Money will help SOS and Habitat

In the spirit of community and in alignment with its mission of preservation, Key West Art & Historical Society has joined Star of the Sea Foundation and Habitat for Humanity to help support ongoing hurricane Irma recovery efforts throughout the Keys. The society will host and donate proceeds from events throughout the year to aid in the partnering organization’s charity efforts, including the upcoming “Brick House Funk Party” benefit on Thursday, Oct. 26, and its annual “Back in Time” fundraiser taking place on Wednesday, Nov. 29.

“Key West Art & Historical Society has a strong membership base that’s passionate about arts as well as the community,” says Habitat for Humanity Board President Debbie Swift Batty. “The organization has graciously offered to support Habitat’s vision of a world where everyone has a decent place to live.”

Given the impact of hurricane Irma, Star of the Sea Foundation (SOS) and Habitat for Humanity are working especially hard at providing what they can for communities Keyswide, and recovery efforts are far from being over.

“Star of the Sea Foundation and Habitat for Humanity both have missions that support the Keys community on a consistent and continual basis, which is important given the long-term impact of the storm” said Michael Gieda, executive director of the society, one of the city’s oldest non-profit organizations that spearheads the cultural preservation and heritage of Key West and the Florida Keys.

Gieda said the staff is working together “at light speed” to round out the details of annual events such as the Holiday Bazaar and Conch Revival Picnic, with the goal of raising money for these and other charities while providing the community with some much-needed fun.

“Our focus is togetherness and support,” he said.

The society and its three museum locations — The Custom House, Fort East Martello, and Key West Lighthouse and Keeper’s Quarters — are not without their own damage.  At the Custom House Museum, the storm damaged all a/c chiller compressors, compromised the HVAC system — critical to regulating climate control for the artifacts within the museums — damaged sections of the roof, and destroyed the surrounding landscaping. With the assistance of capital grants and future fundraising, they hope to restore all damage as soon as possible.

“What we most need is a recognition by our community of the long-term impact of Irma on the workforce and the resources to respond,” said Thomas Callahan, executive director of Star of the Sea Outreach Mission. “Our entire community has been affected. SOS will be helping long after the Red Cross and FEMA are gone, but we are going to need funding from those who can afford to support our efforts.”

For more information on the upcoming benefits or to make a contribution, call 305-295-6616 ext.  103 or visit

Key West Art & Historical Society Executive Director Michael Gieda and Head of Maintenance Ernest Menendez stand in front of the Custom House Museum discussing damage done by Hurricane Irma. The society plans to address its own restoration issues while also raising money to support ongoing hurricane recovery efforts. CONTRIBUTED

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