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Southwest Florida Unites to Support COVID-19 Relief Efforts

CEOs Jeannine Joy of United Way and Sarah Owen of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation

Southwest Florida Unites to Support COVID-19 Relief Efforts

Submitted by Sarah Owen, president & CEO, Southwest Florida Community Foundation and
Jeannine Joy, president & CEO, United Way of Lee, Hendry, Glades and Okeechobee Counties


With the seeming suddenness of a lightning strike, our region finds itself facing a far-reaching health challenge. And neighbors from throughout Southwest Florida are coming together to meet it. From our inspiring healthcare workers and dedicated first responders, to residents generously donating to our Southwest Florida Emergency Relief Fund, to commercial businesses and nonprofit organizations working to reduce the impacts on lives throughout the region, to news media providing crucial health information and promoting the community’s response efforts, we’re all in this together.

The threat of COVID-19 has left no community untouched, and our most vulnerable neighbors are really hurting with day-to-day struggles as the health, economic and employment impacts of the disease hit home. Recognizing the crisis is not expected to cease as if throwing a switch, we developed a sustainable, effective response designed to weather the pandemic’s effects, which will be felt throughout our community for months to come.

That planning resulted in the Southwest Florida Community Foundation and the United Way of Lee, Hendry, Glades and Okeechobee counties partnering to establish the Southwest Florida Emergency Relief Fund. This crucial fund collects private donations as financial lifelines for our at-risk neighbors with food, shelter and other basic human needs endangered by the pervasive fallout of COVID-19. The fund will complement the vital work of our public health officials and expand our local capacity to address the outbreak as efficiently as possible.

Funds raised through the generosity of neighbors helping neighbors is being managed by the Community Foundation and allocated by the United Way among frontline nonprofits working with those most affected. Such a collaborative approach to empower and extend Southwest Florida’s network of committed frontline organizations embodies our shared belief that we are stronger together.

We can see a difference being made on a daily basis. And we can see innovation at work, as several agencies have had to change their business models and find ways to serve clients virtually as they continue to provide critical services. These include food and supplies for the home-bound elderly and the vulnerable, as well as food for families and residents in need. Ongoing needs include funds to help alleviate economic hardships for life-necessities such as rent, utilities and medication.

We need your help and are asking you to join with your neighbors who are making a real difference in people’s lives. Please consider giving online at Contact [email protected] for more information on other ways to give or call 239-333-GIVE (4483).

Contributions are tax deductible, as allowed by law, and 100 percent of the funds donated through the Community Foundation will be used to provide emergency funds to directly help people in Southwest Florida. Donors have the option to cover credit card fees.

As we move forward through this crisis, we all need to be mindful of our own health as well. We can reduce the likelihood of exposure by staying home except for essential needs. And please donate blood if you are able. Please check on your vulnerable neighbors to make sure they have what they need. You can also remind those in need to call United Way 211 by dialing 2-1-1 or 239-433-3900. Other resources can be found at

Together, we will weather this storm, because our shared history shows us that when we stand as one in an unbreakable spirit of community, there is no challenge we can’t meet.



Carolyn Rogers
Carolyn Rogers