Keys Contracting Services president Chris Gratton, right, presents Habitat for Humanity of the Middle Keys executive director Chris Todd Young with a ceremonial groundbreaking shovel. ALEX RICKERT/Keys Weekly

On June 2, rain from the weekend’s incoming storm held off just long enough for Habitat for Humanity of the Middle Keys’ ceremonial ground-breaking for “Bell Haven.” Named after the late Jill Bell, a beloved longtime volunteer and Habitat staff member, the development is the organization’s largest build ever in the Middle Keys. It will include four duplex buildings for a total of nine units: six three-bedroom, two-bath homes; two two-bedroom, two-bath homes; and a single condo unit with two bedrooms and two baths.

“The more working families we have in stable housing, the more sustainable our economy becomes, and the better our community becomes as well,” said Marathon Mayor John Bartus, thanking the partnership among Habitat, the Monroe County Commission, and the Monroe County Land Authority.

“Habitat stabilizes our community by providing shelter and protection,” said Chris Todd Young, executive director for Habitat for Humanity of the Middle Keys. “Bell Haven is a place of protection and safety, a place to thrive and a place to call home.”

The build is scheduled for completion in late summer 2023, and Habitat for Humanity plans to open the application period for the homes in early 2023. For more information on the application process, visit

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Alex Rickert made the perfectly natural career progression from dolphin trainer to newspaper editor in 2021 after freelancing for Keys Weekly while working full time at Dolphin Research Center. A resident of Marathon since 2015, he fell in love with the Florida Keys community by helping multiple organizations and friends rebuild in the wake of Hurricane Irma. An avid runner, actor, and spearfisherman, he spends as much of his time outside of work on or under the sea having civil disagreements with sharks.