~ Charlotte County's Charley Survivors First to Get Aid ~
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 15, 2004
PUNTA GORDA - Governor Jeb Bush today presented checks from the Florida Hurricane
Relief Fund for $100,000 each to the Charlotte Local Education Foundation and
Family Health Centers of SW Florida, Inc. The money from Cingular Wireless
and the Merck Company Foundation respectively, will be used to purchase school
supplies and assist in the rebuilding of the health centers. This marks the
first of many distributions of funds to counties impacted by recent hurricanes.
"We thank all those who have contributed to the Hurricane Relief Fund
since Hurricane Charley hit our state on August 13," said Governor Bush. "As
our residents prepare for Ivan's arrival and assess needs from Frances over
Labor Day weekend, today we begin to get funds back out into the communities
that were first hit."
Governor Bush also thanked both companies for their additional support in
the impacted areas. Cingular made a $20,000 donation to the Red Cross and provided
emergency calling centers throughout the state so those affected by the recent
hurricanes could make free calls to their families.
"As many Floridians prepare for Hurricane Ivan and others try to return
to life as normal, still many people are suffering from Charley's devastating
effects," said Dan Norman, vice president and general manager of Cingular
Wireless-Florida. "Thousands of young people in the Punta Gorda/Port Charlotte
area are without a school to go back to, and we are fortunate to have the ability
to aid in the restoration efforts."
Merck's donation today will be used for the organization's Charlotte Medical
Office in Port Charlotte, which provides health care to the medically underserved.
Merck Company, Inc., donated nearly $800,000 in medicines and medical supplies
"Merck's thoughts are with those who have been so profoundly impacted
by the devastating effects of Hurricane Charley, particularly the residents
of Charlotte County, including some Merck employees," said David A. Ruth,
executive vice president of The Merck Company Foundation. "We are pleased
to support the longer-term recovery efforts, especially those efforts that
will improve access to health care for the medically underserved and other
The Florida Hurricane Relief Fund now totals more than $7 million and is
being directed to help Floridians impacted by the hurricanes. It is being allocated
for needs that cannot be completely met by other relief organizations, federal
and state agencies. Impacted communities are deciding how their allocations
will be spent. The fund is managed by nonprofit Volunteer Florida Foundation.
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
Clarence Otis, CEO-designee of Darden Restaurants, Inc. Also joining the committee
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.
Governor Bush was joined at the presentation by Steve Uhlfelder, voluntary
CEO of the fund and a Tallahassee-based attorney; Dr. David M. Klein, President
of the Board of Trustees for the Charlotte Local Education Foundation; Lalai
Hamric, President and CEO of Family Health Centers of SW Florida, Inc.; Gary
Bonner, Director of Marketing, Cingular Wireless-Florida and Craig Hansen,
Senior Government Affairs Manager, Merck Company, Inc.
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