abuse Shelter - $4,000 for food for children in shelter

Florida Keys Children's Shelter - $14,000 for the food fund for children

Florida Keys Outreach Coalition - $8,000 for Loaves and Fish pantry and residential meals program

Independence Cay - $8,000 for the soup kitchen and community garden

Keys Area Interdenominational Resources (KAIR) - $15,000 for its food pantry

Monroe Association for ReMARCable Citizens (MARC) - $5,000 for Food and Individual Training (FIT)

Star of the Sea Outreach Mission - $25,000 for a Keys-wide food distribution program

Wesley House Family Services - $10,000 for the Inez Martin Nutritional Backpack Program

2015-16 grant recipients providing early childhood or after-school care include:

Bahama Village Music Program - $5,000 for after-school music enrichment program

Boys and Girls Clubs of the Keys - $10,000 for the Summer Brain Gain program

Burton Memorial United Methodist Church - $10,000 for its Child Development Center

Florida Keys Healthy Start Coalition - $6,000 for "Keys to Kids' Safety" parenting program

Marathon Recreation Center - $18,000 for after-school care

2015-16 grant recipient providing safety net services:

Switchboard of Miami, Inc. - $2,000 to support the 2-1-1 Helpline of the Keys

The 2015-16 grant recipients were selected based on a scoring model calculated from feedback submitted by 30 United Way Board members and community volunteers who reviewed applications and visited agencies in each region of the Keys.

To view a copy of our press release on the 2015-16 grant recipients, click here.


Did you know that any Keys child 18 or younger can get free meals through the Summer BreakSpot program? BreakSpot is part of the Summer Food Service Program which is federally funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and administered here by the Florida Department of Agriculture. The goal of BreakSpot is to bridge the gap in nutrition during the summer months by serving nutritious meals to children 18 years and younger while school is not in session.

During the school year, many children receive free and reduced-price meals through the School Breakfast and National School Lunch programs. When school lets out for the summer, many of these children are at risk of hunger or poor nutrition. BreakSpot is designed to ensure that children have access to the nutritious meals they need to grow, learn and play during the summer months and to help ensure their bodies and minds are healthy and strong for the upcoming school year. 

In the Keys, any child 18 or younger can go to one of five BreakSpot sites and get a free breakfast and lunch Monday through Friday during the summer months. The only requirement is that the child must eat the meal on the premises. Here are the times and site locations:

Key Largo Elementary School:  Breakfast 7:45 to 8:15 a,m., lunch 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., through August 8th

Stanley Switlik Elementary School:  Breakfast 7:45 to 8 a.m., lunch 11:25 a.m. to noon, through July 11th or 18th, depending on participation

Marathon Middle / High School:  Breakfast 7:45 to 8 a.m., lunch 11:30 a.m. to noon, through July 11th or 18th, depending on participation

Poinciana Elementary School:  Breakfast 7:45 to 8 a.m., lunch 11:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m., through August 8th

Horace O'Bryant Elementary School:  Breakfast 7:45 to 8 a.m., lunch 11:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m., through July 11th or 18th, depending on participation

Please pass this information on! And more BreakSpot sites are needed to reach the maximum number of Keys children. If you would like to help us secure more sites, call us at (305) 735-1929. Thank you!


United Way of the Florida Keys has announced that it will distribute a total of $145,000 in grants to 13 nonprofit agencies in 2014-15.   

“We are so grateful to the many United Way donors throughout the Keys,” said Margie Smith, UWFK President. “They are the ones who make it possible for us to assist these agencies that are providing such critical services to our neighbors in need.” 

The 13 agencies were among 16 that applied in two United Way focus areas: programs that provide access to nutritious food for people in critical need, or early childhood/youth development programs with an educational or positive behavioral component.  

2014-15 grant recipients in the food category include: Burton Memorial United Methodist Church - $15,000 for its Daily Bread Food Pantry;  Domestic Abuse Shelter - $4,000 for food for children in shelter;  Florida Keys Children’s Shelter - $11,000 for food for children in shelter; Florida Keys Outreach Coalition - $8,000 for Loaves and Fish Pantry and Residential Meals Program;  Healthy Start Coalition - $7,000 for food for needy families with pregnant women and children 0 to 3; Independence Cay - $8,000 for its Soup Kitchen and Community Garden; Keys Area Interdenominational Resources (KAIR) - $15,000 for its Food Pantry;  Monroe Association for ReMARCable Citizens (MARC) - $8,000 for Food and Individual Training (FIT); Star of the Sea Outreach Mission - $25,000 for a Keys-wide food distribution program; and Wesley House Family Services - $10,000 for its Inez Martin Nutritional Backpack Program.

2014-15 grant recipients in the early childhood/youth development category include: Boys and Girls Clubs of the Keys - $10,000 for summer program scholarships for needy children; Marathon Recreation Center - $18,000 for after-school care for children of working parents; and Womankind - $6,000 for its Teen Services Program.     

The 2014-15 grant recipients were selected using a mathematical scoring model based on scorecards submitted by 11 United Way Board members who read all applications, and 15 community volunteers who reviewed applications and visited agencies in each region in person. 

“We are extremely proud to be partnering with these agencies that provide such important services,” said Candy Fincke, UWFK Board Chair.  “We hope these grants will help them do an even better job of serving our Keys community.”



PUBLIX employees Keys-wide have pledged a total of $66,147 for the United Way of the Florida Keys 2013 Workplace Campaign! Thank you, Publix employees, for your generous contributions which will assist Keys nonprofits that do so much for our community. FUNDS RAISED IN THE KEYS STAY IN THE KEYS.

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United Way of Florida has provided a summary of the Florida legislature's 2014 session. The summary covers bills that passed and bills that died which were of interest to United Way and its partners.  To view the summary, click here.

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