FGCU Decides Not to Reopen “Eagles in Need” Hurricane Relief Fund Applications


Photo courtesy of Julia Morales, Unsplash

Jusolyn Flower, Staff Writer

Only two weeks after Hurricane Ian touched down in Southwest Florida, FGCU paused the “Eagles in Need” Hurricane Relief Fund to collect donations and process existing applications. 

The university has now closed applications to focus on providing more one-on-one accommodation for faculty and students still needing financial support.

“All the applications submitted were answered, and the university decided not to relaunch the application form as emergency needs continued to be met by the student and employee-facing teams,” Dr. Mitch Cordova, Vice President for Student Success and Enrollment Management, said. 

“We are relying on our existing assistance structure, where employees should connect with Human Resources and students should connect with Student Care Services to address the storm’s financial impact on their lives,” Cordova said.

According to Cordova, 3,941 FGCU students and 295 FGCU employees impacted by Hurricane Ian were assisted by the fund, with more than $1.9 million distributed, as of Dec. 1.

But once applications closed, it did not stop students from finding ways to provide for their fellow Eagles.

FGCU’s Student Government has acknowledged an overflow of students, throughout the community, who are struggling with the financial stress left by Hurricane Ian. During Nov., its members organized fundraising events to directly benefit those students.

“We wanted to focus on how we could get funding for students who had been significantly impacted by Hurricane Ian, in a way that was also fun and engaged the community,” Student Body President Grace Brannigan said.

On Wednesday, Nov. 30, FGCU’s Student Government held a Hurricane Ian Relief Raffle featuring free snacks, T-shirts, and prizes for those who participated. Each raffle ticket was priced at $1, but they also offered deals such as 12 tickets for $10 and 25 tickets for $20.

According to Brannigan, Student Government did not purchase any prizes. The Executive Branch reached out to FGCU entities, local businesses, and anyone willing to donate prizes for the raffle.

“A lot of students who came out were much more passionate about helping other Eagles in need than they were about winning prizes, which was really wonderful,” Brannigan said.

Chief Justice Julianna Manes said that the turnout was amazing and completely exceeded expectations.

“I am so honored to be a part of work like this. I have lived in Florida for the majority of my life and have seen the devastating effects of hurricanes,” Manes said. “Now to see them right on my doorstep is heartbreaking. I want to give back, as much as possible, to support our neighbors through this tough time.”

Student Government also hosted a proceeds night at Poke Fusion, located in University Village Shops on Friday, Nov. 18. A portion of every purchase made that day contributed to the “Eagles in Need” fund.

Between the raffle and the proceeds night, Student Government raised $900.

Brannigan said that Student Government is working with Student Care Services and the Dean of Students Office to identify students who have completely lost their homes, and the money raised will go directly to them.

“Of all the things that I’ve done as the Student Body President, the most important things have been centered around helping students through this hurricane and recover in the aftermath,” Brannigan said. “We are using our resources and our time to impact these people when their lives have genuinely taken a turn for the worst in the last couple of months.”

Anette Izquierdo, a sophomore at FGCU, is one of the several students who is still waiting to receive aid.

She lives with her family in west Cape Coral and their home sustained severe damage from flooding and high wind speeds. They ended up spending two weeks without running water and three weeks without proper electricity.

According to Izquierdo, a tree fell on top of her vehicle, which she had purchased just a month before the storm, with money from her personal savings.

“I come from a low-income, Hispanic household – just me, my mom, and my four-year-old sister,” Izquierdo said. “My mom had to go out of her way and take out a loan in order to buy a generator, spend money on the daily gallons of gas needed for the generator, plus the money needed for all the repairs around the house.”

Izquierdo expressed her frustration with FGCU pausing the “Eagles in Need” fund. She tried to apply for the fund in November, only to find out that applications were closed.

“I could have used that money to help my mother and lessen the debt for me as well,” Izquierdo said. “I truly feel disappointed…I love FGCU, but this situation could have been handled differently.”

Cordova encourages students whose success may be impacted by crises, life stressors, and other obstacles to contact Student Care Services, where they can receive care and assistance.

“We want to give back to our FGCU family as much as we can and support them in these hard times,” Manes said.

Manes said Student Government will discuss further plans for more fundraising efforts for students who are still enduring the effects of Hurricane Ian.

“I am incredibly proud to be helping my fellow Eagles. I know that if the positions were reversed, and I were the person in need, this community would help me,” Brannigan said.