The old adage that "good fences make for good neighbors" is about to be tested at Samuel's House -- thanks to funding and elbow grease from an unlikely source.
In response to unwanted intrusions by strangers onto its property in the Poinciana housing complex on Duck Avenue, new fences are going up, in the rear and front of the Mary Spottswood Women's Center. The building houses women and women with small children just entering the Samuel's House program, as well as administrative offices.
The $6,000 barrier is being paid for by Whole Foods Market, which also donated a team of regional presidents for a day of work putting up the rear fence.
"It's all about security," said Samuel's House founder and Executive Director Elmira Leto. "Things are just not the same anymore. We've had strangers come onto the property and we're concerned not just for our clients, but for our staff, as well."
Leto credited her board's fundraising chair, Jackie Herbst, for making the corporate cash, and manual labor, materialize.
"I put out the need for the fence to my board of directors, and Jackie was able to convince Whole Foods to help. They broke ground, or should I say, the ground broke the machines, on Monday. I think they broke three machines on that Key West coral rock."
By happy coincidence, the dozen-strong Whole Foods contingent was planning a corporate retreat at the upscale Sunset Key Resort, where Herbst works as director of group sales.
"They came to Key West for a two-day meeting and decided instead to do a one-day meeting, and a one-day community volunteer project," said Herbst. "They came forward and said that they'd like to come into the community and do something to help out a worthwhile cause. I suggested several organizations, and they decided on building the fence for Samuel's House. I told them that $6,000 would buy the materials, and if they would show up to work on it, it would be very much appreciated. They're just a very generous company."
The fence is just one of a number of projects on the go at Samuel's House.
In early December, a group of local gals using the moniker "Team Island Jane" undertook a triathlon together in order to help Samuel's House beef up its security systems. The money they raised will now help pay for new security cameras at all three Samuel's House buildings. Besides the Spottswood Center, they include longer-term housing units at Kathy's Hope and Casa de Meredith, located nearby.
At the same time a small consortium of businesses is building a sidewalk in the rear of the Spottswood building, so that women with children in strollers can move around a little easier. The Whole Foods team dug up stone and leveled the area on Monday, Leto said.
Now that the rear fence has been completed, smaller children will be able to play outside, and Leto is hoping to find a way to build them some kind of playground.
"I can't say enough about how much better we'll all feel when it's all done," Leto said. "As always, people have come together to make it happen for the women and children."