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Foundation activates disaster relief fund; Makes donating easier for public

By Staff | Sep 4, 2008

The Southwest Florida Community Foundation has activated its disaster relief fund to aid flood victims in parts of Bonita Springs and south Lee County.

The 32-year-old fund is typically used to contribute to other fund-raising efforts for those affected by natural disasters, utilizing local banks as donation locations.

People interested in making donations can walk into any of the 10 participating banks across Southwest Florida and easily make a financial contribution by simply mentioning the foundation’s relief fund.

“We activate a fund like this to make it easy for people in the community to support a relief effort,” said Julia East, the foundation’s chief executive officer. “There are so many different organizations that work on a relief effort like this. We’ll make sure the money is going to the right place.”

As flood waters began to recede over the long holiday weekend, Lee County Red Cross officials said its shelter in Estero is still full of evacuees.

More than 500 people were trying to find a bit of normalcy on Labor Day as the Red Cross threw a party to help evacuees take their minds off the situation.

“(Monday) was an important day because we had a Labor Day party,” said Colin Downey, Red Cross public relations coordinator. “Everyone was signing and dancing. It was a great day for smiles.”

Downey said the shelter’s population had been growing every day for the last week and half, but Tuesday finally saw people stop trickling in.

The Red Cross served 700 meals and 1,400 snack at the Labor Day party, hoping to help those displaced families center themselves with routines of daily life.

The Southwest Florida Community Foundation’s disaster relief fund goes to organizations like the Red Cross and the Salvation Army, both of which have been instrumental in helping flood victims.

They are but two of what East described as a “myriad” of non-profit organizations providing help. The relief fund makes it easy for people looking to donate because donors do not have to pick and choose between the individual organizations, they simply choose a bank and make a donation.

“The whole purpose is to make it easy for people who want to make a financial contribution,” East said. “It’s easy for people just to walk in and make a contribution.”

The Southwest Florida Community Foundation was instrumental in helping victims of Hurricane Katrina following the catastrophic 2004 event. The relief fund was used to aid evacuees in rebuilding their lives in Southwest Florida and along the Gulf Coast.

“We had a lot of people who were displaced that ended up coming to this area of Florida,” East said. “People in this area contacted us and really wanted to show their support.”

Participating banks include: Bank of the Islands/Edison National Bank, Community Bank of Cape Coral, Colonial Bank, FineMark National Bank and Trust, First Community Bank of Southwest Florida, Florida Gulf Bank, Key Bank, Northern Trust, San-Cap Bank and Southwest Capital Bank.