27 Sep 2017 The Party We Were Happy to be Invited to
Growing up in Southwest Florida, I have always heard about Hurricane parties though I have never been invited to one. I have been lucky to be away at school or somewhere else when hurricanes and no name storms have darkened our skies. Since the “wobble” of Hurricane Charley several years ago, people have fortunately seemed to drop the references and light heartedness of hurricane parties and have taken these threats very seriously. Now in the aftermath, we realize all too well what comes next. For many it is a time to recover and rebuild, and for the fortunate ones, it is time for an after-party of sorts. An after-party that involves lots of gifts.
I have had the front row seat and the best view at the hurricane after-party of kindness thrown by people in our community and beyond. My inbox has been blowing up like a giving storm.
This “party” actually started the day before the hurricane, and the Community Foundation was ready. At that point, we thought the storm would spare our region and instead greatly affect our friends in Miami. We were in contact with our colleagues at the Miami Foundation as we all braced for Irma. We were set to help them in many ways, then as the words “evacuation” and “storm surge” started including the familial “Southwest Florida,” we pivoted. It was then that our CEO Sarah Owen said it was time to launch the SWFL Hurricane Irma Relief Fund that we had discussed in partnership with the United Way. It had all become very real all of a sudden.
The fund was established to be the regional portal for tax deductible contributions for hurricane recovery. In Lee, Hendry and Glades counties, the funds will be administered by the United Way for the nonprofits helping individuals in need. In Collier and Charlotte counties, we were in agreement to pass through the funds to our colleagues at their respective local community foundations. We take no fees, not even for credit card donations, and pass it all to our partners.
The day after the storm, our office had no power but our shared space office in downtown Fort Myers did with the extra bonus gift of internet access. No sooner did we boot up our laptops, the gifts start streaming in. Friends, donors, our fundholders, foundations, corporations and family foundations near and far sent their generous gifts of support wrapped in beautiful well wishes for the people affected in our region.
The next day a local mom Katie Cione sent us a message on Facebook saying that her son was turning 4 and instead of gifts, they are asking their friends and family to give to the Hurricane Irma Fund to help. Then I saw the Facebook video of Maddox “Give for my Birfday!” It was these gestures from the littlest among us and the continued outpouring of kindness that remind us over and over that our community comes together in such times of crisis. If you are on Facebook, here is the link to her video of Maddox’s appeal on our page: https://www.facebook.com/SWFLCF/
Throughout this week and this weekend, the Lee County Visitors and Convention Bureau partnered with us to promote the fund at all of the 120 Island Hopper Singer Songwriter Festival shows at 25 local venues. This major annual effort by our county to promote off season tourism is generously using the opportunity to raise funds for those greatly affected here.
“It is through music that we hope we can all start to heal and recover,” said Tamara Pigott, executive director for the Lee County Visitor &. Convention Bureau. For more information on the Island Hopper Singer Songwriter events, go to: https://www.island-hopper.fortmyers-sanibel.com/
The party seems to have just started. If you want to join in, there are so many ways. Follow us on Facebook for more giving events and supportive opportunities and if you want to give, it is easy! Visit www.floridacommunity.com or text GIVESWFL to 444999.
About the Southwest Florida Community Foundation
The Southwest Florida Community Foundation, founded in 1976, cultivates regional change for the common good through collective leadership, social innovation and philanthropy to address the evolving community needs in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Foundation partners with individuals, families and corporations who have created over 400 philanthropic funds. Thanks to them, last year the Foundation invested $5 million in grants and programs to the community. With assets of $111 million, the Community Foundation has provided more than $69 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves since inception. The Foundation is the backbone organization for the regional FutureMakers Coalition and Lee County’s Sustainability Plan. Based in Fort Myers, the Foundation has satellite offices located in Sanibel Island, LaBelle (Hendry County), and downtown Fort Myers. For more information, visit www.FloridaCommunity.com or call 239-274-5900.