Northeast Florida lends a helping hand to Hurricane Ian victims

Northeast Florida lends a helping hand to Hurricane Ian victims

You might say it’s a tale of two cities – Ft. Myers and the west coast communities surrounding it and Jacksonville and its east coast communities. When Hurricane Ian made landfall near Fort Myers, it was just shy of a Category 5 hurricane. It left destruction in its wake as it hit the barrier island and beaches communities in Southwest Florida and continued its destruction as it moved across the state.

Once it hit the Atlantic, however, it became a tropical storm and turned north, further east than had been forecasted. Jacksonville and the Beaches were mostly spared damage and even St. Augustine fared better than it did in hurricanes Irma and Matthew.

Local organizations and individuals immediately began looking for ways to help victims in the southern part of the state. Unfortunately, scammers also are looking for ways, not to help, but to take advantage of those in need and those wanting to help.

The Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance encourages potential donors to ask themselves the following questions before responding to solicitations:

  1. Does the contribution request clearly identify what disaster relief activities you are supporting?
  2. Does the charity already have a presence in the impacted area so that it can quickly respond?
  3. Is the charity an experienced relief organization?
  4. If you’re considering crowdfunding, do you know its procedures for vetting postings after a disaster?
  5. Does the organization meet the 20 BBB Charity Standards. Visit BBB’s to view free evaluative reports on charities.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) cautions that unsolicited goods may fail to meet the specific needs of disaster survivors. Donated goods also mean extra work for those who now have to spend time sorting donations instead of helping the community.

Financial contributions to recognized disaster relief organizations not only help fund the work of organizations directly helping people, but donations move money through the economy of the affected areas, which helps the economy recover more quickly.

To volunteer, partner with trusted organizations operating in the affected areas. These organizations are the most likely to know where volunteers are needed and what skills will be the most helpful.

Volunteer Florida mobilizes volunteers and coordinates donations related to disasters. Its foundation also manages the Florida Disaster Fund, the official fund for aiding Florida’s communities after disasters. Contact to volunteer with a trusted Florida VOAD member or to donate to the Florida Disaster Fund.

United Way of Lee, Hendry and Glades has partnered with the Collaboratory to create a disaster relief fund in the aftermath of those affected by Hurricane Ian. All donations to the SWFL Emergency Relief Fund support local nonprofits and areas experiencing the most immediate needs. Donate at

The American Red Cross North Florida Region supported shelters and sent community outreach teams to distribute supplies. Individuals in Northeast Florida can help with blood donations to ensure lifesaving blood remains available for patients in impacted areas. The North Florida Region is also sending volunteers to Southwest Florida. To donate or volunteer, go to

The Salvation Army of Northeast Florida provided two leaders to serve families as part of an Incident Command Team and a canteen to provide 1,500 meals per day to Lakeland. To donate, visit

Feeding Northeast Florida works with other Feeding America food banks in Florida to assist the State Emergency Response Team with pallets of water, ready-to-eat meals, first aid and more. Donate at

Farm Share Jacksonville recovers crops from Florida farmers to distribute fresh and nutritious food to Floridians in need. Farm Share has been sending food daily from all statewide facilities to communities affected by Ian. Visit to donate.

The Humane Society of the United States evacuated animals available for adoption at two shelters in the path of the storm. It is on the ground in Charlotte County to assist with rescue efforts and provide animal care supplies to those areas hit hardest by Hurricane Ian. Donate at

The ASPCA serves as a liaison for animal shelters in impacted areas. It helps with field assessments and coordinates donations between vendors and the organizations that need the supplies. Visit to learn how you can help.

Other local faith organizations are helping as well, such as Jacksonville-based Florida Baptist Convention’s Disaster Relief Ministries, Jewish Federation & Foundation of Northeast Florida and Lutheran Services Florida, in addition to efforts by individual congregations. Visit their websites to learn more about their efforts and how you can help.

By Karen Rieley
Resident Community News

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