Coalition to help storm victims

Officials of the newly formed Hendry/Glades Unmet Needs Coalition gave a presentation at the Glades County Board meeting Monday night regarding their 6-week-old 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization that’s set up to help local people whose lives were disrupted by Hurricane Irma.

Treasurer Margaret England came to the podium, introducing Coordinator Theresa “Terri” Miazga and Yvette Wingate.

Ms. England explained that the assistance is meant for people who “have already done everything they can” to rectify whatever damage they suffered through the Federal Emergency Management Agency and their own insurance, yet “still have unmet needs, in order to help them get their lives back to what they were pre-Irma – that’s what this coalition was established for.”

She went on: “We’re made up of nonprofits and volunteer agencies. Our funding is going to go through the United Way that represents Hendry/Glades, Okeechobee and Lee counties, and all of the needs that are presented to the committee will have already been vetted through a case manager for the various organizations.”

The group is accepting donations of money and in-kind support through the United Way, which signed a one-year memorandum of understanding to provide fiscal management, issue payments and prepare monthly reports. Its packet presented to the board included a copy of the memo along with examples of referral and case management forms as well as informational fliers.

“Now, we’re going to be around for a while. This is probably going to take years. A lot of us have been involved in the post-Irma recovery and we all know that it does take time,” Ms. England said. “So we plan on being here a few years to help with the unmet needs from Irma and, you know, if we do have any other major events, then the committee would continue helping with those events.”

The HGUNC’s partner agencies so far are United Way 211, United Methodist Disaster Response Florida Conference and the Salvation Army of Lee, Hendry and Glades.

Ms. Wingate told the board, “We’re asking your help in getting the word out, and we’re also looking for vendors, professionals to sit at the table to give us expertise, whether it be a lawyer or bank, or guidance of some sort.”

Board Chairman John Ahern said, “We certainly appreciate everything you’re doing, and I’m sure that county staff will do whatever we can to help out.”

Commissioner Tim Stanley told of some of his District 5 constituents who have been unable to replace their roofs, saying, “It’s a very good thing that you’re doing this.”

Ms. Miazga told him to have the person fill out a referral form. “Get it to us. Then I would give it to our case managers and they would actually go out and look at the scene, look at the house. They have to answer questions (and) to be vetted. And we’ll take care of everyone, whether you’re documented or undocumented (citizens). Everybody has needs.”

“Right now we’re in the process of trying to collect referrals,” Ms. England said, “because people aren’t aware that help hopefully is available, and what help is available.” Ms. Wingate added, “And volunteers for different places on this committee as well.”

The HGUNC’s offices will be at 133 N. Bridge St. in LaBelle, and its phone number is 561-516-2103.

Eligibility requirements are: proof of hurricane-related loss (examples: FEMA letter, landlord letter, insurance damage report, loss verification report or letter of denial); proof of residency in Lee, Hendry or Glades county (example: lease, utility bill); documentation showing quotes or bills from items the person is seeking assistance with; and proof of any income or benefits.

Among the services offered will be: mortgage assistance, rental assistance, condo/homeowner association fees, homeowners or renters insurance, utilities (past due or current), telephone service, internet service, automobile payments, auto insurance, auto repairs, transportation to relocate (bus tickets), mobile home units permitting, home repairs and appliance/furniture replacement.

The HGUNC group’s officers are Luis Napoles, chairman; Norman Charest, vice chairman; and Tena Harris, secretary.

Chris Felker can be reached at cfelker@newszap.com

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