STAFF REPORT – Over the past several weeks, the Emergency Relief Fund Task Force has quietly been at work in Boca Grande. Established by the Boca Grande Woman’s Club in early April, the fund has provided financial assistance to 191 individuals and 28 local businesses. In addition, as a part of the effort, Hudson’s Grocery Store has delivered food boxes to over 170 families.
A little over a month ago, the Woman’s Club set up the Fund to provide immediate relief for the economic hardships incurred due to the shuttering of businesses and all economic and social activity in order to prevent the transmission of the COVID-19 virus. The Club committed $250,000 to the effort and within hours, generous donors made anonymous gifts to create a Matching Challenge Grant.
With the assistance of a friendly challenge to the Men’s Club, the community has demonstrated its heartfelt commitment to Boca Grande by contributing funds to date in excess of $600,000.
Many businesses on the island were forced to close or limit their hours in mid-March due to the pandemic and there was concern about the long-term impact on the Island’s local businesses and their employees. The pandemic struck at the height of seasonal business activity.
The Woman’s Club moved quickly to make funds available to those facing hardship. All applications for assistance were confidential and the major requirement for eligibility was an intimate working relationship to Boca Grande.
Applications for assistance were received from wait staff of local restaurants, servers, bartenders, house cleaners, fishing captains, salon employees (hairdressers, massage therapists, manicurists), limousine drivers, kayak tour guides, retail sales clerks, exercise therapists, construction workers and property management personnel.
The Woman’s Club would like to thank the members of the Emergency Relief Task Force who have worked very hard for the last several weeks. May 1 was the deadline for submitting applications for emergency relief funds.
Mary O’ Bannon, a past president of the Boca Grande Woman’s Club, served as the chair of the task force of local leaders. It also included Father Jerome Carosella from Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church; Dr. Raymond James, Boca Grande Health Clinic; Bayne Stevenson, past chairman of many community organizations; and Emily Wise, owner of Hudson’s Grocery store.
Woman’s Club President Vicky Winterer also serves on the task force, which will continue to meet for the next several months to continue to assess local needs.
“It has been inspiring to see this community pull together at a time of crisis,” said Winterer. “The generosity of so many surpassed all of our expectations. People care deeply about the fabric of the community and are committed to preserving it as the special place it is.”