Filmmaker Landau to the rescue

Relief fund for Upper Keys residents established

Guests of honor Julie and Jon Landau share a laugh with Lindy Roth, right, at the American Red Cross Gala.

The Community Foundation of the Florida Keys’ recovery efforts gained a big helping hand recently, when Islamorada residents Jon and Julie Landau created the Landau Family Hurricane Relief Fund for the Upper Keys. A filmmaker and producer, Jon Landau is most known for producing Titanic (1997) and Avatar (2009) – the two highest-grossing films of all time.

“To me, it’s how do we preserve the community,” said Landau. “If there is one thing I ask, it’s to not forget about the people who are still in need. For some of us, the power might be back on, water may be flowing, and our pools filled – but we need to continue to find ways to help the people most affected and give them a reason to celebrate during the holiday season.”

Dianna Sutton, president and CEO of the Community Foundation of the Florida Keys, said the Landau Family Fund will help individuals and businesses throughout the Islamorada area with urgent and immediate needs, as well as future rebuilding and recovery.

$50,000 of the $90,000 in donations have already been granted from the fund.

Sutton said donations have poured in from all over the country, and as far away as New Zealand. The stories behind them are inspiring, be it the St. Louis watchmaker who gathered money from battery replacements or the individuals who organized concerts and sold t-shirts to raise money. Thanks to Landau, companies and colleagues from Hollywood have also given, said Sutton. While she was mum on who specifically gave, Sutton did confirm that some contributors are most certainly household names.

Through a combination of the Landau Fund and CFFK’s own Irma relief fund, grant money has been able to provide transportation, housing, utilities, some medical assistance, child care and rental assistance.

Grants are being awarded to local non-profit organizations, which Sutton says has been effective in providing goods and services directly to those in need. Among them: the Florida Keys Outreach Coalition, Monroe County Education Foundation, Samuel’s House Hurricane Irma relief fund, St Columba Episcopal Church, the Sister Season fund, and the Florida Keys Fishing Guide Association.

The Florida Keys Outreach Coalition, whose mission is to find housing solutions for the homeless, has been especially grateful for the flexibility the grants have given.

“We’re using the funds to assist families in the Upper Keys that have been impacted by Irma to get stabilized housing,” said Stephanie Caple, executive director.

Through its Quick Assist program, the coalition has helped residents by covering rent and temporary housing expenses, financing home repairs, paying for local campground space while repairs happen, getting residents caught up on mortgage payments, and covering insurance deductibles for damages directly caused by Hurricane Irma.

“The name of the game is how we can quickly and effectively get residents get back on their feet,” said Caple, adding that there is urgency in addressing the new housing crisis.

The community organization has also formed various advisory committee boards, each representing its respective region of the Keys, to gather local advisors to help review grant applications.

After its initial round of grant disbursing, $40,000 was divided among four organizations. The next round saw another $100,000 distributed to hurricane relief organizations.

The current round of grant application approvals was to end on Oct. 31. Disbursals are expected to be complete by Nov. 15.

The Oct. 31 deadline is not the final grant approval period. Throughout the coming months, CFFK will continue to accept applications and continue reviewing where funds will be most effective. Periodic distribution will assist long-term needs as they may arise. For those who want to help their neighbors, CFFK encourages making a donation at Keys residents needing housing assistance in the Upper Keys can contact the Florida Keys Outreach Coalition at 305-916-5454.

The Community Foundation of the Florida Keys raised more than $1.3 million after Hurricane Wilma.

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