|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 9, 2004
TALLAHASSEE -Governor Jeb Bush today announced pledges and donations to the
newly created Florida Hurricane Relief Fund now total more than $6 million.
Pledges continue to stream in to assist survivors of Hurricanes Frances and
Charley. The fund, formerly the Hurricane Charley Relief Fund, was renamed
just over a week ago when it became apparent that Hurricane Frances would
impact Florida just a scant three weeks after Charley's destruction. To date,
the Florida Hurricane Fund has received pledges from 34 states, Canada, Belgium,
Taiwan and Singapore.
"During these trying times, it is meaningful financially and emotionally
to have so many willing to help," said Governor Bush. "As Florida's
attention once again turns to safety and precaution with the approaching storm,
it is comforting to know individuals and corporations are focusing their attention
on helping Floridians in need."
Among the new pledges is $1 million by the Darden Restaurants Foundation.
Darden Restaurants, based in Orlando, owns and operates 1,300 Red Lobster,
Olive Garden, Bahama Breeze, Smokey Bones Barbeque & Grill and Seasons
52 restaurants across North America. The company operates 130 restaurants and
employs 15,000 people in Florida.
"We all have suffered from these two hurricanes," said Clarence
Otis, Jr., CEO-designee for Darden Restaurants, and a member of the Florida
Hurricane Relief Fund's voluntary steering committee. "What a privilege
it is for Darden to help rebuild the communities that have supported our restaurants
for more than 30 years."
Other major pledges over the past week include: BellSouth Telecommunications
Inc. with $200,000; Shell Oil Company, SunTrust Bank Florida,WCI and Wal-Mart
Foundation pledging $100,000 each; BP, Ocean Bank, Pepsi and Washington Mutual
at $50,000 each; and Dow Electronics with $25,000.
The citizens of Taiwan have also donated $50,000 to the fund. An estimated
500 Taiwanese at the Buddha Light Temple in Tamarac, Florida held a special
group prayer for hurricane victims on August 22, the date - according to 4,000
years of practice in the Oriental culture - is considered the best day to comfort
the spirits of those in need.
Additionally, the Weather Channel has joined the effort by agreeing to scroll
fund contact information across the bottom of their screen to help get the
word out about the fund as viewers track Ivan's progress.
The Florida Hurricane Relief Fund is being directed to help Floridians impacted
by the hurricanes rebuild. It will be allocated for needs that cannot be completely
met by other relief organizations, federal and state agencies. Communities
will decide on use of funds, with input from other relief organizations and
Governor Bush recently appointed Florida leaders to guide the fund's growth.
The steering committee is chaired by former U.S. Senator Connie Mack, with
Tallahassee-based attorney Steve Uhlfelder serving as the voluntary CEO. Vice-chairmen
are Joe Lacher, President-Florida, BellSouth Telecommunications, Inc. and Darden's
Otis. Also joining the committee this week are Susan Story, President and CEO
of Gulf Power Company, who will work to build business pledges, and Tony Carvajal,
President of Carvajal Consulting and Management, who will strive to raise more
than $2 million for
the fund through association members. All committee members are serving as
volunteers for the fund.
The fund is managed by nonprofit Volunteer Florida Foundation. All donations
are tax-deductible and will be used for the hurricane relief effort in Florida.
For more information, call 1-800-FL-HELP-1 or go to www.FLAHurricaneFund.org.