CFI Awards $75K Grant For Hiring of Chamber Member Services Director

provided to The Santiva Chronicle

Calli Johnson,Board Chair, Sanibel and Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce, left;  Chip Roach, Board Chair, Charitable Foundation of the Islands; Dolly Farrell, Executive Director, Charitable Foundation of the Islands; John Lai, President and CEO, Sanibel and Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce; Melissa  Congress, Vice Chair, Charitable Foundation of the Islands

The Sanibel & Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce will soon hire a member services manager, a critical position in helping the Chamber support businesses as they rebuild following the devastation of Hurricane Ian last September.

The position is made possible by a $75,000 grant from the Charitable Foundation of the Islands (CFI) through its Sanibel-Captiva Recovery Fund.

“We know that this position is necessary at this time, however without this grant, financially our chamber would not be able to make this hire,” said John Lai, Chamber President and CEO. “We appreciate that CFI agrees that the work of the Chamber is more important than ever. Their commitment to help the business community rebuild is evidenced by their swift action to make this grant available to us.”

The member services manager will be the point of contact for island businesses –existing Chamber members, new ones and even non-members – “to make sure we connect them with the resources they need to get reopened,” Lai said. “Some don’t even have a storefront right now.”

The Chamber recently collaborated with the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association, which will administer a $3 million grant to assist Southwest Florida businesses damaged by Hurricane Ian. The new member services manager will work with island businesses to write applications expeditiously so applicants can get the help they need.

With 90% of its members closed due to damage, the Chamber lost significant revenue. Its building was seriously damaged as well. While the building should be repaired in the next couple of months, it will take some time to recover financially.

The CFI grant will play a key role in helping the Chamber renew its key role in supporting the islands’ many businesses.

“We are proud to support the Chamber and look forward to continuing to assist it and the many businesses still working to reopen to serve the community,” said Dolly Farrell, CFI’s executive director.

CFI established the Sanibel-Captiva Recovery Fund in October 2022 to assist those who live or work on the islands by providing grants to organizations that positively impact the health, well-being and education of the community.

One donor made a generous contribution anonymously, directing that it go toward the best and highest use, but was hopeful that would involve helping to accelerate the recovery of small businesses on the islands.

The Nonprofit Employee Assistance program is another grant provided thanks to donors who generously contributed to the Sanibel-Captiva Recovery Fund. It awards up to $2,500 per individual to help them in recovering from the storm. CFI’s donors provided much-needed contributions in a relatively short time following the devastating hurricane. As of April 1st, $170,000 has been donated to employee assistance, helping 67 employees and their families.

Currently the Chamber and CFI are seeking additional sponsors and donors to accelerate the islands’ small business recovery efforts.

Individuals and foundations wishing to make a donation to the Sanibel-Captiva Recovery Fund may contact Dolly Farrell, Executive Director, at (239) 355-8614 or Visit for more information.

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