Vehicles lined the road outside Key Lime Products in Key Largo on Jan. 22. Patrons believed it to be a yard sale of some sort at Violet Wahba’s store. But what they witnessed was a Keys community in action during a time of need. 

With a four-wheeled cart, a dolly and muscle, roughly 15 members from the community came out to help move signs and large pots from the front of the store. Inside, Monroe County Sheriff’s deputies put on gloves to remove items that still could be salvaged after a fire ripped through the store around the holidays

“Thank you. Thank you very much,” Wahba said as the group worked roughly two hours before gathering for a group picture. 

Wahba, who’s run the store for two years, loves watching customers walk away with some gifts and a smile. She also shares a passion for the members who make up the Keys community. Look no further than her efforts during the early stages of the pandemic, when she used her store as a drive-through for residents to pick up warm meals. She worked alongside Mangrove Mike’s Endeavors and founder Mike Forster to feed those whose jobs were affected by a lack of visitors. 

With all the cheer she exudes, Wahba continues to persevere through several challenges that have affected her business in recent times. Last fall, her store was victim to a series of burglaries. Between $15,000 and $20,000 in items were stolen. Some of it was recovered but other items weren’t retrieved. 

A breakthrough in the case occurred on Nov. 2, when the sheriff’s office responded to a Lime Street residence for a report of a burglary with $458 in cash stolen. A witness who saw someone breaking into the residence identified the man as 48-year-old Shane Everett Earp. Detectives visited Earp’s residence and discovered items from the Key Lime Products store in plain sight. A search warrant was obtained and Earp was arrested. He has pleaded not guilty.

A month later, Wahba received a phone call from a neighbor to the store who told her that smoke was coming from the structure. A fire engulfed half the building, leaving products charred and damaged. A wire is believed to have started the blaze. 

Community members recognized Wahba was in need of help. A Go Fund Me page was started earlier in the year by Nola Acker to assist her through difficult times. Last Saturday, Key Largo Sunset Rotarians and sheriff’s deputies stopped by her store to offer some moving help. 

Wahba continues to welcome visitors with a menagerie of products situated outside her store. Despite all she’s endured, Wahba’s spirit remains high as she continues to greet customers with a “hi” and “welcome.”

Jim McCarthy is one of the many Western New Yorkers who escaped the snow and frigid temperatures for warm living by the water. A former crime & court reporter and city editor for two Western New York newspapers, Jim has been honing his craft since he graduated from St. Bonaventure University in 2014. In his 4-plus years in the Keys, Jim has enjoyed connecting with the community. “One of my college professors would always preach to be curious,” he said. “Behind every person is a story that’s unique to them, and one worth telling. As writers, we are the ones who paint the pictures in the readers minds of the emotions, the struggles and the triumphs.” Jim is past president of the Key Largo Sunset Rotary Club, which is composed of energetic members who serve the community’s youth and older populations. Jim is a sports fanatic who loves to watch football, hockey, mixed martial arts and golf. He also enjoys time with family and his new baby boy, Lucas, who arrived Oct. 4, 2022.