Drawing on the community triage that we applied during previous emergencies, the Naples Children and Education Foundation (NCEF) has been helping our beneficiaries, community partners, teachers and individual families to recover from Ian’s destruction.
As a result of this comprehensive work, hundreds of children and families received the help they needed in less time, while dozens of nonprofits were able to keep their doors open and to expedite emergency services to the hardest-hit communities that we serve.
NCEF also helped coordinate all-day special programming for the children of teachers and school workers who live in neighboring Lee County but work in Collier County, freeing the teachers and staff to return to work. Through our combined efforts and the resilience of teachers, staff and students, Collier County Public Schools reopened on Thursday, October 6 th , just eight days after Ian made landfall in Lee County.
With NCEF now serving as a clearinghouse to coordinate the distribution of items such as bedding, mattresses, household supplies, clothing, fruits and vegetables, and more, we are currently focusing our efforts are on:
Helping children and families of some 150-200 displaced teachers whose homes were lost or severely damaged
Assisting with needs in hard-hit pockets of East Naples, Davis Triangle, Marco Island and Everglades City where children of several families are still sleeping on cots and air mattresses
Working with healthcare services to identify areas in need of their support
Coordinating efforts with outside foundations to help provide temporary and possibly permanent new facilities for centers that were damaged
Providing one-on-one support to NCEF beneficiaries as they work with their staff and the children and families who are in their centers due to hurricane-related losses
Immediately after the storm passed, NCEF led the effort assessing needs of the community along with the Collier Community Foundation, the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation and United Way of Collier and the Keys. The information allowed us to better gauge everyone’s status and needs in order to help our community move forward.
The results from more than 100 nonprofits, including 45 of which are NCEF beneficiaries, showed that thankfully over half of the organizations did not experience structural damage to their facility, allowing 85% of them to be operational just days after the storm. Unfortunately, 35% face structural damage from flooding and roof problems that have hampered or delayed their return to providing services.
To date a few of our accomplishments have included:
Increasing the amount of food being distributed in areas where food was not accessible, through a combination of hot meals and nonperishable items (over 2 million pounds of food and thousands of hot meals)
Working at a regional level by linking nonprofit groups to better assist with donated supplies and needed assistance to help the severely affected in Lee County
Arranging for new clothes to be distributed in the hardest-hit areas of Southwest Florida
Sourcing transportation for beneficiaries to increase their efficiency in providing supplies throughout the community
Leveraging resources to resolve unique issues such as a need for mobile laundry services
Connecting outside foundations, volunteers and others to help clean up and repair NCEF beneficiary buildings
Linking nonprofit groups to better assist with donations of supplies
Since its founding in 2000, NCEF has invested in dozens of nonprofits that have developed systems of care and a web of services. The coalitions that we helped develop to this day work together to leverage each others resources, build capacity and meet the needs of children and their families, both on an ongoing basis and when a crisis strikes.
For example, our responses in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma in 2017 and during the COVID-19 pandemic helped us develop an effective crisis-response tool kit that also served the community effectively.
The lessons learned, the trust and teamwork that developed and the elimination/reduction of duplication that have evolved over the past 20-plus years have now guided our unified and efficient response to Ian and will be key in the recovery efforts in the coming weeks and months.
It will be a long road to recovery for many, but we have felt the immense strength of this community in the past and know we can come out of this stronger than ever.