The Florida Keys Chapter of the Literacy Volunteers of America has a new home, LVA President Peary Fowler announced Wednesday.
The organization, which has been shunted around various spaces in School District buildings for years, earlier this week signed a two-year lease with the Key West chapter of the Key West Lions Club. In exchange for unfettered access to space at the rear of the North Roosevelt Boulevard clubhouse, the LVA will pay $300 per month to the Lions, and assist with repairs to the building, which has numerous structural issues. The LVA will also assist with fundraising efforts to help pay the cost of repairs.
After some preliminary work, the Literacy Volunteers will move in on June 1.
"It's a win-win-win situation," Fowler said. "It's really a perfect marriage between the two organizations, and the LVA realizes what a generous opportunity we've been provided by the Lions. In the coming months, the public is going to see plenty of activity over there, as we help to bring that old building back to life."
Longtime Lion Dr. Stephen Oppenheimer, who recently joined the Lions', confirmed the deal on Wednesday.
"The Lions, and especially our President Anthony Boa, are thrilled to be able to work out a deal with the LVA," Oppenheimer said. "The only issue, and this came up earlier, was how much of the utility bill we were going to be able to eat, but at the end of the day, I think we were able to strike a decent balance. Neither the Lions, nor the LVA are particularly flush right now, but [Fowler] and I are going to do plenty of fundraising in the coming months to try to get the building back into the shape it needs to be in."
The North Roosevelt building has been steadily deteriorating for years, as older club members died off or moved on, leaving the Lions membership a shadow of what it once was, and the building in dire need up many upgrades.
In particular, the Jose Sanchez Eye Clinic, a mainstay of the building, has been operating at a hugely reduced rate, with clients calling for appointments, rather than walking in.
"That main hall used to be beautiful," recalled Oppenheimer. "We used to rent it out for weddings, and sweet 16 parties all the time. Eventually, we want to return it to that state, where it can again be a community institution. This is the beginning of a renaissance of Lionism in Key West."
Fowler echoed Oppenheimer's optimism.
"What the Lions Club has done, by signing this lease, is to be true to its mission, to serve the community," said Fowler, who is also a county judge. "By allowing the LVA to come into that space at such a low rate, is one way of showing their commitment to the community. Together, both our organizations will be able to make a difference."
The Lions Club has also signed a deal with the American Legion to allow that organization to hold its weekly bingo games, every Friday.
The details of that arrangement weren't available at press time.
Both Fowler and Oppenheimer are looking for volunteers, and cash donations to help with the rebuild.
To reach Oppenheimer, call 305-797-9039.For LVA information, call 305-294-4352.