More than $2 million pledged to local Irma relief effort

Initial $200,000 in grants awarded to Red Cross and Salvation Army

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Over $2 million has been pledged to Florida's First Coast Relief Fund to support immediate and long-term relief and recovery efforts following Hurricane Irma.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry announced the pledges at a Sept. 13 press conference at the Legends Center. The Jacksonville Jaguars, several philanthropic organizations and local corporations have contributed the funds.

“Jacksonville and Northeast Florida have been through a lot in the last 72 hours,” said Curry at the press conference. “However, it’s been inspiring to see how the people of this community come together in times of crisis. Florida’s First Coast Relief Fund is a clear example of the generosity and volunteerism displayed by the people of this city.”

Created in 2016 to aid with Hurricane Matthew relief and to establish a permanent disaster relief fund, Florida's First Coast Relief Fund is a strategic collaboration created by United Way of Northeast Florida, United Way of St. Johns County, The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida, the Jessie Ball duPont Fund and the Jewish Federation of Jacksonville.

“This collaboration of partners is a great example of the important role of the philanthropic and nonprofit sector in our community, which is the backbone of so many critical services,” said Sherry Magill, president of the Jessie Ball duPont Fund.

Major funders who have committed to the relief fund for Irma include:

·         Jacksonville Jaguars: $1 million

·         Jessie Ball duPont Fund: $250,000, plus a $250,000 matching grant

·         Mayo Clinic of Jacksonville: $500,000 for Irma relief efforts with $250,000 to the fund

·         Lucy Gooding Charitable Trust: $200,000

·         Florida Blue: $1 million for statewide support with at least $100,000 to this fund

·         Additionally, Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase, Baptist Health, The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida and United Way of Northeast Florida have all made commitments to the fund totaling more than $300,000.

"Bringing individual donors, corporations and major philanthropies together is a great benefit for the community, because it efficiently focuses energy and efforts," said Nina Waters, president of The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida.

Two emergency grants of $100,000 each will be made to the American Red Cross Northeast Florida Chapter and The Salvation Army of Northeast Florida to help the organizations respond to the region's needs following Hurricane Irma.

"These grants represent our immediate initial response,” said Michelle Braun, president and CEO of United Way of Northeast Florida, which is acting as the fiscal agent for the relief fund. “Together with our partners, we are addressing urgent needs and will be distributing the funds quickly to where they are most needed.”

Florida's First Coast Relief Fund will make grants only to organizations helping individuals impacted by natural disasters in Baker, Clay, Duval, Nassau, Putnam and St. Johns counties. The fund will provide resources to meet needs not met by government programs.

In 2016, donors contributed more than $652,000 to the relief fund in response to Hurricane Matthew; 16 local organizations providing relief services received grants totaling nearly $500,000, leaving a balance in the relief fund of more than $150,000 for future relief efforts. Those dollars are immediately available to help with response to Hurricane Irma, Braun said.

Any unspent funds will remain in the fund to maintain a permanent disaster relief fund for Northeast Florida, and 100 percent of all gifts benefit the relief effort.

All distributions from the relief fund will be overseen by a committee comprised of representatives of United Way of Northeast Florida, United Way of St. Johns County, The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida, the Jessie Ball duPont Fund, the Jewish Federation of Jacksonville, the City of Jacksonville and other funders.

The fund also provides a vehicle for individual donors to contribute to disaster relief and recovery efforts, maximizing their contributions through matching funds from major philanthropies. Donations are now being accepted.

For more information on Florida's First Coast Relief Fund, visit www.unitedwaynefl.org/relieffund.

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