Heroes Among Us

Guest Correspondence

With a fresh, new year unfolding, I thought this would be the perfect time to highlight some good news in our region.

The story of last year was Hurricane Ian.  It made us all realize how vulnerable we are to hurricanes and the massive destruction that can follow.

But the good news from that historic storm was how we as a community rallied to help one another in the face of utter destruction.  You and donors from across Florida and the nation provided direct humanitarian relief to families and businesses who were negatively impacted or displaced from their homes. It was also amazing to see hundreds of resilient nonprofit partners rise to the challenge by helping their employees and communities. 

Locally there were heartwarming stories of help. A generous donor provided $25,000 for Habitat for Humanity of Lee and Hendry Counties which was matched three times totaling $80,000 to Arcadia-Desoto County Habitat for Humanity, Habitat for Humanity South Sarasota County, and Charlotte County Habitat for Humanity. 

In December 2022, the team from The Miami Foundation raised money and then provided Gulf Coast with a grant of $50,000 from their Miami Disaster Relief Fund to support disaster resilience and relief efforts in response to Hurricane Ian. We were thankful to receive this generous and unexpected donation to our Hurricane Ian Response Initiative. This donation was used to help us begin the rebuilding process of the destroyed Boys & Girls Club in North Port

Donors and nonprofits from other states have contributed to the response initiative and stepped up to volunteer in the aftermath of the storm, too. Our largest gift thus far was $400,000 from an anonymous donor, while the first $800,000 in gifts was matched. You all as a community inspired one another and in turn, your generosity inspired more donations to help those in need. 

Additionally, the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation generously awarded us with a grant of $25,000 in October 2022 for the Hurricane Ian Disaster Relief Fund. This was matched 1:1 by our Board’s commitment for a total of $50,000. $25,000 of the funding has been provided to First Step of Sarasota to offset the cost of transportation in order to serve clients outside their normal service area. The other portion of the funding was awarded to Premier Mobile Health Services who are operating a free clinic, both a walk-in site and two mobile units across Lee, Charlotte and DeSoto Counties post-Hurricane Ian. 

We were grateful and honored that the Editorial Board of Charlotte Sun Newspapers called us a “lifesaver” in response to Gulf Coast’s $1 million commitment to rebuild the Gene Matthews Boys & Girls Club in North Port after Hurricane Ian. The Editorial Board wrote: “When your organization is struggling. When a disaster strikes. Whenever there is a need, it seems the Gulf Coast Community Foundation is there.” 

One thing I know holds true: Our Board and team will continue to be a part of the long-term recovery from this storm, and we will continue to work collaboratively with others to help in the areas where it is most needed. I am honored to work with these heroes among us, providing pivotal hope to us all.

Mark Pritchett is President and CEO of Gulf Coast Community Foundation.

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