As part of its effort to help Key West stabilize and recover from the coronavirus pandemic, city officials have named Nadene Grossman Orr to a three-month position to help connect residents in need to the various resources available to help.
Grossman Orr is the organizer of Fantasy Fest, as well as president and founder of We’ve Got the Keys, an event planning company. Her new, temporary job will be to publicize financial, health and food resources currently available to the public.
The temporary position came out of the city’s efforts to create a COVID-19 recovery plan, which started with a series of roundtable discussions between Elisa Levy, a local consultant who donated her time to help city officials respond to the pandemic, and residents and business owners. Grossman Orr participated in those roundtable discussions and was then named to the subsequent volunteer COVID-19 Task Force started by Mayor Teri Johnston. The task force has developed a recovery plan with 17 action steps, 10 for the business community and seven for humanitarian efforts, aimed at helping Key West get through the pandemic.
“In the process of doing that, we realized there were a lot of resources available that people didn’t know about,” Levy said. “We felt this was dire right now to get the information out.”
“This was the biggest hurdle. It doesn’t do any good if the resources are here and nobody knows about them,” said Grossman Orr.
Grossman Orr’s position will last until January and the $20,000 salary is being paid for entirely by donations from five Key West business owners since the city is currently under a hiring freeze.
“It was really important to get [Grossman Orr] up and running,” said Johnston, “to open up communications between what the community needs and what the city can do on a limited basis.”
The challenge Grossman Orr said she has found so far is how to get information about food pantries, free or low-cost medical care and job listings to the people who need it the most. Local news outlets may reach only a portion of that population, Grossman Orr said. As a result, she and Levy have developed non-traditional communication methods, including posting flyers in the Stadium Trailer Park and tucking resource information into the 1,600 food boxes distributed each week by St. Mary’s Star of the Sea local food pantry. Using her established connections from years of working with organizations and individuals for Fantasy Fest and other events, Grossman Orr has contacted churches, business groups and human resources directors. One group in particular, the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), a group of human resources administrators at local businesses, has been particularly useful.
“They are a great connection for me to get to all the people who have been furloughed or laid off,” Grossman Orr said, adding that she was able to make connections between various non-profit organizations themselves, including connecting SHRM to SOS, which currently has about 10 paid positions open.
Other connections include publicizing that the local medical center Womenkind recently received a grant that allows it to offer free primary medical care to men and teenagers, as well as women. The Rural Health Network of Monroe County Is offering free primary care for uninsured adults and children. Information about the three local food pantries is also listed on a one-page summary sheet packed with available resources that can be found on the Community Network Key West! Facebook page, www.facebook.com/groups/402881960893106. In addition, mental health and guidance services are available by calling 305-434-7660.
“All of this is free or at low cost,” said Grossman Orr.
United Way of Collier and The Keys has a complete resource guide that can be found at http://www.keyshelp.org. Florida Keys Outreach Coalition and United Way are also giving up to $250 a month to those impacted by COVID-19 for medical, prescriptions, utilities and child care. An application for the monthly grants can be also found on the same web site.