BY SUSAN HANAFEE
Notes of gratitude continue to pour into the Boca Grande Disaster Relief Fund, which was set up in the wake of Hurricane Ian to help businesses and other island essentials get back on their feet.
“I wanted to take a moment and thank all parties, collectively, for their efforts to re-open the basketball court,” wrote Jesse Kanuch of Lee County Parks and Recreation. “The yellow caution tape has been removed and that amenity is now open for all to enjoy. Just in time for our Turkey Hoop Shoot – an event that was almost certainly going to be cancelled without the help from our neighbors.”
From Fugate’s: “Our family business is incredibly grateful for this assistance during this time, and will use the funds to rebuild and give back to our island community that we love and cherish so dearly.”
And more. “I can’t even begin to explain how much the Boca Grande Disaster Fund means to me. Without this gift, my doors at the Boca Body Massage surely would not have remained open. My heart is so full with gratitude.”
Over the last two months, the Disaster Fund has helped a variety of businesses to include churches and retail stores, restaurants, community resources like the fire department, the Community Center, the Lighthouse and Range Light, the Island School and Preschool and the service industry, including fishing guides.
The creation of a fund to restore the island’s business and service infrastructure was the brainchild of resident August Busch III. He reached out to Will Farish and Ginny Nicholas, and the three seeded the relief effort with a gift of $800,000.
To help administer the fund and review requests for money, a team including Sharon Cross, Larry Hannah, Stephanie Newman and Mary O’Bannon was established. The Lighthouse Methodist Church oversees the distribution process and receives additional contributions, of which there have been many.
“The support of the community has been above and beyond expectations we could have had,” Stephanie Newman said. “We will continue to assist the businesses and community of Boca Grande as we return to normal.”
Larry Hannah concurred that the “response has been overwhelming with monetary gifts coming in almost daily. And it has been gratifying to distribute these funds and experience the joy of the recipients. I gave substantial checks to Scarpa’s and Sisters restaurants and Newlin’s and all three ladies gave me hugs and had tears in their eyes. They were so grateful they could stay open.”
Persons interested in donating to the fund may send contributions to Mary O’Bannon, Box 1468, Boca Grande, FL, 33921.
Individuals wanting to apply for assistance may contact the Boca Grande Chamber of Commerce or the Methodist Church for an application.
“While a lot has been accomplished, we still have significant needs, such as the Range Light, which has twisted supports and is awaiting an engineering study,” Hannah said.
Steve Kaplan, owner of Kappy’s Island Shoppe, which suffered major damage but has reopened for business, best summed up the overall response to the relief effort: “Your donation has given us not only the funds to persist, but the motivation to overcome.”
The disaster relief team members agree: the motivation to continue is what it’s all about.