This is the second year that the major players have banded together to make sure that every needy kid in the Florida Keys will receive one special Christmas present. The Holiday Helpers group — Wesley House, the Key West Police Department and the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office — coordinate the donations and distribution, but they do it with the help of many other community partners.
“We have so many organizations that participate — the fire departments, Rotary clubs, local businesses and nonprofit organizations,” said Lissette Cuervo Carey at Wesley House Family Services. “What we wanted was to create a clearinghouse to better serve the entire Keys community.”
Last year, about 600 kids received something special. On average, each child received three gifts and, in some cases, a bicycle. Quite a few of the gifts were collected at the annual Holiday Kick-off Mixer. The popular party that is scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 13 in Key West is the brainchild of Richard Dennison of Gourmet Nibbles and Flowers in Key West. It will be held in the 900 block of Frances Street (on the cemetery side of Truman Avenue) from 5 to 8 p.m.
“This is the sixth year we’ve hosted the event,” he said. “It started with a 20-foot by 40-foot tent and has grown to a 120-foot by 30-foot tent.”
There will be food, drinks, a bar, music, Christmas lights and …. yes, snow. Dennison said the event takes eight months to plan. But it’s worth it.
“There are a lot of kids here on the island that don’t have toys for Christmas,” he said. “We want to make sure every kid in the islands has something to open on Christmas morning.”
The event has many hosts. It is the official November mixer for the Key West Business Guild. The Holiday Helpers are also there in force, as well as supporters of The Basilica School of Saint Mary Star of the Sea. The school is in charge of the silent auction and relies on those funds every year.
“The money raised helps us in all aspects of the school operating and support of our students,” said Robin Beede, fundraising chair.
In addition, various charities will be cheerfully participating and spreading their own message.
The event attracts about 700 citizens. Admission is $10 plus an unwrapped toy.
About Holiday Helpers of the Florida Keys
This is the second year various groups have banded together to create a central clearing house for serving needy kids during the holidays. Each has an important role. Wesley House Family Services will register families in need and keep records for the program. The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office and the Key West Polilce lend a hand with fundraising efforts, toy collection and toy delivery. Other partners include the Salvation Army, Key Largo Fire Department, Monroe County Fire Rescue, Keys-wide Rotary Clubs, Key West Business Guild, Southernmost Coconut Castaways, and more.
Citizens can donate a toy at various collection boxes around the Keys. As the holidays approach, special “toy stores” will be set up in the Upper, Middle and Lower Keys where needy families who are registered with the program will have the opportunity to shop for gifts (at no cost to them, of course!).
Registration for the program begins Monday, Nov. 18 and runs through Friday, Nov. 22. To sign up or register a needy family, contact Wesley House Family Services at 305-809-5025 or email [email protected]. You can also find information about the program on Facebook at Holiday Helpers of the Florida Keys.