#WeAreFMB helping one worker at a time
When much of Fort Myers Beach started closing down in March as the coronavirus approached, people like Barefoot Event Group Coordinator Janeen Paulauskis and community members quickly realized that a lot of hospitality workers in town were going to need a lifting hand to get through the tumultuous waves ahead.
In no time, #WeAreFMB shirts became the face of much of the town’s efforts to fundraise for gift cards to the workers. As of Monday, Paulauskis said nearly $50,000 has been raised to give Publix gift cards to those who work on the beach and who have lost hours or full employment. The Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce has estimated that thousands of workers employed in town lost their jobs since March.
“The community has stepped up to help our hospitality workers,” Paulauskis said.
For those interested in purchasing #WeAreFMB T-shirts and hats, or just donating to the cause, can go to the Fort Myers Beach Community Foundation’s website at Fortmyersbeachcf.com. Those workers in need of gift cards can also apply to receive assistance at the website.
The Fort Myers Beach Community Foundation, with the support of a local CPA, is handling the collection, accounting and distribution of funds and shirts along with Paulauskis.
Paulauskis said handling the applications for aid and the distribution of gift cards and shirts has become almost a full-time job. “It’s a great and positive movement,” she said.
As of May 2, 455 hospitality workers have applied for assistance. The application process includes the submission of paystubs from March 13 going forward. Paulauskis said 340 gift cards worth $50 each to Publix have been distributed thus far. “We still have plenty of funds available,” she said.
After the organization gets the cards out to as many hospitality works in need as possible, Paulauskis said they will assess whether a second round is needed or if the remaining funds should be saved to aid those in a future hurricane or for a second wave of the coronavirus known as COVID-19.
“It’s going to take some time to rebuild,” Paulauskis said. “This is going to go on for a long time.”
Paulauskis said restaurants and other businesses interested in selling the hats or shirts should contact her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.