TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, whose Congressional district included many of the Northwest Florida counties and towns most devastated by Hurricane Michael, has joined the leadership team of the REBUILD 850 initiative. Graham will serve as co-chair of the effort, along with former Florida House Speakers Allan Bense and Will Weatherford.
“The people of North Florida have always been proudly self-reliant, but in the unprecedented aftermath of Hurricane Michael, they need all of Florida to pull together on their behalf,” Graham said. “REBUILD 850 will play an important role in rebuilding our communities and helping the families hit hardest by the storm, which is why I am proud to join this vital initiative and to serve with Speakers Bense and Weatherford.”
Bense said Graham’s deep history in the region and leadership skills will add valuable perspective as the affected communities work to recover and rebuild.
“Gwen’s caring leadership and deep connections to the region are why we asked her to co-chair REBUILD 850,” Bense said. “It doesn’t matter what part of Florida you call home – we’re all in this together, and all Floridians must pull together to help our neighbors in need.”
Added Weatherford: “Hurricane Michael didn’t care about the political affiliation of the people whose lives it impacted, and recovery must also rise above any divisions. There is nothing more important than helping our communities get back on their feet.”
REBUILD 850 unites the resources and efforts of Volunteer Florida, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the Florida Chamber Foundation, the Florida League of Cities, the Florida Association of Counties, United Way of Florida, the American Red Cross, the Florida Press Association, the Florida Association of District School Superintendents, the FAIR Foundation, “Get Ready, Florida!”, the Florida School Boards Association, the Florida Society of Association Executives, United Way of the Big Bend, and the Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce.
REBUILD 850’s objectives urge people to donate, volunteer, visit and invest in the affected region. The mission is to help residents of areas devastated by the power of Michael while promoting commerce in communities – ranging from Panama City Beach to Pensacola – that escaped the worst of the storm’s wrath and remain open for business.
Donations to REBUILD 850 will be administered by Volunteer Florida’s Florida Disaster Fund. The Florida Disaster Fund is the state’s private fund established to assist communities following disasters. The funds are distributed to approved organizations that are serving affected individuals throughout both disaster response and long-term recovery. During response, these organizations and volunteers are assisting with tree removal and debris cleanup, tarp installation, mucking out and gutting of homes, and food distribution. Long-term recovery includes rebuilding homes, businesses, and communities while offering financial guidance and planning services.
Individuals can donate or volunteer to help REBUILD 850 by going to www.rebuild850.org