Gulf Coast Community Foundation recognizing first anniversary of Hurricane Ian’s strike

Nonprofit has provided $3.5 million in relief

Families with Children First, such as this one, received clothing, gift cards, gas cards and other necessities following Hurricane Ian, thanks to funding from the Gulf Coast Community Foundation. Photo courtesy Gulf Coast Community Foundation

The Gulf Coast Community Foundation (Gulf Coast) is recognizing the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Ian with reflections on its impact and the ongoing rebuilding and recovery, the nonprofit announced this week.

On Sept. 28, 2022, Southwest Florida was struck by Hurricane Ian, “one of the strongest hurricanes to ever hit our state,” a news release says. Gulf Coast’s board of directors “approved funding within 24 hours of the storm’s impact and generous donors locally and from across the country matched it quickly. Gulf Coast provided dozens of grants to nonprofit organizations just days following the storm,” the release points out, “with a focus on health and human service needs in southern Sarasota County.”

The release then notes, “Now, one year later, thanks to generous donor contributions,” Gulf Coast’s board of directors and its “dedicated team,” Gulf Coast’s Hurricane Ian Recovery Initiative has realized more than 200 grants totaling $3.5 million in relief.

“The very definition of philanthropy was demonstrated by Gulf Coast’s donors, foundations, and generous individuals across the country who came together immediately after Hurricane Ian struck to support the greatest needs of our nonprofit communities,” said Phillip P. Lanham,  Gulf Coast’s president and CEO, in the release. “The stories of hope and perseverance that we have received from our Hurricane Ian Recovery Initiative have been nothing short of life changing,” he added.

The release points to the following examples:

  • Gulf Coast provided Venice Theatre with multiple grants totaling $640,000 to support the staff and the rebuilding of the Jervey Theatre. “The theater has maintained its staff and is working diligently on redesign and rebuilding efforts,” the release says.
  • A funding commitment of $1 million over three years to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota and DeSoto Counties was approved by Gulf Coast’s board of directors to rebuild the Gene Matthews Club in North Port, which was destroyed by Hurricane Ian. Prior to the storm, theclub provided more than 450 children and teens “with award-winning programs that empower them to become great leaders.”
  • The Peace River Botanical & Sculpture Gardens in Punta Gorda, which took a direct hit from Hurricane Ian, received $20,000 from Gulf Coast’s Hurricane Recovery Initiative to assist the facility in re-opening to the public. Tanna Horner, executive director of the Gardens, recently said, “We lost 250 trees and 80% of our plant life. I reached out to Gulf Coast for help and the speed and efficiency they gave was incredible.The grant allowed me to keep every staff member employed.”
  • Children First, the Sarasota Head Start provider, received a $50,000 grant from Gulf Coast. Its leaders reflected, “At Children First, we had families and staff that were in essence, immediately homeless.” Yet, the release explains, the families that the organization serves already are in the position of being among the most economically vulnerable in the community. “We are so deeply enmeshed with our families and staff,” the release adds. “[W]e were able to provide [them] tremendous support because of Gulf Coast’s immediate, responsive humanitarian support. That also allowed us to begin addressing their emotional well-being almost as immediately as we were addressing physical well-being.”
  • Gulf Coast also heard from Ashley Coone, Links2Success co-founder and executive director in DeSoto County, who received $15,000 from Gulf Coast: “Thanks to the funding from Gulf Coast Community Foundation, Links2Success is now able to address the post-secondary planning needs of students affected by recent disruptions. This support has enabled the implementation of measures that will have a lasting impact on students in DeSoto County for years to come.”

Further, the release points out, “Mental health services were a critical need following the storm.” Tri-County Counseling received a $15,000 grant to support services in its North Port Office. Dr. Charlton Cerbone, the CEO and clinical director, says the grant made possible a necessary expansion in services.

“Our mental health and substance abuse grants have made a transformative impact within our community,” she added in the release. “By providing crucial funding to local organizations, we’ve significantly expanded access to vital mental health services and substance abuse treatment. Together, we’re breaking barriers, offering hope, and fostering a stronger, more compassionate community,” Cerbone said in the release.

“This snapshot of the Hurricane Ian Relief Fund impact sheds light on the resilient and strong nonprofit community,” whose members “work tirelessly to support our region in times of need,” the release notes. “Together, with the generosity of the community, transformative Hurricane Ian recovery has provided strength for rebuilding and future storm preparedness.”

To learn more about the various initiatives, visit