Southwest Florida strong: Communities unite in the face of disaster

Learn how associates came together to support people in need following a devastating hurricane.

More than 30 Raymond James associates pose in Raymond James Cares shirts

When communities across Cuba, Florida and the Carolinas were struck by Hurricane Ian in September, Raymond James associates and advisors across the country stepped up to support those who were hit the hardest. One of the worst disasters to ever hit Florida, Hurricane Ian drove thousands of people to shelters, affected tens of thousands of homes and took the lives of more than 100 people. Among those most severely impacted by the storm were residents of the coastal Southwest Florida communities across Lee, Charlotte and Collier counties. 

"We were foremost focused on the well-being of our associates and thankfully, our Raymond James family members in affected areas all confirmed their safety," said CEO and Chair Paul Reilly. "Once we knew our associates were safe, we turned to our communities. The outpouring of care from associates, clients and partners across the country has been incredible to witness."

Responding to immediate needs

Associates unload a pallet of donated suppliesIn the wake of Hurricane Ian, Raymond James committed $500,000 to organizations such as American Red Cross and Florida Disaster Fund. Additionally, advisors, associates and firm leaders contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars in monetary donations and essential relief items for organizations positioned to support disaster relief, including $315,000 toward Friends of Raymond James.

In support of immediate relief efforts, associates came together to distribute thousands of dollars worth of essential goods including water bottles, diapers, formula, canned food and cleaning supplies. Volunteers from our home office in St. Petersburg, Florida, drove truckloads of supplies to be delivered to associates, advisors and their communities in Southwest Florida.

"Our branch became a makeshift distribution center for people in need of supplies," said Fort Myers Branch Manager Fred Maschmidt. "The support from Raymond James has been overwhelming. So many people here lost everything and need all the help they can get."

Supporting those who need it most

A volunteer stacks cereal in the food pantryIn the weeks following the storm, associates and advisors across Florida teamed up to support relief efforts in one of the hardest-hit cities in the state, Fort Myers. More than 30 employees travelled from Jacksonville, Tampa Bay, Bradenton and Sarasota to join Fort Myers advisors at the Community Cooperative, a local food pantry on the frontlines of disaster relief. 

"Many associates came to me and asked how they could help," said Raymond James Suncoast Complex Manager Chris Fils. "Branch managers across the state quickly got together to identify an organization that would benefit from our time and donations."

Volunteers split up across the Community Cooperative campus and got to work. They spent the day unloading in-kind donations, assembling meal kits, organizing the food pantry, sorting hygiene items and organizing cleaning supplies. 

It was important to firm leaders and branch managers to support an organization on the frontlines of relief efforts – one that was familiar with the community and knew exactly how to help. A staple in the Fort Myers area since 1984, Community Cooperative fit that description. In the first few days after the storm, the organization was serving more than 2,000 people per day.

"When the hurricane hit on a Wednesday, we were here first thing Thursday morning serving food," said Community Cooperative CEO Stefanie Edwards. "By Friday, we were delivering meals and performing wellness checks."

Associates pose with community cooperative sign
A long road ahead

For many residents of Fort Myers and the greater Southwest Florida area, the road to recovery is just beginning. 

"To say that the area is devastated is an understatement," said Maschmidt. "This is the worst disaster that has hit the area in my time here. You just never think it's going to be you."

More than a month after Hurricane Ian hit the state, hundreds of people remain in shelters and thousands more are depending on relief organizations for food, water and other assistance. The American Red Cross, Community Cooperative, United Way and other relief organizations are in need of support from donors and volunteers as they continue to help communities recover from the destruction. 

"I'm filled with gratitude for my colleagues who have stepped up to give back during this time of great need," said Maschmidt. "We will rebuild, and we will come out of this on the other side. We are Southwest Florida strong." 

Sources: American Red Cross, NPR

Raymond James Cares

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