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Charitable Foundation of the Islands helps Irma recovery

September 27, 2017
By MEGHAN McCOY ( , Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander

F.I.S.H. of Sanibel-Captiva Inc., Community Housing & Resources and the City of Sanibel received a contribution from the Charitable Foundation of the Islands as part of their major recovery initiative following Hurricane Irma.

"When we got together 10 years ago we were just trying to concentrate on the island and save money for a rainy day. The last five years we didn't have to do that because we felt we had enough," CFI Vice Chairman Chip Roach said. "It's a thrill for us to have a plan come to fruition, even though it was a tragedy. We could embrace the community that was most affected and that was a dream come true."

The Charitable Foundation of the Islands began approximately 10 years ago. Roach said the Sanctuary Golf Club had nominated them when they started to receive all of the proceeds from their annual Community Golf Challenge, their only monetary income. On average the tournament raises about $100,000.

Article Photos

The Charitable Foundation of the Islands put its expansive arms around F.I.S.H., CHR and the City of Sanibel to help islanders and island employees damaged by Hurricane Irma. (Front row) CFI Board members Paul Roth, Melissa Congress, Mary Ellen Pfeiffer and Brenda Harrity, CHR Board President Richard Johnson, CHR Executive Director Melissa Rice, F.I.S.H. Board Chair Nichole McHale, F.I.S.H. President and CEO Maggie Feiner, CFI Board member Steve Greenstein and Sanctuary Golf Club General Manager Ken Kouril. (Back row) CFI Board member Chris Heidrick, CFI Board Secretary Ralph Clark, Sanibel Mayor Kevin Ruane and Sanibel Vice-Mayor Mick Denham.


"The first five years we spent about 20 percent of the money," he said for local causes and people in need. "What we were most interested in doing is building up a kitty of money in case another tragic storm like Charley hit."

CFI has a list of 15 organizations on Sanibel and Captiva that they have worked with, and asked "what do you need to strengthen and build your organization." Roach said people have used the funds to upgrade their capabilities on their website and their use of technology.

The "kitty" of money came into play once Hurricane Irma left a trail of destruction. Roach said they immediately asked the question of let's see who needed the money the most.

"We talked to the Sanctuary president and general manager about what their needs are. They think they can raise money for their employees that are in trouble with housing. They know we are standing by if they need money," Roach said.

Next, CFI reached out to the City of Sanibel and learned that they too had employees that are in trouble with housing. CHR, Roach said, had damage to one of their units, making them another priority.

"F.I.S.H. is always at the center of every storm recovery on the island," he said of why they received money. "We gave to them immediately because we know how good they are at assessing the needs. They have been a wonderful association for the Charitable Foundation of the Islands."

The one-time disaster relief funding included an extended credit line of up to $50,000 for F.I.S.H., up to $25,000 for CHR and $10,000 in direct support for the City of Sanibel.

"We are very grateful for them," Mayor Kevin Ruane said of Charitable Foundation of the Islands. "A lot of people on staff have had damage. Several people lost their entire home."

He said while staff was protecting the island, they did not have time to secure their residence before Hurricane Irma left its trail of destruction.

Ruane said although it's in its infancy stages right now, he would like to let the community know that all different walks of life have felt the wake of devastation right here.

"I'm looking at our staff and making sure we can assist them in whatever way we are able to through the generosity of the community," Ruane said.

F.I.S.H. Board Chair Nicole McHale said they were so thrilled to receive the phone call from CFI that they were stepping up and stepping up so quickly.

"F.I.S.H. opened back up on Friday (Sept. 15). Even before that we had our phone lines open. We were receiving requests before, during and immediately after the storm. We have a lot of neighbors that have some real needs. That money will go to great use," she said.

A few days after opening the doors, McHale said they are finding the need to replenish the food pantry is great. She said a lot of people who were visiting the food pantry did not have power, resulting in a daily food supply.

F.I.S.H.'s Meals on Wheels program is up and running, as well as the Backpack Program for kids. McHale said since the kids were not back in school the week of Sept. 18, they amped up their food supply to offer two meals to the youth.

In addition, she said they are delivering 128 pizzas to the Sanibel Recreation Center Friday, Sept. 22 for the youth utilizing the free program. If school is called off the following week, McHale said they are ready to offer pizza again.

"We have people that are displaced that have lost their homes and can't go back," McHale said of another need they have seen. "Once the shelters close, we are going to have even more request for people that are needing housing."

With the severe weather conditions -heat - McHale said they are also seeing needs for individuals that cannot stay in their homes because of health issues due to the need to have electricity to take care of themselves.

With Hurricane Irma causing many to be out of work, she said they also foresee the need to help some individuals with utilities, rent, and possibly their mortgage.

"We are available to everybody. We are such a strong community and we are always there to help everybody, which is remarkable. We are here for them," McHale said.

CHR Executive Director Melissa Rice said receiving support from CFI offered a huge relief.

"We are very thankful to the Charitable Foundation of the Islands for stepping up so quickly to provide financial assistance to us and our residents," she said.

CHR suffered damage to Riverview, a 10-unit complex.

"Part of the funding will go towards that deductible to help us rebuild," Rice said. "We will be able to get this unit back up and running and make this particular community whole."

As of last Tuesday, she said she could not get a roofer on the phone to talk about the damage at Riverview, so they put a tarp over the opening to secure it the best they could.

A group of approximately six trees, clumped with cereus cactus fell into the building. With the clump falling into the roof, a big gouge was left in the aftermath.

"Nobody was there. With a mandatory evacuation everybody in CHR is required to leave for that very reason. It's only this one unit that was affected," Rice said while pointing to a picture on her phone. "At the same time it is very unsettling for everybody."

The tree fell right over the tenant's bed, she said, which she was thankful the retired veteran was not there.

"F.I.S.H. is one of our partners on the island. They are helping us provide housing for him in the interim until we can find an appropriate place to relocate him," Rice said.

There is one more unit at Airport Way, off of Casa Ybel Road, where a tree fell and hit the gutter, and siding at the top of the building.

"The gutter got a little squished, but I think that one will be fine," she said.

Some of the big ficus trees located on some of the properties were uprooted and needed to be removed. One of the trees is located at Airport Way. Rice said this particular tree has a giant canopy and has been leaning more and more over the course of three days, resulting in removing it entirely.

Some of the funding will also help residents who are in crisis because they have been out of work after Hurricane Irma hit.

"It's amazing how much help their is available for people," Rice said of the Sanibel community. "How many different organizations have reached out to offer their assistance. Even our residents all come together and are helping people clean up."

Some of those residents included students from Bishop Verot who helped clean up a playground at Mahogany Way, and the garden area of Casa Mariposa.

"We are having an amazing outpour of community support," Rice said.

CHR is the only affordable housing on the island. She said they pride themselves on being a community that helps each other out.

"We have more of a need than we are able to fill," Rice said. "We have 25 people on a waiting list that I cannot house. There is a need on Sanibel. There is all walks of life that live everywhere and Sanibel is no exception."

As a board they have started to look at seeking additional housing to help fill the need, which is on hold due to Hurricane Irma.

"We have been exploring other land opportunities where we can build, or if anyone out there interested in partnering with CHR to help us in that aspect," Rice said.

In the past, organizations, or individuals have donated land, buildings, or helped in building housing for CHR.

"We like to expand our workforce housing. As our population ages we need more workforce housing to assist," Rice said, adding that they are trying to work with more young professionals. "We see them as the lifeblood of Sanibel because the older our community gets we need to get the influx of younger people. It's expensive to live out here. Workforce housing to us is helping them get their feet under them and save a little bit of money, so they can then live in regular housing."

For more information about Charitable Foundation of the Islands, visit, or their Facebook page.



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