TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Today, First Lady Casey DeSantis announced that Florida’s Aging Network received a $400,000 grant from the WellMed Charitable Foundation to continue support of seniors in their recovery from Hurricane Ian through Florida’s Hope Florida – A Pathway to Purpose Hope Hero volunteer program.


“We’ve seen the power of our Hope Hero volunteers in full force following Hurricane Ian’s devastation in counties where seniors made up more than half of the population,” said First Lady Casey DeSantis. “Our vision is to have a network of businesses, nonprofits and caring individuals who can help support vulnerable seniors. I’m so appreciative of the WellMed Charitable Foundation for helping us turn that vision into a reality.”


The Hope Hero volunteer program was announced by the First Lady in late August 2022 as a part of the Hope Florida expansion to the Department of Elder Affairs. Hope Florida – A Pathway to Purpose provides support for Florida’s elders by breaking down traditional community silos to unite the private sector, faith-based institutions, non-profits and government entities to increase assistance for seniors in need, while helping to facilitate opportunities for seniors looking to serve. The Hope Hero volunteer program offers a new way for retirees to give back to their communities. Following Hurricane Ian, Hope Hero volunteers were deployed to all affected areas to volunteer at shelters, provide yard clean up, deliver meals to homebound elders and more.


“Hope Heroes is a wonderful demonstration of how public/private partnerships help us do more than we could individually. We’re so proud to support an initiative that addresses the needs of older Floridians struggling with the damage from Hurricane Ian, and that also builds a strong foundation of volunteerism and service for years to come,” said Carol Zernial, WellMed Charitable Foundation Executive Director.


The donation from the WellMed Charitable Foundation was given to Advantage Aging Solutions, the Area Agency on Aging of North Florida, and will help provide direct support for seniors to get back on their feet after Hurricane Ian. A portion of the funds will be used to enhance a communication system to disseminate requests from seniors in need in real time to volunteers ready to assist.


“Upon the First Lady issuing a call for volunteers after Hurricane Ian, we saw over 200 people sign up to help seniors in Southwest Florida. The feedback from those on the ground has been inspiring and emotional,” said Department of Elder Affairs Secretary Michelle Branham. “Hope Hero volunteers are caring citizens who want to help their older neighbors. We are so grateful to the WellMed Charitable Foundation for giving this program the resources to expand.”


“We are proud to be partners in this collaboration where the needs of seniors can be prioritized and met, especially following such devastation in Southwest and Central Florida,” said Lisa Bretz, CEO of Advantage Aging Solutions.


To become a Hope Hero volunteer or to learn about additional volunteer opportunities, call 800-96-ELDER or visit helpcreatehope.com.




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