Hurricane Ian Relief: Supporting Local Business & The Community Following Tragedy
I try to keep my content as lighthearted as I can, but we are not in a lighthearted time here in Southwest Florida. It’s difficult to understate the devastation our region has experienced. We’re facing what will be a years long recovery as a community, both from the perspective of returning tourism (our area’s main source of economic activity) and from the perspective of repairing infrastructure.
Personally, I came out lucky during the storm and its aftermath, and I’m incredibly grateful for that fact. But many of those I know in SWFL haven’t been as fortunate. I’ve gotten questions about how you can help – so I wanted to put together a resource listing, that way if you’re looking to help with relief efforts, you know who down here is helping out, and how you can participate.
Method 1: Volunteering
Another volunteer opportunity is with Cajun Navy – they arrived in the area October 1st and have been helping with clean up efforts throughout the region.
If you’re not close enough to volunteer, then…
Method 2: It’s About that Money, Honey
I’m not trying to be blunt here, but honestly, financial help in the form of donations is massively needed both for small businesses and the community at large.
To donate to the relief efforts in the region more generally, please consider checking out the Collaboratory. They’ve partnered with United Way (which you can read more about here) to create a fund – 100% of the proceeds will be disbursed to local nonprofits and areas experiencing the most immediate need.
If you’d rather make a targeted donation though, there are also a ton of ways you can do that. FISH (Food Programs, Island Based Education, Social & Senior Services, Helping Hands & Financial Assistance) of Sanibel and Captiva Islands are also taking donations online currently. These funds will go toward community rebuilding. You may recognize the name “Sanibel Island” from the news over the last couple of days. Like Fort Myers (and all of Lee county), Sanibel and Captiva experienced severe storm damage. Several sections of the causeways connecting the islands to the mainland fell into the sea at one point, completely stranding those who did not evacuate.
Cajun Navy Ground Force is also taking donations at this time, to help with the rebuilding and clean up efforts they’re aiding in the region. They make it super easy to make a donation, and this link should auto-fill “Hurricane Ian” as the campaign to donate to (however if it doesn’t, the drop-down selection makes it easy to pick!)
But there’s more!
Another major need in the region right now is food – and while donating to the above mentioned agencies can help in that arena, you can also donate directly to businesses providing free meals! (Or of course, if you’re currently in need, you can take a look at the open times for food pickup.)
- Cafe YOU: Cafe YOU is currently giving away food (October 1st & 2nd). According to their Facebook page, they’ll likely be opening back up relatively soon, and I’d highly recommend eating there in the future as a thank you for their efforts!
- FK Your Diet: FK Your Diet has been feeding everyone they possibly can within the community, and has been using their food truck to deliver to areas with severe need. It’s super easy to donate, as they’ve listed a cashapp on their Facebook page where you can make a contribution!
- Two Meatballs in the Kitchen – still has food at their location available as of October 1st. Their owner, Franco Russo, has created a GoFundMe to help his employees during the recovery efforts.
- Fort Myers News-Press has put together an even more expansive listing of restaurants and is keeping it up to date as they offer food, and re-open to the public.
*If you know of a business providing free meals, please let me know so that I can add them to this listing!
Donate or purchase from Affected Small Businesses
It’s of course not possible for me to list every small business in the region who is in need of aid, but these are a few who I specifically know of who are definitely in need. Some of these businesses are still able to fulfil orders, while others are going to be in a recovery period for the foreseeable future. But whether you’re making an order, or making a donation, your funds will absolutely help those in dire need at this time. If you’re able, I encourage you to frequent the local businesses on this list once they’ve reopened (or make orders from those open now). Every candle, coffee, meal out or otherwise will help not only the business owners, but their staff.
- Bullig is a Fort Myers coffee shop that is currently closed, but their Facebook page will get an update when they’ve opened. You can get a Bullig’s gift card HERE, whether you’re a local or not.
- DAAS Co-op Art Gallery is currently closed, however you can purchase a gift card HERE, whether you’re local or not.
- Florida Rep is a historical theater that I’ve personally taken photos at. Seeing the damage they’ve experienced was particularly sad for me – they’re taking donations to help with their clean up efforts HERE.
- Graveyard Shift Screenprinting is still taking orders, which they will fulfil as soon as they are able.
- Green Cup is an organic café that was hit particularly hard, in downtown Fort Myers. Donations to their GoFundMe will go to rebuilding the café, and supporting their staff in this time.
- Live Local Honey is taking clothing donations for men, women, and children to go directly to families who lost everything. Check out their Instagram for details of how you can contribute.
- Millennial Brewery is doing a TON in the area right now, from opening free charging stations for locals, to providing a space for medical professionals who are spending time in Fort Myers. You can keep up with their efforts on their Instagram page, and purchase a gift card HERE, whether you’re a local or not.
- Nice Guys Pizza is currently closed, however once they’ve opened back up their Facebook page will get an update. You can get a Nice Guys Pizza gift card HERE, whether you’re a local or not.
- Ollie’s Pub (records and beer) is currently closed, however their Facebook page will get an update when they’re back open. You can make an online order from Ollies HERE, whether you’re a local or not.
- Selaluz Candles is still taking orders, which they will fulfil as soon as they are able. You can make an order from Selaluz HERE, with shipping available to the US or internationally.
There are so, so many other amazing small businesses in the Fort Myers (and surrounding) area that would directly benefit from your support as we rebuild. I cannot emphasize enough how much every little bit helps in times like these.
*If you’d like your business (or any local business, really) added to this list, please reach out with appropriate links.
If You Have Been Affected
I’m sure you already know this, but… government sponsored disaster assistance is now available. This is applicable for both businesses and individuals. If both your home and your business have been impacted, you only need to complete one application for both entities. You’ll need your identifying information handy, along with your insurance info. The process should take about 20-ish minutes, and once submitted, your application can be tracked online.