More than $7M raised for hurricane victims through the Southwest Florida Emergency Relief Fund

Published: January 18, 2023 5:13 PM EST
Updated: January 18, 2023 5:51 PM EST

More than 3,600 donors have contributed $7,099,216 to the Southwest Florida Emergency Relief Fund. The fund was started by United Way Of Lee, Hendry, & Glades Counties and Collaboratory to help Hurricane Ian victims.

“It’s been a phenomenal thing to experience the generosity throughout not just our local area but through the whole country,” said Jeannine Joy, president and CEO of United Way.

So far, $2.3 million has been distributed to agencies and to families for recovery, and $3 million worth of goods has been given out so far.

United Way has held mattress distributions, gift card giveaways, and recently created a POD program called United Way Recovery Distribution Program. Members plan and execute special events for community members and create programs that make it easier for families to get the help they need.

The United Way team is currently in the process of placing PODS, filled with bedding, mattresses, furniture, and other household items, at 10 spots across Southwest Florida. Then, nonprofits in those areas can connect those who need it with an array of goods.

“During times of disaster, United Way gets donations from all across the country,” Joy said. “We thought the best way for us to get those out would be to spread it out over our whole county.”

PODS donated five 16-foot containers, and United Way increased the total number to 10. Each POD location is locked and managed by a United Way partner agency or community partner.

“The location we are here at today is the Jewish Federation, and they’ve been fantastic partners with United Way throughout this recovery process,” Joy said. “They will have a POD on site, and they will work with clients to see what they need.”

The CEO of the Jewish Federation of Lee & Charlotte Counties said her heart was racing when she saw the truck full of goods pull into their parking lot on Jan. 11.

“There is a lot of devastation here–our office is very close to Fort Myers Beach, Sanibel, Iona…some of the hardest hit areas, so on a daily basis we are seeing people come in not just for food and financial assistance, but they’ve lost their clothes, they have nothing left…” said Debbie Sanford, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Lee & Charlotte Counties.

Community members can call their nearest location to schedule an appointment with the agency’s POD Manager. You can find a list of the POD locations by clicking here.