October 3, 2022
First and foremost, I hope this communication finds you and your loved ones safe. The past week, leading to, during and after the storm has forever changed our lives. YMCA of Southwest Florida is here for you, your families and the organizations across the region.
As our communities begin to recover from the devastation brought on by Hurricane Ian, I am overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support towards YMCA of Southwest Florida from our community partners, supporters, volunteers, neighboring YMCAs and YMCAs across the country. Our entire service area was affected by the storm; however, some of our communities experienced a magnitude of destruction. Lee County, specifically, the Fort Myers area along with Charlotte and South Sarasota Counties suffered severe flooding and wind damage. People lost their homes and belongings in an instant and some of the most beloved areas in the communities no longer stand. Our communities are heartbroken. But with heartbreak comes healing and though it will take time, our Y will remain steadfast in its mission and serve those who need us most.
Currently, we have been able to safely open branches in Venice, Lakewood Ranch, Bradenton and Bonita Springs to serve as Community Hubs where individuals from our community can rest away from the elements, take showers and charge their devices. We are working closely with restoration partners to ensure our remaining four branches are safe as soon as possible, so that these resources are accessible to everyone.
Along with home damage, the loss of power has spoiled the food in many households and some have been left without nutritious meals and in some cases no food at all. People are unable to afford or purchase food due to supply and closures. Not having access to food is amplifying the challenges our community is facing. Our Y is committed to assisting in alleviating this problem across our service area. Our Food Service Team is coordinating food distribution and feeding locations across our service area to provide healthy meals to individuals and families in need. Meals will be prepared and ready to eat so that people have one less worry and can focus on their most pressing needs.
We will also serve as a disaster recovery center and are currently working with partners to become emergency staging locations in areas impacted the greatest.
This is only the beginning and the full scope of Hurricane Ian’s impact is still unknown. There has never been a greater time than now to do what we do best by meeting immediate needs, bringing hope and serving people during the most difficult time of their lives.
We understand immediate needs will evolve into long-term needs and we will be here every step of the way to help support in the recovery efforts in Southwest Florida and the people who live here.
I will continue to update you on our efforts over the upcoming weeks and months. And although Ian has passed, the storm is not over, but we will dig deeper, be there for one another and serve our community through all the adversities it faces. If there is anything we at YMCA of Southwest Florida can do to help you or to learn more about how you can support our efforts, please do not hesitate to reach out.
The road to recovery will be long, but we will persevere and stand strong, Southwest Florida Strong.
Yours in service,
Gene T. Jones, President & CEO
YMCA of Southwest Florida