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How a unique partnership helped The Gathering House recover from Ian: Moore About Business

The Gathering House
Gathering House by Dwelling Place Project

"Verizon had a beautiful dream of how they could take some of their resources and help small businesses after the hurricane," said Sarah Owen, president & CEO of The Collaboratory.

The Collaboratory, along with representatives fromFlorida Tax Watch and Verizon, recently honored 25 Southwest Florida small businesses impacted by Hurricane Ian. Each business received a $10,000 grant out of a $250,000 donationfrom Verizon, to The Collaboratory. The Gathering House was one of the grant recipients.

Opened by Jaime and Matt Butcher, The Gathering House was created in honor of their son, whom they lost unexpectedly in 2019. Jaime Butcher shared that The Gathering house is about creating a place for people to reconnect, restore, and nourish themselves.

She then told their hurricane recovery story.

"Well, the storm came and as we know, wrecked havoc on our community. Unbelievably, The Gathering House stood strong and never even lost power. Our personal home, only four blocks away, flooded with over 30 inches of water inside our lower level. Outside of our personal challenges, we could see there were so many that were needing hot meals, a place to process together, a place to serve and be served, a place to be in community. Gathering House literally and figuratively rose to the occasion, providing light in the darkness, hope in the brokenness."

The Butchers were encouraged to apply for funding offered through The Collaboratory and received notice in December.

"I was about to leave the house and grab the mail on the way out. I sat in my car and looked at this envelope that said Florida Tax Watch. I have to admit, I was thinking, "Oh, great. Now, what?" When she opened the envelope, she had received a $10,000 check. Jaime Butcher said, "That moment in my car was filled with tears and hope and surrender. It wasn't about the money, it was about someone else sharing life and resources that someone else didn't have."

The Butchers were able to use the funds for The Gathering House as well within their community.

"With the funds you provided us, we were able to make decisions to bring on a little extra help to balance what we were facing personally. To grow our mission amidst the challenges of the storm, we also sent out hope and comfort packages along with $500 checks to several other families affected by the storm," said Butcher. "So again, here we are celebrating with deep gratitude what we can accomplish not apart but together."

Jorge Zapata, Verizon's Florida manager of small business operations, said their funding goes beyond financial assistance.

"It pleases me that Verizon can help out, that these grants that we provided, the $250,000 to 25 businesses in this community, will help you financially. But we're also providing mentorship coaching as well as, obviously, our technology. So hopefully this will help set you up, not just to restart your business, but to thrive into the future."

This round was so successful, Verizon announced a second round of funding for small businesses.

Karen Moore is a contributing partner for WGCU and the publisher of SWFL Business Today.

Publisher of SWFL Business Today