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October 10, 2017

Exactly one month to the day, Hurricane Irma made landfall in Southwest Florida. Working its way up The Sunshine State, Irma carved out a path of destruction. For some Irma was a mere inconvenience; for others Irma took all their possessions; and for 73 very unfortunate people across the Caribbean and Southeast, Irma extinguished that which is most precious.

In the scheme of what might have been total devastation to Naples had the city experienced a large storm surge, we are fortunate. Although many were without power or safe drinking water for a few weeks, and we now have unsightly piles of debris lining the streets - as a whole we should be grateful. Sadly, that is not the case for many of our neighbors in Bonita Springs and Everglades City. As recovery efforts persist, many families are still displaced from their homes while others have no place to call home.

Dealing with the financial implications of loss is challenging. Fortunately, the outpouring of support from across our community and beyond has been tremendous. Countless individuals have volunteered their time to help our community, whether by cleaning debris or packing food for distribution in the community. The Community Foundation of Collier County, in partnership with the United Way of Collier County, established the Collier Comes Together Disaster Relief Fund to provide assistance to Hurricane Irma victims. According to their website, the fund has raised approximately $960,000 and 100% of donations collected have been or will be distributed to victims and their families. If you are looking to help a family in need, consider donating to their fund.

I am grateful to be a part of the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve family, and thankful for the support everyone has provided each other. The emotional toll that disasters like Hurricane Irma bring can be even more devastating than the financial strains. Even the simplest of gestures go a long way in the road to recovery, and the staff at Rookery Bay continue to amaze me with their kindness.

The community has been very generous to Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve over the years. We appreciate all the volunteers who have contributed countless hours to further the Reserve’s mission, as well as all the individuals, companies, and foundations that have financially supported us along the way. As damage estimates continue to mount through assessments around the Reserve, we ask for your on-going support. In the meantime, I am exploring ways the Friends of Rookery Bay can make a greater impact helping those in the community who have supported Rookery Bay. We’ll be giving back over the coming months, and will be asking for your assistance. Stay tuned and stay strong.

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Warm Regards,
Athan

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