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In late 2017, Bluegreen owners enjoyed a vacation while making a big difference in a local community in the Florida Keys. They joined in to help clean up a nature trail and local homes battered by Hurricane Irma. The Keys relief effort allowed Bluegreen Vacations to demonstrate its belief in focusing on issues that affect the areas where we do business as well as help to solve problems. In addition to being a tremendous success, it was a fun and rewarding experience for everyone who participated.

Hurricane Irma slammed into the Florida Keys as a Category 4 hurricane on September 10, 2017. She was the strongest Atlantic basin hurricane ever recorded outside the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. The destruction turned streets into rivers, uprooted trees and downed power lines, leaving many without homes and electricity. “We have been through quite a few hurricanes, but Hurricane Irma was the most devastating,” said Carlos De Jesus, Resort Manager of The Hammocks at Marathon.

More than 100 vacationing owners were forced to evacuate the resort to ensure their safety. The Hammocks at Marathon suffered damage to the roof and landscaping. Additionally, the seawall separated from land and caused erosion. In the aftermath, 10 associates were displaced because their homes were totally destroyed.

At Bluegreen Vacations, our values include social responsibility. As such, those displaced associates were given the opportunity to stay at the resort until their homes were restored. We are also committed to caring for the communities we share, which is why we offered Vacation Club owners a five-day Give & Getaway resort stay at The Hammocks at Marathon. They experienced “voluntourism,” a type of vacation in which the owners participated in volunteer efforts.

Vacation with a purpose #6

What prompted owners to participate?

“The give part,” said Bradley M. of San Tan Valley, Arizona. “When we saw the email about giving and trying to help out and make a difference for other people, that was something that really caught our attention and gave us a lot of interest.” The event took place over three weekends, and 48 “Hammocks Helpers” made a difference in the local community by being part of the Florida Keys recovery effort.

The voluntourism experience kicked off with a wine and cheese welcome reception at the resort. Owners mingled, talked about their favorite resorts and shared vacation memories. By the end of the night, new friends were looking forward to working together during the Bluegreen Vacations Florida Keys relief effort.

Crane Point Hammock Museum & Nature Trail

Vacation with a purpose #1

The first volunteer day took place at Crane Point Hammock, a 63-acre tropical forest home to thatch palm and hardwood hammocks, mangroves, tidal lagoons, wetland ponds, fauna, endangered species and historical sites. Unfortunately, the battering unleashed by Hurricane Irma made the area look like a disaster zone. Toppled trees blocked walking trails. Palm fronds and branches lay strewn across the landscape. Nature and beauty were still present, but needed a lot of help to be uncovered.

Owners taking part in the Give & Getaway experience dragged, pulled, lifted, sawed, and chopped—then piled landscaping debris in areas designated for compost. They worked alone and in tandem to ensure their relief efforts made the biggest impact possible. By late afternoon, Crane Point Hammock began to look like a nature preserve again.

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“Bluegreen has jumped in and done a tremendous effort,” said Jay Elliott of Crane Point Hammock.” They grabbed sticks and everything in the way and cleaned up. They have been a wonderful, wonderful help.”

“What we accomplished in just a day was truly inspiring,” said Mitchell Laskowitz, Regional Vice President of Resort Operations. After a day of hard work, the owners relaxed and enjoyed the best barbecue in the Keys at Porky’s Bayside Restaurant and Marina.

Vineyard Community Church

On the second day, owners lent a helping hand at the homes of two church parishioners from Keys Vineyard Church. Pastor Steve Lawes supplied work orders that requested the hauling of debris, brush and construction material to the roadside. Teamwork was the theme of the day. Hammocks Helpers raked up leaves, gathered sticks and carried away large objects. Everyone worked together to help bring curb appeal back to the yards and clear a path to the houses. Carlos De Jesus, Resort Manager, The Hammocks at Marathon™ noted: “It was a heartfelt gesture giving back to the community by Bluegreen and by our Vacation Club owners.”

In addition to their volunteer efforts, owners also took part in a two-hour catamaran cruise with Starfish Snorkeling. It was a beautiful evening that featured warm breezes and spectacular views. This exciting sailing adventure included a champagne celebration at sunset.

Group Excursion to Key West

Vacation with a purpose #8

Day four was all about the getaway with owners being treated to an exciting trip to Key West. The festivities began with a group experience aboard the World Famous Conch Tour Train. After a fun-filled history lesson, everyone was free to explore the Southernmost Point in the continental United States. The day concluded with a magnificent sunset viewed from Mallory Square.

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Give & Getaway was a fun and rewarding experience for all! Owners from across the United States came together and made a greatly-appreciated difference in the Keys community. “I think we got more out of this than we ever imagined we would,” said Barbara T. of East Tawas, Michigan. “The experience improved our understanding of Bluegreen. We are more enthused than ever to use our Points and go places.”

Bluegreen Vacations would like to thank the local organizations and businesses that helped to make this Give & Getaway effort a success:

Crane Point Hammock Museum and Nature Center
5550 Overseas Highway
Marathon, FL 33050

Vineyard Community Church
100 County Road
Big Pine Key, FL 33043

The Turtle Hospital
2396 Overseas Highway
Grassy Key, FL 33050

Dolphin Research Center
58901 Overseas Highway
Marathon, FL 33050

Starfish Snorkeling
1248 Overseas Highway
Marathon, FL 33050

Porky’s Bayside Restaurant and Marina
1410 Overseas Highway
Marathon, FL 33050

Lazy Days South
725 11th Street
Marathon, FL 33050

Sweet Savannah’s of the Florida Keys
8919 Overseas Highway
Marathon, FL 33050

Barracuda Grill
4290 Overseas Hwy,
Mile Marker 49.5 Bayside
Marathon, FL 33050

Keys Fisheries Market and Marina
3502 Gulfview Ave
Marathon, FL 33050

FL Keys Steak & Lobster House
3660 Overseas Highway
Marathon, FL 33050

Sunset Grille & Raw Bar
7 Knights Key Boulevard
Marathon, FL 33050

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