After sweeping through Cuba, Hurricane Ian hit Florida as a high Category 4 storm on Sept. 28. Ian also made landfall in South Carolina on Sept. 30, and its impacts were felt across the Mid-Atlantic region. Damage assessments are ongoing; however, we do know the hurricane flooded homes, knocked out power for thousands, and damaged critical infrastructure.

Philanthropy Southeast hosted a webinar in partnership with the Center for Disaster Philanthropy and Florida Philanthropic Network titled Hurricane Ian: Responding to a Catastrophic Storm to help foundation, corporate, and individual donors learn about the storm, the impact of the devastating wind and flooding, and how they can help affected communities.

Janine Lee, president and CEO of Philanthropy Southeast, moderated the discussion. Panelists included Marcus Coleman, director for the department of Homeland Security Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships; Roxie Jerde, president and CEO at the Community Foundation of Sarasota County; and Sally Ray, director of domestic funds at the Center for Disaster Philanthropy.

Jerde provided a summary of the situation in southwest Florida. Some of the hardest hit areas include Fort Myers and Lee County, near where hurricane Ian made landfall, but Jerde reminded the audience that parts of Charlotte County and central and eastern Florida were also impacted. Jerde said immediate needs include basic supplies, childcare, and medical supplies and access.

Ray encouraged donors to consider cash donations rather than donating physical items. If physical donations are made, ensuring they are distributed to a partner that is experienced and has capacity to manage them is critical. Ray also said donors should allow their funding to be used flexibly.

Regarding the government’s response through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Coleman mentioned individual assistance applications and the deployment of disaster survivor assistance teams and civil rights advisors. Coleman said the agency is already thinking about longer-term needs, particularly in communities who are suffering but have not received media attention.

Florida and other parts of the southeast have experienced devastating disasters in the past, so there are learnings from these experiences that can be applied in the aftermath of hurricane Ian. Jerde said their foundation has begun raising funds and communicating that they will be used for intermediate and longer-term recovery. Funding for recovery, not only relief, is critical. Jerde also said there is an urgency to address injustices that exist so a more equitable outcome is achieved for everyone affected.

In the question and answer portion of the webinar, panelists addressed questions on mutual aid, faith-based groups and funding gaps. Coleman and Jerde discussed the critical role that mutual aid groups play due to their connection to community and their ability to generate key insights that help inform how additional services are provided.

Coleman shared how faith-based groups have lept into action and about their department’s multi-sector and multi-faith approach. Regarding funding gaps that are common in disasters like Hurricane Ian, the panelists spoke about the importance of funding in the intermediate and long-term, understanding the government response to identify gaps and providing support for disaster case management.

Watch the full webinar at the Center for Disaster Philanthropy.