Hurricane Irma Community Relief
Community Recovery Fund Update
Right after the hurricane struck Southwest Florida in September 2017, an urgent appeal went out from First Church for assistance to build a fund for helping local residents whose lives were disrupted by the winds and localized flooding. The members of our church (and also their friends and relatives, companies and foundations, and churches) responded with tremendous generosity and compassion. To date, over $200,000 has been donated (including a $10,000 gift from Christ Church of Oak Brook, Illinois)!
A Community Recovery Team was formed one week after the hurricane. It was chaired for the first three months by our Emeritus Pastor, Dr. Paul Fahnestock. A team of 18 church members volunteered to individually engage with people in our area who had been evaluated and counseled by LoveINC. Through December, 28 different situations had been personally evaluated and the proper support determined and given. Most gifts have been in the range of $5000, though a few have been greater—depending on the specific circumstances and the amount of help available from government and private insurance. In addition, $100 gift cards for Publix and Home Depot were purchased and have been provided to many people with immediate needs.
Our church also hosted a “FEMA Town Hall” for all of Bonita Springs in September in our Sanctuary, and a “Community Recovery Night” in November in McClure Hall that provided individual help for approximately 100 of our fellow residents.
The churches of Bonita Springs have worked together on this project, and have received significant support from the City Manager and City Council. More than a dozen ministries and nonprofits in our community have also been meeting together to coordinate services.
Three months after the hurricane struck on September 10, the churches and local agencies moved into a “phase two” of long-term recovery. This phase will focus on rebuilding damaged homes and securing other housing. Probably the greatest social problem in Southwest Florida is housing that is affordable for our workforce. The great growth of the area has driven home prices and rentals ever-higher, making it difficult for people in blue-collar and service jobs to find safe and reasonable housing.
The First Church Recovery Team is concentrating its efforts on working with Habitat for Humanity, LoveINC, the Bridge Fund, Catholic Charities and other organizations that are working to add to our housing and repair damaged homes that are salvageable following damage from winds and flooding. We anticipate that we will be able to help many families with grants to allow them to qualify for Habitat Projects or accomplish repairs.
You can help
Help those in our own community affected by Hurricane Irma. First Church has established an Irma Community Relief Team (ICRT) consisting of volunteers from our church led by Pastor Paul Fahnestock. Through the local Love in the Name of Christ (Love INC) organization, churches will receive requests to help with the verified needs of families and individuals. At FPC, the ICRT will be tasked with evaluating requests associated with hurricane relief and organize all aspects of meeting those needs.
How You Can Help…
1) Donate to the Irma Community Relief Fund
Make your check out to First Presbyterian Church designating Irma Community Relief in the memo line and place it in the offering plate during Sunday worship or mail it to the church. You may also donate online (click here), or at the giving kiosks located in the Narthex (select the category name Irma Community Relief). 100% of your donation will be used for relief assistance to residents in our community.
2) Volunteer at Love INC
Commit to a half-day each week for the next three months. You will receive orientation to work with the Love INC staff in the process of interviewing clients by telephone to verifying needs, and help with assigning those needs to our local churches and service organizations. To set up your volunteer orientation, contact Love INC at 239-405-8595, 9AM-12 Noon, Monday through Friday.
3) Volunteer with Samaritan’s Purse
Commit to a half or full day serving as part of a recovery team. Local volunteers can start by attending the orientation at Center Point Community Church (6590 Golden Gate Parkway, 239-860-1352) in Naples at 7:30 AM for a full day or 12 noon for a half day. Then assignments are given with an SP Staff Site Coordinator and a team of volunteers.