Darren Robertshaw and George Traicoff

FORT MYERS, Fla. (March 25, 2013) – Community leaders celebrated the grand opening of the Bonita Springs United Way House on Tuesday, March 19, at 25300 Bernwood Parkway, Unit 6 next to the Bonita Springs Assistance Office.

A $20,000 grant from the Bonita Springs Community Fund, a fund of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, and an ongoing financial commitment from the United Way of Lee, Hendry and Glades, will enable the location to house various social services to improve the lives of many Bonita Springs residents.

The BSAO is a 501(c)(3) organization that has served the greater Bonita Springs area since 1979. Its goal is to help ordinary people who have been affected by an unexpected crisis. For more than 30 years, the BSAO has served as a primary social service agency in Bonita Springs. The late Father John Foley of Saint Leo’s Catholic Church, along with pastors from other churches in the area and Lions Club members, founded the nonprofit agency to provide Bonita Springs’ residents with temporary assistance for rent, mortgage, utilities, clothing or food.

The new 1,800 square foot facility will provide direct services to the residents of Bonita Springs and Estero. Some of the planned services will be for parents with children with disabilities, mothers who need support for a healthy pregnancy and delivery, individuals who have concerns and want to be educated about healthy lifestyles, individuals looking for career guidance or have legal, financial or business questions and concerns, and more.

The BSAO’s food program offers a Choice Pantry to residents in need with supplemental food, toiletries and basic care items, distributes fresh produce, dairy and deli products every Friday, organizes Mobile Pantries in partnership with the Harry Chapin Food Bank and other local agencies, coordinates emergency food distribution in cases of a natural disaster, and facilitates application process to families who wish to apply for federal temporary assistance through food stamps or SNAP programs. The agency’s financial assistance include partial payments for rent or mortgages, past-due utility bills, payments for emergency medical or dental care (primarily for children), payments for prescription and assistance in enrolling clients in a subsidized prescription program through pharmaceutical companies or state/federal programs, gas cards and sponsorships of children to attend after-school programs within the area through certified/approved providers.

“The BSAO is a valuable resource for our community,” said Debi Braendle, a Bonita Springs business owner who chairs the Bonita Springs Community Fund. “If families and individuals do not have a helping hand at a time when they still have control of their lives, the social cost would be very steep in terms of health, safety and security issues.”

“Providing food and financial assistance improves the ability of individuals and families to care for their children and senior members and achieve goals of self-sufficiency,” said Ray Faubion, Jr., chairman of the board for the BSAO.

The Bonita Springs Community Fund was established at the Southwest Florida Community Foundation in 1997 to promote philanthropy and enhance the spirit and quality of life for all citizens in the greater Bonita Springs area, now and for generations to come through stewardship of permanently endowed funds. The BSCF has provided more than $1.6 million in grants and scholarships through endowed funds set up by community donors.

For more information, please call the Southwest Florida Community Foundation at 239-274-5900.

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