by SC Reporter Wendy McMullen
“The need is now, and the need is great,” declared philanthropist Bill Harkey, explaining why he and wife, Laurie, donated $500,000 to Community Housing and Resources to help repair and rebuild the units of island workers and seniors which were damaged in Hurricane Ian on Sept.28,2022.
The informal ceremony took place outside Woodhaven, the most recent addition to the Below Market Rate Housing inventory on the island.
CHR Board President Roger Grogman, left, island residents and donors Bill and Laurie Harkey, and CHR Executive Director Nicole McHale. SC photo by Wendy McMullen
“Money is a tool. And your tools don’t do you any good if you don’t get them out of the toolbox,” continued the philanthropist who is donating more than $2 million to island non-profits devastated by Hurricane Ian.
“We’re in a position where we can afford to do this and we want to do it now for a couple of reasons,” he explained. “One is we want to see the results of our philanthropy and the other one is we hope to inspire somebody else to do the same sort of thing and to do it now rather than later.”
“It’s nice to put it in your estate plan. But you’re not around to see what happens after you’re gone,” he added.
Both Harkeys come from families with traditions of donating to charitable causes.
“I think it’s an excellent example to set for young people coming up,” Laurie commented. “And because the need is so great now, we’re very fortunate we can do it.”
“And we feel so good about it,” she concluded joyfully.
Construction material is piled up in front of CHR’s Woodhaven complex on Casa Ybel Road. The Harkey’s donation of $500,000 will enable CHR residents to return to their homes sooner. SC photo by Wendy McMullen
Bill is from California and spent almost 30 years in public affairs and instruction in the U.S. Army War College. Laurie, originally from Akron, Ohio, was a medical social worker.
The immediate goal of CHR is to repair the existing units in its program and get former residents back on the island, Nicole Mchale, CHR Interim Executive Director, said, noting the Harkeys’ generous donation will help get residents back into their homes as quickly as possible.
A longer term goal would be to add more units to the program.
“We’re going to need that for our workforce for the island,” McHale commented. “Rentals are scarce, and individuals have been displaced and are living in different areas.”
Community Housing and Resources has been providing Below Market Rate Housing to families living or working on the island for more than 30 years. Since its inception, the cost of housing has risen to such an extent that many people working on Sanibel can no longer afford to live on the island.
According to ALICE (Asset Limited Income Constrained Employed) statistics, 30 percent of Sanibel residents are employed with limited assets and constrained incomes.