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Galactic Carnival heads to Key West at Fantasy Fest.

Watch the skies. A Galactic Carnival is coming to town.

Its landing involves neither spaceships nor clowns, but an otherworldly atmosphere will continue for 8 weeks after the Kick-Off for 2015 FANTASY FEST King and Queen on Friday, August 28th.

Beginning at 6 p.m. at The Southernmost Hotel, 1400 Duval, the evening’s poolside party renders official who is determined to become 2015 Royalty.

What follows is series of frenzied, frisky, feisty and always fabulous series of fundraising events Keys-wide, all innovated by the Candidates and the corps of volunteers they’ve assembled, to raise the most money and ascend to the Coronation throne on Friday, October 23rd.

With the Atlantic surf as their soundtrack and a Friday night sky going South Florida violet as their backdrop, reigning Queen Mary-Lynne ‘ML’ Price and King Shane Hall will preside, as AIDS Help Board President Christopher Elwell and Director of Development Jeremy Wilkerson offer other introductions.

“We are so fortunate to have four very unique individuals running this year”, noted AIDS Help Executive Director Scott Pridgen. “Each is witty, empathetic and courageous…and each have a unique story, in their own casual words, to tell the public about how HIV/AIDS affected them.

“As our ambassadors, each Candidates can, in the midst of 50/50 raffles, alter the path of someone's life: help avoid an HIV diagnosis…initiate conversations about PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis), a daily medication for those who are HIV-negative but at high sexual risk of contracting HIV…or remind folks that sex with a condom, provided free by AIDS Help, protects against a variety of ugly STIs (sexually-transmitted infections).”

But first comes the Kick-Off song-and-dance. From a lottery held prior, home-grown entertainment will be provided. “We never know quite what to expect when our 4 Candidates take the stage,” added Wilkerson.

Too, Royal Purveyors will be on-hand. Jeff Woessner, owner of Jeff's Gems, again created The Royal Ring(s). Crowns are designed and provided by Neptune Designs, owned and operated by Jay and Carmenza Pfahl. Intended for “less formal” events through the year, The Royal Sashes are donated by Fantasy Fest Queens Ginger King and Meta ‘Fizz’ Retew and Former King Gregg McGrady (also remembering Jean-Claude Gosselin). King and Queen Pins come from Bill Heller and Leigha Fox, both crowned in 2002, who decided to maintain the goodwill gesture of Donnie and Sonia Kozicki. The Bitch Sisters (Scott Fuhriman and Kelly Summers) and LaLa Belle (the late LA Meyers) continue their 2001 tradition of bestowing Royal Scepters (donated by Local Awards & Engraving). Appliqued capes are gifted by Frank Cicalese (Fantasy Fest King 1995) and life partner Bob Conti. Royal Florist since 2008 Richard Dennison of Gourmet Nibbles & Baskets supplies Kick-Off centerpieces and bouquets for the Coronation Ball. A ‘family award’ comes from J.T. Thompson (of ‘One Human Family’ and Design Group Key West), who invented the Duke and Duchess commendation to be more inclusive and recognize their selfless contribution. Similarly, in 2010, partners Derrick Traylor and Terry Paulson began providing the Duke and Duchess Royal Sashes. And, of course, on an island that treasures a good toast, Dennis Beaver, of the Tennessee Williams Key West Exhibit at the Tennessee Williams Center, and Mike Mongo will reward the King and Queen with gold-and-silver engraved Royal Chalices.

Documenting it all is Royal Photographer Peter Arnow of Spectrum Imaging, who for years has taken the official photographs.

Those events, always subject to change due to weather and venue, will be accessible at, every week in ‘The Citizen,’ individual websites, YouTube and via various social media outlets.

“We expect a lot of tweeting and texting…apps and e-mail blasts…radio and TV appearances…the methods Candidates can use to communicate their individual messages is fairly limitless in 2015,” Wilkerson said.

Special events of benefit to all those competing range from a weekly ‘Aqua Idol’ competition at Aqua nightclub, 711 Duval, commencing September 1st through October 20th, to the much-loved Sunday BINGO upstairs at the 801 Bourbon Bar, equally rewarding all Candidates from August 30th through October 18th.

Admission to Kick-Off is free, but come prepared to stroll tents of Candidate-oriented goodies for sale that brand their campaigns with logos and catchphrases.

The Kick-Off For King and Queen of Fantasy Fest 2015, Friday August 28th, beginning at 6 p.m., at The Southernmost Hotel, 1400 Duval.

AIDS Help Executive Director Scott Pridgen's comments
are included in this FIU (where the Agency maintains
a current internship program) overview.

AIDS Help Art Auction Silver Anniversary

The Annual Point-in-Time count for Sheltered and Unsheltered Homeless individuals and families.

Preliminary results have been announced for The Annual Point-in-Time count for Sheltered and Unsheltered Homeless individuals and families throughout the Florida Keys conducted on January 27th, according to Monroe County Homeless Services Continuum-of-Care (MC-CoC) Board Chairman Scott Pridgen. It should be noted that the sheltered count includes emergency shelters and transitional housing programs. It is also emphasized that the MC-CoC will be thoroughly analyzing the data, as follows:

There were 303 unsheltered homeless people in Monroe County.

In 2014, the Point In Time reported 295 unsheltered homeless people.

There were 284 sheltered homeless people in Monroe County (shelters include KOTS, Domestic Abuse Shelter, Samuel's House, The Florida Keys Children's Shelter, Charities, Independence Cay, Volunteers of America and The Florida Keys Outreach Coalition).

In contrast, the number sheltered on last year’s day of Point-In-Time was 385. 

“The Monroe County Point–in-Time Homeless Survey could not have been completed without the support and dedication of the many homeless service providers who comprise the MC-CoC and the dozens of volunteers who participated in the county-wide effort,” Pridgen noted.

A detailed report including number of families, individuals, demographic information and additional information related to each area of the Florida Keys will be released in approximately 30 days, he added.

AIDS Help Art Auction Silver Anniversary

The Community Foundation of the Florida Keys (CFFK) and A.H. of Monroe County, Inc. (AIDS Help) are working together to preserve affordable housing in the Keys.

A bequest of real estate property to the Community Foundation was recently sold to the social service agency in a unique arrangement to preserve five units of affordable rental housing. A.H. of Monroe County, Inc. will now own and manage the property, located on Olivia Street in Key West.

“Part of the Community Foundation’s mission is to address current and future needs in the community,” said Dianna Sutton, President and CEO of CFFK. “The need for affordable housing is an issue here. Rather than place the property on the open market for redevelopment, CFFK designed a Request for Proposal to partner with nonprofit organizations or governmental agencies to preserve critical affordable housing in the Keys.” According to Scott Pridgen, Executive Director of A.H. of Monroe County, Inc., the acquisition is in lockstep with the Agency’s vision for the Keys.

“As we move toward our 30th anniversary, one of our chief goals is empowering community members with challenges to resume productive, healthful lives. Having a place to call home is a key component of wellness,” Pridgen noted.

The property was a bequest to CFFK from former part-time Keys resident Robert Townshend, who died in 2006. A former English professor in Canada, Mr. Townshend owned several properties that provided affordable rental housing for service-sector employees. He left the property and other assets in a Charitable Remainder Trust, which supported his sister until her death in 2014, and was then bequeathed to CFFK.

Proceeds from the sale of the property, along with the rest of the bequest, will establish the Robert Townshend Fund at CFFK. The fund will support his many interests in the Keys, including the arts and nonprofits.

Mission Statement

A. H. of Monroe County Inc. Mission Statement
Counseling, Testing, Linkage to Care

The object, general purpose and nature of this Corporation shall be to establish and maintain in Monroe County, Florida, a Corporation that will provide case managed health care, food programs, counseling, housing, clinical, and other supportive and volunteer services. Increase affordable housing by acquiring, developing, and maintaining low income housing for persons in need. Conduct health education and linkage to care.

DOWNLOAD 2014 Annual Report