a group of women standing next to each other
From left, Sheryl Schwab, CEO for the Domestic Abuse Shelter; with Patricia Milian, vice president of program development for Upper Keys BPW; Jill Kuehnert, Upper Keys BPW president; and Elizabeth Brown, vice president for philanthropy at the Community Foundation of the Florida Keys. CONTRIBUTED

On March 20, Upper Keys Business & Professional Women (BPW) showed their support for local women by launching a campaign to raise $10,000 to create a business center within the soon-to-be-built domestic abuse shelter and opening a new round of scholarship funding. 

A critical emergency shelter facility serving the Middle and Upper Florida Keys was destroyed by Hurricane Irma in 2017 and has yet to be rebuilt. Since then, residents experiencing domestic abuse have lost an estimated 7,000 nights of safety each year, according to analysis from the Domestic Abuse Shelter (DAS), which serves Monroe County and the Florida Keys. 

Sheryl Schwab, CEO of DAS, spoke to BPW members and guests at a luncheon at Playa Largo on March 20. 

“Our rates of domestic abuse in the Florida Keys are about the same as the national average – one in four women and one in seven men experience some form of abuse at home,” Schwab said. “The remote nature of our community makes accessibility to safe places even more challenging, and the loss of our largest shelter almost seven years ago has compounded that challenge.”

The $5 million project to rebuild the domestic abuse shelter is currently raising funds from multiple sources. A $1 million allocation from Florida is awaiting the governor’s signature thanks in large part to support from local lawmakers, State Sen. Ana Rodriguez and State Rep. Jim Mooney. Sponsorship opportunities for the new shelter range from $10,000 for the business center to $300,000 for naming rights to the building, with many levels in between.

The BPW “Give Hope a Home” campaign will fund a business center in the facility where survivors can search for jobs, housing and other needs to rebuild their lives. 

“This initiative directly reflects the BPW mission to achieve equity for working women and empower them to reach their full potential,” said Patricia Milian, vice president of program development for Upper Keys BPW.

By the end of the event, which also featured Elizabeth Brown, vice president for philanthropy at the Community Foundation of the Florida Keys, speaking on the Jean Stearns Legacy Giving Challenge, more than $4000 had been pledged. 

New Round of Scholarship Funding for Women

Upper Keys BPW also announced the opening of the spring cycle for the Adult Women’s Scholarship Program funded by BPW members, sponsors, and an endowment fund created in 2022. Several scholarships of up to $1,500 each are typically awarded every cycle. 

The deadline to apply for the Spring 2024 season is April 15. Applicants must have at least three years of post-high school work experience and have resided in the Florida Keys for at least three years. Recipients will be announced in May.

“BPW strives to support women at every stage of their lives. That includes both the most dangerous times when they’re experiencing threats of violence in their own homes, and the most promising times, when they decide to invest in their professional education and training,” said Jill Kuehnert, Upper Keys BPW president. 
To support the Upper Keys BPW campaign to fund the Domestic Abuse Shelter or to learn more about the Women’s Scholarship Program, please visit www.upperkeysbpw.org.