John Bartus

One of the (many) things I love about my wife Sarah is that she is among the kindest and most generous people I’ve ever known. Whether it’s people, animals, or just a good cause, Sarah embodies a generosity of spirit that I admire. A really good example of that is the charity she co-founded 15 years ago, Presents In Paradise. 

For the record, I am a member of the Presents board of directors, and I serve with a group of amazing people who care about our community.

From humble beginnings, Presents has grown into a program that assists several hundred local working families each year and provides them a way to make a good Christmas possible. The need is very real: in the 2023 ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) Report issued by United Way of Collier and the Keys, 47% of Marathon’s local working families earn below the Monroe County Household Survival Budget. While they play incredibly essential roles in our local economy, most of these workers do not have basic employee protections, such as annual salary, adequate health care coverage and access to other benefits. And no matter how hard they work, the gap between wages earned and monthly expenses (rent, food, clothing, medicine etc.) keeps growing.

When a family can barely make ends meet and pay the monthly bills, it’s easy to see that trying to provide Christmas can inflict a major financial burden. That’s where Presents In Paradise comes in. Presents works with local families to address their particular needs and takes a little of the holiday burden off of these wage earners.

Three big events are happening between this weekend and next, and they’re fun ways you can help Presents In Paradise make Christmas happen. First of all, Friday night, Oct. 27, Havana Jack’s in Key Colony Beach is hosting the Boo Bash, a costume contest and party to benefit Presents In Paradise. 

The Boo Bash has turned into a big-time family-friendly fun event every year, and boy, do we have a big party lined up. The Lady A Band will be playing those awesome rock and blues tunes, we’ll have some awesome celebrity judges (including a local newspaper editor who shall remain nameless), and there will be raffles, food and drink specials and everything else you’ll need for a spooky howlin’ good time. Come in a costume and enter the contest for a chance to win some cool prizes from Havana Jack’s and Glunz Resort. The Boo Bash begins at 7 p.m. Friday night, and the costume contest will start around 8.

The City of Marathon staff holds an annual costume contest, and your votes will benefit Presents In Paradise. Stop by Marathon City Hall on Halloween between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. and cast your votes for the best costume. Votes cost $1, and voting often is encouraged!

Speaking of great times, next Saturday, Nov. 4, the Marathon Elks Lodge will host a fantastic pulled pork dinner and silent auction for Presents. This is our biggest fundraiser, and it’s complete with tasty food and drink, live music, raffles, and a chance to bid on some amazing auction items. 

Let’s start with the dinner — if you haven’t tried the Elks Lodge pulled pork, then you really need to stop in. In addition to the fantastic food, there’s live music with the Lady A Band (thanks Agnes and Ric!) and yours truly. There will be raffles and prizes, and we’ll have a wonderful selection of items you can bid on and take home.

The pulled pork dinner begins at 6 p.m., and the combination of food, drink, music and fun will make for a fantastic event. We appreciate your support in helping Presents In Paradise make Christmas possible for our local working families. 

As we get into this holiday season, it’s good to remember that it’s better to give than receive — especially when it comes to our local wage earners who make our lives better and easier.

– Catch John live Wednesdays at Brutus Seafood, this Friday MC’ing the Boo Bash at Havana Jack’s, Saturday at Isla Bella Resort, and Sunday at the Skipjack Resort Tiki Bar. Find his music anywhere you download or stream your music. •

Very few towns or cities could ever claim that their Mayor was a smokin' hot guitar player. The island city of Marathon in the Florida Keys is one of those towns. While politics is a temporary call to service, music is a life sentence. John Bartus, a more-than-four-decade full-time professional musician, singer, and songwriter, continues to raise the bar with his groundbreaking solo acoustic show. It’s easy to catch John on one of his more than 200 shows a year throughout the Keys on his Perpetual Island Tour. His CD releases include After The Storm, Keys Disease 10th Anniversary Remaster, and Live From the Florida Keys Vol. 2. John’s music is available wherever you download or stream your music.