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Covid in Key West

Sister Season Fund | The best cash donation you can make to help Key West locals

By Linda Grist Cunningham, editor and proprietor

Linda Grist Cunningham is editor and proprietor of Key West Island News and KeyWestWatch Media LLC. She and her husband, a park ranger at Fort Zach, live in Key West with their Cat 5s.


Key West is finding its new rhythm as we settle into our soon-to-be-fourth week of isolation. That “locals only” isolation, which we craved, felt like a long-time coming as we watched partying tourists and spring breakers pack the beaches, bars and restaurants. Then, they were gone. The shutdown, which closed non-essential services, directed non-residents to leave, closed visitor accommodations and rentals and put a roadblock at the entrance of the Keys, happened quickly on hindsight. We are transformed in ways we’ll understand only after the novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19 is but one more part of our annual flu shots.

We’re adjusting, each our own way; some of us better than others; and we’re casting about for ways to help close to home. One of the best cash donations you can make is to the Sister Season Fund.

I’ve long recommended Sister Season because they have one purpose: Locals helping “locals employed in tourism-related industries when a temporary financial emergency occurs through no fault of their own.” Started in 2005, Sister Season has in the past 10 days distributed $28,000 to 28 families who’ve found themselves without emergency funds to make ends meet. I know that when I make a contribution to Sister Season its directors vet applicants closely, the cash goes to the right places, that these are not handouts and that the people most at risk are the ones helped first.

Sister Season can do only as much as its donations allow and I know their funding is running low. I talked this morning with Paul Murphy, Sister Season board secretary and the 2017 Fantasy Fest King. Known locally as King St. Paul, Murphy encouraged donors to use the Venmo app to make donations. While Sister Season accepts checks and PayPal donations, using Venmo gets the cash to Sister Season much faster than PayPal, which can take upwards of 45 days to reach them. Venmo is preferred to a regular check or cash because they don’t have to handle money or paper. You can set up a Venmo account online at, or simply download the app on your mobile device — and send your donation directly to @sisterseasonfund. (You may see Julie Hanson’s name, too; she is the board president.)

Sister Season is working with a couple of local groups who are making personal protection masks from t-shirts in wonderful Key West colors and local logos. You can request a mask with your donation and it will be delivered to you. right now, there’s no suggested donation for a mask, so be as generous as your heart and check book allow. PS: If you’ve got high quality, good condition t-shirts that you can donate, King St. Paul says Sister Season will be glad to take them off your hands to be used for more masks. (I’ll add this: Wash them first. I’m sure they’ll get washed again, but at least they start out clean and safe.)

If you need additional information, message Sister Season Fund on Facebook.

Learn more about Sister Season Fund


The Sister Season Fund, Inc., is a 501(c)(3) not for profit organization to prevent homelessness. It is an effort led by devoted Key West residents to help locals employed in tourism-related industries when a temporary financial emergency occurs through no fault of their own. We believe that these individuals represent the infrastructure of the tourism industry in Key West, and we don’t think our island can afford to lose them. Many do not have the financial resources to remain ​in Key West while recovering from temporary adversity.

Typically, these hard working individuals have very little in the way of reserves,with no insurance or employee benefits. Under these circumstances, when qualified applicants need help keeping a roof over their heads and making sure their basic utilities are not cut off, the Sister Season Fund is here to help.

The Sister Season Fund was founded in 2005 by Harry “Buddy” Crane, James “JT” Thaller, Desiray Thomson and Ron Babcock and can assist with rent and utilities.
Since September 2005, we have given over $700,000 in assistance to Key West residents. Most of our members of the Board of Directors are volunteers.
Sister Season Fund continues to raise money throughout the year with over 10 annual events and other fundraising activities, large and small.

If you have encountered hard times from health problems, an accident or other reasons, and are not covered by another assistance agency or insurance and you ​have a major concern with the basics, we encourage you to apply.

Current Officers
Julie Hanson, President
Stephen Pointer, Vice President
Treasurer, Rick Davis
Secretary, Paul Murphy

Mailing address

Sister Season Fund, Inc.
P.O. Box 4535
Key West, FL 33041





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