Hurricane Ian Update: September 30, 2022 - Children First

Hurricane Ian Update: September 30, 2022

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Hurricane Ian Update: September 30, 2022

EDITED: October 3, 2022

September 30, 2022  

Dear Children First Family,

We hope this communication finds you and your loved ones safe and well. In accordance with Sarasota County School District’s announcement today, Children First will continue to be closed through Monday, October 3 and until further notice so that we can support everyone directly impacted by Hurricane Ian and ensure the safety and well-being of our children, families, and you, our dedicated and incredible staff.

Children First is actively assessing and cleaning up each of our locations that are accessible from Hurricane Ian. As you are all aware, there has been much devastation across our county and our south county staff, families and locations have been particularly impacted.

Unless you have received official authorization, please do not attempt to access any of our sites. This could result in a danger to your safety as we are securing our sites for reopening.

For needs like shelter, groceries, drinking water, gas, etc. we are conducting an individual-by-individual assessment of our staff and families to determine, short medium and long term needs to provide resources. Currently, our plan is to phase in services as soon as we know what our staff resources are, and we need your assistance with this effort to report on your status and the status of the families you support.  We understand that for many, especially in south county, that will not be possible due to the devastation you have experienced. The personal safety of you and our children, families is our highest priority.

Children First Staff and Families:

We continue to receive reports that several of our staff had had major damage to their homes. Our goal is to reach every staff member and learn of your safety and needs status. If you can, please report your well-being to your supervisors. Conversely, we ask that all supervisors actively reaching out to the staff you supervise to the extent it is possible for you to do so. Our goal is to maintain active communication as much as possible.

We ask that all staff in touch with our families please report out the information on their well-being to their supervisors as soon as possible.

Our efforts have begun to help support staff and families affected by Hurricane Ian. We need to assess if you/they are ok, not ok, and what specific needs they have so we can best support.

Please use and share the following resources for support from our national, state, and local governments:

Friday, 9/30 from 4-6 p.m., All Faiths Food Bank will have a mass distribution of Meals Ready to Eat and water at 8171 Blaikie Ct., Sarasota. Details are being finalized for a distribution point farther south. For more information and additional resources, visit:

Sarasota County Distribution sites providing ice, water, food and tarps will operate from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, October 1 through Monday, October 3:

  • Twin Lakes Park, 6700 Clark Road in Sarasota;
  • Hyundai of Venice, 200 Jacaranda Blvd.;
  • San Pedro Catholic Church, 14380 Tamiami Trail in North Port;
  • Englewood Center Plaza, 200 S. Indiana Ave.

Those coming to the site for the supplies should be prepared to produce identification confirming their residency in Sarasota County.



  • Florida survivors who live in Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Hardee, Hillsborough, Lee, Manatee, Pinellas and Sarasota counties can apply for federal assistance at, by calling 800-621-FEMA (3362) or by using the FEMA App. Survivors using a relay service, such as a video relay service, captioned telephone service or others, can give the FEMA operator the number for that service.
  • Volunteer agencies are preparing to perform feeding operations including the American Red Cross, Florida Baptist, Salvation Army, Feeding Florida, Farm Share, Midwest Food Bank, Operation BBQ Relief, Mercy Chefs and World Central Kitchen. FEMA and its partners have capacity to serve tens of thousands of meals per day.
  • Medically dependent residents of Florida who need electricity to operate medical equipment, transport services to evacuated due to a medical condition or need help getting medication during a disaster can register for assistance at
  • DCF’s federal waiver request to release SNAP benefits early in preparation for Hurricane Ian was approved, and food assistance benefits were released on 9/27to Floridians that may be impacted by Hurricane Ian. More information here: ACCESS Florida – Florida Department of Children and Families (
  • The American Red Cross of Central Florida – Southwest Florida serves Charlotte, DeSoto, Hardee, Manatee, and Sarasota counties.

NHSA Disaster Relief Fund

As a member of NHSA, we have access to the NHSA Disaster Relief Fund, which was created to assist NHSA member Head Start programs, their staff, and their families with unmet financial needs caused by natural disasters. Awards have been made to reimburse staff or families for car or building insurance deductibles as well as for temporary living expenses incurred by Head Start parents or staff with storm damage that made their homes uninhabitable.

The NHSA Disaster Relief Fund is a limited resource and designed specifically to cover expenses that may not be reimbursed by insurance or through federal disaster aid. To learn more about applying or make a contribution, visit:

FEMA Public Assistance

FEMA provides grants to state, tribal, territorial, and local governments, and certain organizations for debris removal, life-saving emergency protective measures, and the repair, replacement, or restoration of disaster-damaged publicly owned and certain nonprofit facilities. Learn more here.

Disaster Distress

Stress, anxiety, and other depression-like symptoms are common reactions after a disaster. To assist residents in impacted areas in coping with the stress of disasters, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration activated the Disaster Distress Helpline. The toll-free, multilingual, and confidential crisis helpline provides 24/7 crisis counseling to all residents in the United States and its territories. Call 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.

Please be reminded that as staff, you are provided short term and long-term mental health resources through our employee assistance program available at no cost to our staff:

Ways to let others know how they can help:

We know we have families and staff whose homes and lives have been devastated. While our local foundations are stepping up to the plate and we will be working with them, Children First will also be coming to the direct aid of our children, families, and staff. Fortunately, our current challenge matching campaign will allow us to double our impact to support those that have been severely impacted by this storm. If you have folks reaching out to you with questions on how they can help our children, families, and staff, please direct them to make their donations directly to us at:

We care about you and your loved ones!

Thank you and stay safe,

Jessica, Philip, and Kathleen

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