Collaboratory reports on Hurricane Ian relief efforts as anniversary nears

Posted 9/25/23

In response to Hurricane Ian, one of the most devastating natural disasters in history to hit...

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Collaboratory reports on Hurricane Ian relief efforts as anniversary nears


FORT MYERS — In response to Hurricane Ian, one of the most devastating natural disasters in history to hit the State of Florida, Collaboratory launched a relief fund to help our area rebuild and support local nonprofits helping individuals with immediate and long-term resources to fuel recovery.

Hurricane Ian, with sustained winds over 150mph, brought intense rainfall and significant storm surge which caused catastrophic destruction, massive power outages and widespread flooding. This devastating damage wiped out homes and neighborhoods as well as entire communities.

Immediately following the storm, Collaboratory became home to hundreds of first responders for much needed food and rest. Given Collaboratory’s innovative design and hurricane-proof structures, the space served as a key location for first responders to gather, strategize and deploy rapid assistance to the community.

Collaboratory established the SWFL Emergency Relief Fund in partnership with United Way of Lee, Hendry, and Glades Counties. The fund supported Southwest Florida nonprofits across the five-county region Collaboratory serves, helping individuals and small businesses with the most pressing need.

As the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Ian approaches, Collaboratory is sharing its efforts to support the continued recovery of our region:

• Collaboratory has raised more than $5,000,000 to support Hurricane Ian recovery, and the grants have been distributed and pledged in the following ways:

  • More than $2.6 million was raised from nearly 2,500 donors across the United States and internationally for the SWFL Emergency Relief Fund.
  • 99% was distributed to United Way of Lee, Hendry, and Glades Counties with 100% of the funds deployed directly here through local nonprofits. The remaining was granted to specific organizations in accordance with donor directives: Team Rubicon, Collier Community Foundation and Charlotte Community Foundation.
  • Nearly $1.2 million has been raised or pledged to Collaboratory in additional relief funds geared towards specific local recovery needs including housing and behavioral health. In collaboration with Lee County and the Tourist Development Council, Collaboratory provided funds to waive the Sanibel Causeway Bridge tolls during the Island Hopper Songwriter’s Fest to support the economic recovery of the islands.
  • Collaboratory received a generous $246,000 donation from the Boots in the Sand Hurricane Ian Relief Concert on December 1, 2022 at Hertz Arena. Combined with remaining emergency relief funds, Collaboratory is granting approximately $375,000 this fall to support the economic recovery of the Arts and Culture community across Lee County.
  • In addition to the SWFL Emergency Relief Fund, Collaboratory created its long-term Rebuild Southwest Florida Fund. Close to $900,000 has been raised and is in the process of being granted to organizations focused on creating community resilience through ongoing recovery and rebuilding initiatives.
  • Due to a strong partnership between Collaboratory and the Collier and Charlotte Community Foundations, each foundation received $125,000 from the Florida Disaster Fund to assist in their shared goal of rebuilding Southwest Florida after Hurricane Ian. Collaboratory utilized this generous donation to support nine veteran-serving organizations to help with housing, food, bills, transportation and more.

• FutureMakers Coalition Navigators responded throughout the community to support those who were displaced, homeless and unemployed to connect them with immediate resources, including displaced hospitality workers.

• Since February 2023, Collaboratory has provided facilitation support to the Lee County Recovery Task Force. The Recovery Task Force and the eight branches are developing a long-term recovery and resilience plan, which will be presented to the Lee Board of County Commissioners for consideration as a strategic framework for the future resiliency of the entire Lee County community.

• Collaboratory – in partnership with the Collier and Charlotte Community Foundations – hosted On the Table SWFL on March 30, 2023, bringing thousands of diverse voices together from across the region to identify the most pressing social issues only exacerbated by Hurricane Ian. Solutions and ideas were shared to address urgent areas of concern such as attainable housing, mental health and substance abuse and more.

“It has been inspiring to watch the collaboration within our community post-storm,” said Dawn Belamarich, President and CEO of Collaboratory. “We still have much more work to do in our recovery efforts. By working together, we can bring the best and brightest minds together to overcome the challenges of recovery and together build a stronger and more resilient Southwest Florida.”

Collaboratory is committed to coordinating the solving of all Southwest Florida’s social problems on an 18-year deadline including homelessness, poverty, mental illness, illiteracy and more. We plan to do this with the entire community working together including people of all ages, colors, beliefs, and imaginations across all five counties. We’re not oblivious to people saying this is ridiculous and crazy, but we’re driven by the inspiration of all those great figures in history who have come before us to achieve things no one ever thought remotely possible. Steve Jobs’ observation sums it up for us: “The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.” We’re building the largest, most democratized living laboratory for community problem-solving in history.

Collaboratory was founded in 1976 as the Southwest Florida Community Foundation. It has made over $100 million in grants since then and is home to more than 650 philanthropic funds. It is upon that legacy of a commitment to community we plan to fulfill on that mission at the level of its greatest expression. At Collaboratory, we will finish what we started. Collaboratory provides backbone/administrative support to FutureMakers Coalition.

Collaboratory, hurricane, Ian, disaster, anniversary, recovery, relief, FutureMakers