The holidays and the new year are brighter for several Southwest Florida Families, thanks to a $20,000 gift donated to Community Cooperative by FineMark National Bank & Trust. With the donation, Community Cooperative has been able to help eight families thus far with housing and other holiday needs and the list is growing.

“We are pleased to be in a position to give to individuals and families in need this holiday season,” said Joseph R. Catti, Chairman and CEO of FineMark National Bank & Trust. “As we continue to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, we recognize it has been a very difficult year for many people in our community and we believe it is our responsibility to help those who are in need.”

Community Cooperative’s Building Stronger Families program is a family stability focused program that partners with the Lee County School District focused on homeless prevention. Community Cooperative social workers work with families with children under 18 that are homeless or on the brink of becoming homeless. The program works to help clients in need become self-sufficient and rebuild their lives with dignity via a two-generation approach to help meet the needs of children and adults simultaneously to foster both academic success and break the cycle of poverty.

“While our organization started more than 36 years ago to feed the hungry, we have learned that a meal alone does not fix all the problems,” said Tracey Galloway, CEO of Community Cooperative. “The pandemic has pushed many hard-working families to the brink, and this generous support from FineMark National Bank & Trust lets us help more families in need for the holidays.”

Sara Sanchez, a single parent of four girls who is employed full-time as a manager at an auto parts store, couldn’t afford the bills in a house she shared with her mother after her mother moved out. For six months, the family has been sleeping on couches or air mattresses with friends and family members. The grant helped the family with moving expenses and deposits, as well purchasing a washer, dryer, microwave and Christmas gifts.

“It’s meant everything to us, especially at the holidays and at the end of such a tough year,” Sanchez said. “My kids and I were in a rough situation and Community Cooperative were the only one who brought us up. We’re grateful to Community Cooperative and FineMark National Bank & Trust. Their gifts are very much appreciated.”

Other families that will be helped by the grant include:

  • A family of four with an autistic teenager who were asked to leave their condominium because of noise complaints about the son. The family has been living in a motel paid for by family members for a month. The father is employed at a supermarket and the mother is delivering food at night, but unable to get other work due to their living situation. The grant will help with move-in costs.
  • A family whose father is terminally ill with cancer. He has been unable to work and his social security and disability don’t cover the bills for the family with six children. The grant was able to provide the family with Christmas gifts and additional support.
  • A full-time Publix employee for more than 10 years whose hours were decreased. Her fiancé is employed part-time and both have not been able to find full-time work. Recently their car was repossessed. They were evicted for non-payment and are living in a hotel. The grant will help them get the car back and provide housing assistance.
  • A family with four children that recently began caring for an additional three children from the father’s previous relationship due to Department of Children and Family Services involvement. The mother is employed full-time as a CNA. The father is staying home to help the children in virtual school and planning to return to his job when the children are back in school. Their rental residence is full of mold and bugs and the air conditioning and bathroom are not working. The grant will assist with move-in costs for more adequate housing for the large family.
  • A single parent of six children whose husband died unexpectedly last year three weeks after they were married. She has been staying at a friend’s house who is selling their home. The grant will assist with move-in costs to a stable home.
  • An employed single parent with a teenage daughter who lost her housing. Her ex-husband allows them to stay with him, but frequently kicks the mother out, so she sleeps in her car. The grant will assist with securing a safe place of their own.
  • A single parent employed full-time at Walmart who moved with her 3-year-old daughter to Lehigh Acres from Pennsylvania to escape domestic violence. She was living with her brother who moved out of town. Her daughter is staying with her grandmother, but due to lack of space, the mother has been staying with friends or in her car. The grant will help the family find a place to live all together.

Community Cooperative has seen unprecedented need during the pandemic, with triple the requests for food assistance from mobile food pantries. Funding for Community Cooperative programs comes from private donations, faith-based and corporate contributions, grant support and the United Way of Lee County. For information on how to help, visit communitycooperative.com.

About FineMark National Bank & Trust

FineMark National Bank & Trust is a full-service, nationally chartered bank and trust company headquartered in Fort Myers, Florida. FineMark offers a full range of financial services including personal and business banking, lending, investment and trust services. More than 200 associates work throughout FineMark’s 12 offices in Florida, Arizona and South Carolina. FineMark is dedicated to providing a culture of service to clients and making a positive difference in the communities it serves.

About Community Cooperative

For over 35 years, Community Cooperative has worked to effectively eliminate hunger and homelessness in Lee County while simultaneously inspiring and supporting sustained positive change in its clients by delivering innovative food, education and social service programs. With a dedicated team of volunteers, board of directors and staff, Community Cooperative stays committed to its core responsibility to collect and distribute resources through a strong and viable network of community partners. Community Cooperative is an exemplary steward of the resources entrusted to it and serves clients with compassion and integrity. Through collaboration and ongoing education, Community Cooperative supports and strengthens those whose lives have been affected by hunger and homelessness, ensuring that they have access to the resources necessary to transform their lives with dignity. For more resources and information on how to get involved, contact Stefanie Edwards at Stefanie@CommunityCooperative.com or call (239) 332-7687. Monetary donations are always welcomed and can be made directly at www.CommunityCooperative.com, or mailed to: Community Cooperative, P.O. Box 2143, Fort Myers, FL 33902.