Resilient Southwest Florida’s Vital Resource United Way Pandemic Steve Sanderson

This past year has been exceptionally difficult for our community and all of Southwest Florida. Our United Way responded to over 8,300 calls to our 2-1-1 non-emergency hotline, with requests for help accessing medical and mental health care at an all-time high. Even those who did not call for help with a mental health issue were clearly in pain. Among the nearly 30% of callers seeking help with housing and accommodation, the extreme stress of not being able to pay their rent or mortgage was compounded by the stress of not being able to find a job or daycare when a job becomes available. Social distancing and isolation, while important for the maintenance of public health, has also left its mark on the well-being of individuals and families as they attempt to navigate the uncharted waters of a deep recession in the past. ‘a deadly pandemic.

Fortunately, as in the past, our community responded to the crisis with generosity, and our United Way was able to turn this generosity into help for those in need.

Helping those in need during the pandemic has been a top priority for many Southwest Florida nonprofits.

In partnership with nonprofit and government organizations in our region, we have been able to help thousands of people in need with millions of dollars in aid. Our partnership with the Collier County government, The Salvation Army and HELP has helped more than 1,100 residents stay in their homes by providing more than $ 7.2 million in housing assistance. Our leadership of the Emergency Food and Shelter Prevention Fund has distributed over $ 350,000 to ten nonprofits providing food and shelter to those in need in Collier County, and our Rapid Response Fund, administered by Catholic Charities, provided $ 25,000 in assistance to residents in difficult circumstances who needed immediate financial assistance. In partnership with the nonprofit Chicago Wish List CC, we have also distributed hundreds of blankets, sheets, comforters, mattresses, towels and clothing to people who are relocating to their homes after being evicted.

To help our community continue to recover, we have built on our long-standing partnerships and worked with other community leaders and organizations. These include Project Blue Zones, Healthcare Network, David Lawrence Centers for Behavioral Health, NCH Health System, Sunshine Ace Hardware, Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce, Local iQ and from the CRG Leadership Institute. By visiting, people can use the RealAge Assessment Tool to identify their wellness needs, then progress through the other tools and resources on the website to help meet those needs. There is support for mental health, general health and wellness, food and financial challenges, and business needs. There is also help accessing a full range of human services available by contacting our United Way at 2-1-1. So whether it’s a word of encouragement (see videos on the homepage) or more in-depth help, Resilient SWFL is an online wellness toolkit for you. to accompany.

We are extremely grateful to the donors and partners who have enabled us to help during this difficult time. But there is still a lot to do. The resilient Southwest Florida is a vital resource for those still trying to make the transition from surviving a global health emergency to thriving in the next chapter of our community.

Steve Sanderson is President and CEO of United Way of Collier and the Keys.

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