Volunteers rally for Suncoast Estates

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On the lawn of a small church in Suncoast Estates, surrounded by Hurricane Ian-damaged homes and toppled trees, hundreds of amazing people got together to help a community that felt forgotten by the world.

More than 300 volunteers arrived at Suncoast First Baptist Church in North Fort Myers. They helped distribute supplies and take inventory of residents’ needs. An anonymous donor from Tampa brought down a truck filled with $20,000 in supplies. Other donations poured in as well. Diapers. Wipes. Water. Bleach. Electrical cords. Toothpaste and deodorant. Menstrual supplies. Toys for the kids.

A mobile medical clinic made themselves available to help with any injuries or health concerns. Dr. Immanuel Amissah of North Fort Myers offered to do house calls for medical needs and wound care.

Six news outlets came to tell the story:

Peter and Edna Hanti brought their food truck from the Fort Lauderdale area, Pompano Beach to be exact. Mama’s Taste of the World. For three days before their arrival here, the Hantis saved their personal tips and collected donations from the Lyon’s Den, their local pub, to feed our volunteers.

Michael Gumz, who lives in Suncoast Estates, felt his home was in much better shape than his neighbors, so he spent the whole day helping, sacrificing sleep before his night shift at work.

“I didn’t have any damage except for power loss,” he said. “And I needed to come out here and help because I was lucky. Out of all the folks here, I was the lucky one.”

Chef Grego Diaz, a social media influencer from the Tampa area who shares recipes and tips for cooking cultural Puerto Rican dishes in his blog Sabor with Love, brought his crew to Suncoast Estates after feeding storm victims in Puerto Rico. They served up delicious rice dishes free to residents and volunteers.

“We’re just cooking and giving. We have fruit. We have water,” Chef Grego said between trips to the truck as he set up the cooking space with enormous pans. “We are trying to feed 1,000 people today.”

They worked side-by-side with El Rincon Boricua Restaurant of Lehigh Acres, Doble Gustazo of Land O’ Lakes and Antojitos Navideños Restaurant of Lakeland.

Ruth Cid, the CEO and founder of Premier Lifestyle Group and Global Team Leader Powered/Brokered by LPT Realty, dressed in a #PLGcares tee, was so moved by the stories she’d heard of our work here that she came out to volunteer.

Amanda Cruz and Sgt. Alison Cavanagh of the Lee County Sheriff’s Office brought 15 young volunteers from the sheriff’s teen outreach group, plus interns from Florida Gulf Coast University and Florida SouthWestern State College.

Florida DCF Secretary Shevaun Harris talks with children in Suncoast Estates on Tuesday, October 11.

Florida Department of Children and Families Secretary Shevaun Harris came out to talk with families and get a sense of their needs. She talked about state services that try to prevent the need for foster care, like partnering with groups like Better Together.

Even before the event, when we couldn’t reach our T-shirt vendor, Wear The Fund in Fort Myers worked around the clock to get us shirts for our volunteers.

During our rounds, neighbors joined us. A man in a gray T-shirt and blue jeans brought cold Gatorade from his home.

Mercy Chefs delivered food.

A man and woman from Tennessee drove down to Southwest Florida with 10 boxes of diapers and several boxes of wipes. He said he was born in Lee County and lived here many years.

Some of our team members from other parts of the state joined us, too.

Daniel Heath, who drove from the Jacksonville area where he’s our Northeast Florida Executive Director, gave a man the shoes off his own feet.

“It’s not often you meet somebody else that wears a size 13, let alone a single dad in need,” he said.

We got supplies to a cancer patient who couldn’t come to the door. A neighbor connected us.

We gave toys to children who lost many of theirs. Food and water to people who haven’t been able to leave the community because the storm damaged their car. Hope to people who felt isolated and alone.

Jackie sent us an update on her situation. She’s the grandmother we’ve shared about before, who lives with her daughter and three young grandchildren in a damaged trailer. Her family got electric. They have supplies. Now they’re just waiting on FEMA for the roof.

“Our whole family is so very very blessed to have you touch our heart’s,” she messaged. “I never trusted anyone after my husband died – I found out there is a lot of people that want to help but have other things to do. So I wanted to say thank you from the bottom of our heart’s!! This community has never felt so loved and cared for ever – you have lifted spirts here. U made me believe that there are still people who care and keep their word.. i still can’t believe you came back and kept coming back. I am so very great fully to u and alllll of the others u sent.”

A special thank you to Pastor Dale and all the people of Suncoast First Baptist Church. You rolled out the welcome mat and took us in. Thank you to Ron, who ran security.

To all who helped the world see Suncoast Estates, who helped, who gave their time and supplies, in all the ways you gave, THANK YOU!

This is what it means to love your neighbor.

Keep the love alive, Florida!

 

With hope and gratitude,

The Better Together Team

Give Help: https://bettertogetherus.org/give-help

Get Help: https://bettertogetherus.org/better-families/apply-for-help

 

Moments by Kinfay/hopeful images:

 

Posted October 12, 2022 | Pamela Hayford

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Cammara OvertonBetter Together Team

Cammara Overton
Collier County Family Care Coordniator

Cammara worked in the international nonprofit sector and served as a missionary overseas for 10 years before joining Better Together as the Collier County Family Care Coordinator. She earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work from Florida Gulf Coast University. She has a heart for building relationships and serving women, children and their families and sharing the hope and love of Jesus Christ with everyone she meets. Cammara is passionate about coming alongside those seeking life change and helping them achieve all that they desire to do for themselves and their families. Cammara is very excited to be a part of the Better Together family by providing recourses and extending love and compassion to families in crisis.

Cammara and her husband, Dan, enjoy spending time playing volleyball and hanging out with friends and their Italian pup, Harley. They both have a passion for serving the Lord and being the hands and feet of Jesus in their community.

Jennifer MoffittBetter Together Team

Jennifer Moffitt
Tampa Bay Region Home Study Specialist

Originally from Massachusetts, Jenn moved to Florida in 1993 to be closer to her parents, who had left the snow behind the year before. In 1996, she graduated from the University of South Florida with a bachelor’s degree in social work.

Jenn started her career working in private adoptions as a birth parent worker. After two years she was drawn to child welfare. For the next 19 years, she worked as a child protection investigator for the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office. In 2019 she began working for the Office of the State Attorney, 6th Judicial Circuit, as a child abuse specialist. She assisted prosecutors with interviewing child victims of abuse and neglect and served as a liaison with the Department of Children and Families and their local community providers.

Jenn and her husband, Shawn, were married on Christmas Day in 1999, and they have two boys, ages 12 and 20. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with family and friends, shopping, taking day trips, visiting the beach, and vacationing in the mountains of North Carolina.

Katie MalloyBetter Together Team

Katie Malloy
Northeast Region Home Study Specialist

Katie was born and raised in Jacksonville, Florida, and attended the University of Mississippi, where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Katie has been working with children and families in the foster care system in Duval County since 2015. Her passion is advocating for children in care and helping build strong and healthy families. During Katie’s childhood, her church community was a great support system for her and her family. She’s a firm believer that the more people who love a child, the better.

Ruth DavidsonBetter Together Team

Ruth Davidson
Southwest Florida Church Engagement Director

Ruth has a passion for serving others. She believes strongly in giving back to the community and paying it forward. She loves to share her personal story of how, with God’s help, she was able to overcome past hurdles. Growing up in rural Kentucky in a large family that faced many struggles, she knows firsthand how God’s love can heal and restore broken families. She has the gift of hospitality and enjoys communicating with others with the hope that she is never meeting strangers, only making friends.

Ruth comes to Better Together with over eight years of ministry experience. After moving to Fort Myers from Fort Lauderdale in 2016, she served as an outreach coordinator for a nonprofit faith-based recovery program for more than five years. She was also an administrative assistant to her directors, scheduling events and successfully developing and establishing relationships with several businesses and churches in Southwest Florida. She has a relaxed way of making others feel comfortable, possessing a servant’s heart and loves outreach and missions.

Ruth currently resides in Naples and enjoys traveling, dining out, cooking, entertaining and serving in her community. She has two grown children, Martin and Annie, and one grandson, Drew, who loves to visit with his Nana.

Amanda ColafrancescoBetter Together Team

Amanda Colafrancesco
Sarasota/Manatee Home Study Specialist

Amanda was born and raised in Rhode Island and moved to Florida in 2016. She earned her Bachelor of Arts and Master of Science degrees in administration of justice from Salve Regina University. Upon graduation, she began a career in child welfare, specifically toward a goal of preventing children from entering the foster care system. Amanda brings diverse experiences in serving children and families in their home environments to her work with Better Together as a home study specialist. She is also a certified child welfare protective investigator through the Florida Certification Board and has over six years of child welfare experience. In her spare time, Amanda enjoys visiting with family and friends.

Better Together Team

Yohana Resto
Southwest Florida Executive Director

Yohana brings to Better Together 15 years of experience working in child welfare. She has served in various roles, including case manager, clinical services specialist, relative search specialist, foster family recruiter, and most recently a role conducting comprehensive assessments for children in foster care or relative care. Yohana has a heart and passion for serving children and families, and she brings to the organization a wide breadth of knowledge and experience. A graduate of Southeastern University and Nova Southeastern University with a bachelor’s in psychology and Master of Science in counseling, Yohana has a caring and compassionate heart to support families in need.

Yohana loves spending time with her husband, Miguel, and their four children—Isabela, Natalia, Jaxon and Jayden. You can frequently find them at a soccer game, as their girls enjoy playing competitive travel soccer. Yohana credits her relationship with God and personal salvation as the motivating force behind her desire to continue to serve her community.

Dawson JordonBetter Together Team

Dawson Jordan
Creative Director

Dawson is an exciting addition to the Better Together Team. Since graduating college in 2015 from Florida Gulf Coast University with his bachelor’s degree in Business Management he has managed to create a successful career for himself as a self-employed freelance videographer/photographer. He has recently relocated back to his hometown in SWFL and is excited to join the team as the Creative Director to help us tell the Better Together story. Dawson is passionate about telling stories through a creative lens, especially when it comes to seeing families stay together and for individuals to thrive and become the best version of themselves. When Dawson is not in the office he likes to hang out with his friends, workout, and watch sports.