Businesses pledge funds to help local Wilma victims
By Suzy Valentine
Businesses across Miami-Dade County pledged $2.5 million this week to a fund designed to get victims of Hurricane Wilma back on their feet.
The funding goal for Partnership for Recovery - a nonprofit formed to fund projects for the 5,000 families who were worst hit - is $25 million.
Donations are to finance security deposits and first and last months' rents before addressing permanent housing.
Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce CEO George Foyo, Homeless Trust chairman Ron Book, County Manager George Burgess and Miami Heat center Alonzo Mourning are to play leadership roles.
"We in the chamber have passed a resolution in the past week to support this initiative," Mr. Foyo said. "We're encouraging everyone in the chamber - we have 7,000 volunteers and 2,000 members - to get directly involved in this initiative. We are also working with the Coalition of Chambers, representing 26 chambers and 20,000 businesses, to get involved."
BankUnited officials have vowed to look at opportunities to finance affordable housing. "We hope that this will provide the catalyst for homeownership," said Carlos Fernandez-Gusman, executive vice president of banking services, "as well as temporary housing."
The county commission chairman encouraged government workers to play a role. "County employees accrue annual vacations and sick time," Joe Martinez said, "and they can donate that time. This is their money for their retirement, and we usually cap it at $250,000."
The Children's Trust, the Homeless Trust, the Homeless Coalitions, Norman Braman and the Carlos de la Cruz family have donated to the fund. In the corporate sector, Biscayne Landing/Swerdlow Boca Developers, BlueCross and BlueShield of Florida, Carnival Cruise Lines, the Codina Group, Eagle Brands, General Tobacco, Greenberg Traurig and Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines have pledged money.