#WeAreFMB, Contributions at $50K

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When precautions to flatten the spread of the international COVID-19 pandemic forced the closure of Fort Myers Beach bars and limited restaurants to carryout and delivery, thousands in our workforce community were laid off. To help out in these trying times, the Fort Myers Beach Community Foundation partnered with a group of local citizens to form “#WeAreFMB” to provide $50 Publix gift cards to those unemployed workers. “We had a very simple goal in the beginning; to raise $5,000 to help out,” recalled Sheryl Bowman, FMB Community Foundation President. “But now we are reaching the $50,000 mark, going from $20,000 to that in the past month!”

The bulk of the $50,000 comes from the sales of #WeAreFMB tank tops and t-shirts. Once the group pays for the shirts and hats, the remainder is used for gift cards. “Each is $15 if you pick it up,” Sheryl said. “If we mail it, that becomes $21. T-shirt sizes are Small to 3XL, with tank tops Small to 2X. We recently added hats at $20 or $25 with delivery. Order shirts and hats directly from our website at www.fortmyersbeachcf.com and we happily accept any additional contribution on top of that. Most of that total comes from the shirt and hat sales, but roughly 20% is through supplemental donations. To apply for a gift card, fill out the application on the website; to date, we received 431 applications and distributed 285 so far.”

While the #WeAreFMB team expanded their sales inventory with hats, they increased the pool of available candidates as well! “When we began,” Sheryl explained, “it was for those workers affected in the bar and restaurant industries, but since then, most Fort Myers Beach hotels closed, so now the program is open to all our displaced hospitality industry workers. The only caveat is you must live or work on Fort Myers Beach. These are challenging times that no one has any previous experience with, and who knows what the new normal will eventually be, but it seems safe to say that all our lives are changing forever, so we want to be there to help our tremendous hospitality professionals as we go through this transition.”

How To Apply

The FMB Community Foundation partnered with the #WeAreFMB movement “when I received a telephone call from former Fort Myers Beach Mayor Anita Cereceda and Janeen Paulauskis of the Barefoot Event Group,” Sheryl recalled. “Anita’s late Mother was a former member and Janeen recently worked with us on our January fundraiser. They explained their idea and received the recommendation that the best way to accomplish it was through an already-established 501c3 Non-Profit Foundation, and of course we are one. We spoke to our attorney and accountant to make sure we legally could be that fundraising arm, and when we received that assurance, first our Board approved it, then we brought it to our entire 80-plus membership. In my four years as President, I never received such an enthusiastic approval to any previous motion! Our goal was to raise $5,000 and now we are at ten times that amount and it happened so fast! Fort Myers Beach may be just one narrow 7-mile island, but to the people who live here, and specifically to those in need, our island is their world!”

To apply for the $50 Publix gift card, “go to our website, fill out and submit your application online,” Sheryl shared. “Janeen reviews it and if it meets the guidelines, she approves it and forwards that to Jan Fleming from the FMB Community Foundation. Jan passes that on to our Treasurer, Cheryl Hohmann, who allocates the funds to Jan who purchases the gift cards. Jan and Janeen contact the recipients to make arrangements for the distribution days, where we absolutely practice all social distancing measures. We must thank ‘Krusty Pete’s,’ who is our merchandising partner, as Dave and Marcy Anderson od Krusty Pete’s are super to work with and a great couple.”

Keep This Financial Ball Rolling

Fort Myers Beach Community Foundation Vice President Corri Francisco presents a check to Craig Nelms, Director of the Beach Baptist Choice Market.

To date, #WeAreFMB proceeds are just for the Publix gift cards, “but the FMB Community Foundation Board held a virtual meeting earlier this week to discuss if we can expand that assistance,” said Sheryl. “Right now, each applicant can only receive one gift card, so our early discussions are whether they can receive a second one at some point. On top of that, we are exploring whether we can make funds available for things like utility or car payments, so we will meet again soon to continue those conversations. We are quite aware that this will most likely be an ongoing situation for the foreseeable future, so people may need more than just groceries. We want to keep this financial ball rolling, because the coronavirus is not the only challenge we face on Fort Myers Beach, as hurricane season is right around the corner, and who knows what may happen with Red Tide and water quality this year, so we want to be ready for any emergency.”

While the Community Foundation is proud of its work with #WeAreFMB, Sheryl related, “This is not our only assistance to the island community right now! We recently made a $3,000 check presentation to Choice Market, another $3,000 to the St. Vincent De Paul Society, with yet another $3,000 to God’s Table. Our Board approved an additional $5,000 as a contingency, so if something unexpected occurs, we can be ready to immediately be of service.”

Sheryl raves about the FMB Community Foundation membership, offering, “We are not just a group of ‘seasoned’ women but are of all ages and we dedicate ourselves to improving the quality of life on Fort Myers Beach through community service while enhancing friendships, and that is our motto. If you want to become a member, go to our website and Jan, who is our Membership Chair, will contact you. The FMB Community Foundation is a band of strong women whose actions speak clearly about our commitment to this island, and if you are serious about that too, we invite you to join us, but never bet against us!”