Saturday, April 17, 2021

Local COVID-19 Relief Effort Underway

Collier Comes Together

A Marco Island-focused emergency assistance effort has been created to support those victimized by the coronavirus pandemic’s expanding economic upheaval.

The Community Foundation of Collier County recently activated its Collier Comes Together-Coronavirus Relief Fund to collect donations for such urgent needs as food, medical expenses, rent and lost income for those affected by COVID-19’s ripple effect. The fund includes a special grant program for Marco residents and organizations overseen by a board of directors comprised of the island’s residents.

“An assessment of needs has been conducted since the fund’s May 16 activation,” said Cindi Withorn, director of marketing for the CFCC, a 35-year-old charity which raises funds for and supports fellow nonprofits in the county. “The organization hopes to issue the first grants during the week of March 22.”

Collier Comes Together was originally established as a disaster relief fund after Hurricane Irma struck Florida in September of 2017. More than $2 Million was raised for that cause.

“The decision to reactivate the fund was triggered by the realization the pandemic’s impacts were already being felt and rapidly deepening, magnifying the scope of needs the CFCC is dedicated to meeting,” stated Withorn when interviewed recently.

“We have a large network of nonprofits in the county, over 400, and we have regular grant cycles to help them with their various needs,” she explained. “We’re recognizing that as more businesses are shutting down, the nonprofits are going to be hurting. They provide such beneficial programs to the community. So we need to help keep them afloat. They’re also a great resource for us when we’re providing help to the community. We collect the funds and then we distribute them to the nonprofits, who turnaround and vet what programs and what individuals who should receive help.”

Collier Comes Together-Coronavirus Relief Fund-Marco Island is an outgrowth of the CFCC’s special, Marco-targeted grant fund that was established last year. The Marco Island Community Grant Fund provides a total of $50,000 annually, to be awarded in grants in the $10,000 – $15,000 range to tax-exempt organizations based on the island and serving its residents. Requests may be made for new or expanded programs or general operating support.

The Marco Island Area Chamber of Commerce and the YMCA of South Collier-Marco Island work with the CFCC in publicizing its programs on the island.

“What’s really exciting about this is this fund specifically for Marco Island is it has been in existence for a while, and we’ve had numerous donations and six or seven organizations have already benefitted from it,” said the Chamber’s executive director, Dianna Dohm. “We thought this was a perfect opportunity for people who want to help our islanders and the people who work here. They (CFCC) already have the means in place to vet this, so if we use their processes, this will get out to the people who need it, the fastest. We’re very excited that the Community Foundation of Collier County developed this Marco Island fund because there is a lot of need here, especially in this situation.”

Withorn stated that responses to the needs-assessment surveys sent to participating nonprofits will be the determining factor for the organization’s short-term and long-term funding decisions.

“As with Hurricane Irma, we want to respond to immediate needs first,” she said. “Already people are being laid off, so we need to be able to consider lost income. People need to be able to pay for food and pay their rent and things like that. So we will address immediate needs first. We’re in touch with the community and we keep abreast of what those needs are.”

For more information about Collier Comes Together-Marco Island, and to donate, visit or call 239-649-5000. Online donations should be marked “Marco Island.” Checks can be mailed to the Community Foundation of Collier County, 1110 Pine Ridge Road, Suite 200, Naples FL 34108. Please indicate if you’d like to donate to a specific purpose. If sending a check, please enter “Collier Comes Together” and the area you wish to support in the memo line. For example, “Marco Island-Lost Income.”

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