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Collier County Organizations to Share $2.7 Million Gift from United Arab Emirates for Hurricane Irma Relief Projects

August 9, 2018

- Local gift part of $10 million UAE pledge to help statewide recovery efforts -

- Recipients include United Way of Collier County, Collier County Public Schools,

and Grace Place for Children and Families -

(August 8, 2018, Naples, Florida) – As part of its commitment to help communities in Florida recover from Hurricane Irma, officials from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), The United Way of Collier County, Collier County Public Schools (CCPS) and Grace Place for Children and Families today announced the disbursement of $2.7 million in funds to help rehabilitate and improve areas affected by Hurricane Irma. Each organization will receive a portion of the gift from the UAE, which is part of a larger relief pledge to the state of Florida of $10 million for Hurricane Irma relief efforts.

“The UAE is excited to be working with the United Way and Collier County to directly help families in this community,” said Dana Al Marashi, Head of Heritage and Social Affairs at the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC.  “This is what friends do for each other in times of need. As a friend of the United States, as a friend of the residents of Florida, and now as a friend of people across Collier County, the UAE is delighted to be able to help in some small way.”

The United Way of Collier County will receive a portion of the gift to fund its continuing Irma relief programming and assistance, including projects that assist the most affected members of the Collier County community and help them become more economically stable in the long term. 

“We are honored to work with the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates as a trusted partner”, said Steve Sanderson, President & CEO of The United Way of Collier County. “This donation is truly transformative and game changing providing immediate and longer-term relief for thousands of asset limited hard working families still plagued by this devastating hurricane. We are so thankful. This collaboration has been outstanding.”   

The United Way of Collier County will also oversee, manage and distribute the grant to Collier County Public Schools (CCPS) and Grace Place for Children and Families for specific projects.


When Hurricane Irma hit Collier County, Florida, on September 10, 2017, it damaged, and in some circumstances decimated, the technology infrastructure in many schools across the county.

CCPS will receive over $1 million to help the school district overcome the debilitating effects of the hurricane and provide students in Immokalee and Everglades City with internet access, which will be essential for their future success. Specifically, the grant will fund the installation of internet access points on top of towers at eight local public schools in Immokalee and Everglades City. These points will also provide Wi-Fi hot spots to students throughout these communities.  The schools that will receive Wi-Fi transmitters include:


·         Immokalee High School 

·         Bethune Education Center

·         Highlands Elementary School

·         Lake Trafford Elementary School

·         Village Oaks Elementary School

·         Eden Park

·         Everglades City 

·         Pinecrest Elementary School

“Connection to the Internet and digital resources are important educational advantages and can provide equity to all students, said Greg Turchetta, Executive Director of Communications and Community Engagement for the Collier County Public Schools. “This wonderful humanitarian gift will provide this equity for the students of Immokalee and Everglades City and reduce the digital divide for these communities.  For these children, access helps to ensure academic growth and access beyond their own communities and will broaden their world academically, personally and socially. Collier County public school is thankful to the UAE and the embassy for providing this opportunity.”

Grace Place Children and Families

In addition to funding for the United Way of Collier County and CCPS, a portion of the grant has been awarded to Grace Place for Children and Families, which provided relief to the Golden Gate community after the hurricane. 

Over $1 million of the grant will help restore the organization’s playgrounds, hard court and soccer field, and improve its technology infrastructure and food pantry.  The funds will also help with needed repairs to 30 homes of disadvantaged families throughout the Golden Gate community that were damaged by Hurricane Irma.

 “Grace Place has become a home away from home to many of our students and families,” said Mario Valle, Board Chair of Grace Place for Children and Families. “Despite the many obstacles our organization faced after the hurricane, the Grace Place campus was widely recognized as the primary relief center for families in Golden Gate. This grant will ensure we have the resources necessary to provide safety and relief in the event of another storm. We could not be more grateful for the UAE’s support to improve our facilities.”

The UAE has an extensive record of helping US communities recover from natural disasters – from New Orleans to New Jersey after Hurricanes Katrina (2005) and Sandy (2012), to Joplin, Missouri (2011), which was devastated by one of the largest tornadoes ever recorded in the U.S. 


Media Contact: 

Spencer Smith, United Way of Collier County

239.261.7112 ext. 203


About United Way of Collier County

United Way of Collier County  (UWCC) works to advance the common good by focusing on the building blocks for a good quality of life – education, income, health, and safety net services. A volunteer-driven organization, UWCC partners with hundreds of volunteers and 26 local charities to provide hundreds of human service programs and annually serves over 100,000 Collier residents.  United Way of Collier County’s VITA, Volunteer Collier and Collier 2-1-1 focus on making an impact in our community. To give, advocate or volunteer, call (239) 261-7112 or visit

About the United Arab Emirates

The UAE is a source of stability, tolerance, innovation and growth in the Arabian Gulf and around the world. The United States and the UAE are close friends and strong allies, working together to promote regional security, create economic prosperity and address pressing global challenges. In fact, the UAE is the largest export market for US goods in the Middle East and more US naval vessels visit UAE ports than any other port outside the United States. Cultural, educational and medical partnerships between the UAE and US are spurring innovation, inspiring creativity and increasing understanding in both countries.

For more information: and @UAEEmbassyUS. 

About Grace Place for Children and Families

Grace Place for Children and Families is a nonprofit education center committed to putting faith into action – providing pathways out of poverty by educating children and families.  Working across the life spectrum, Grace Place currently enrolls over 800 individuals in its three educational programs: the nationally recognized Bright Beginnings program, two School Age Programs and an Adult Education program. Grace Place also works extensively with community partners to provide medical and mental health screenings, referrals for other services and financial literacy classes to the Golden Gate community.

About Collier County Public Schools

By providing exceptional educational opportunities that motivate and engage each student, all students will complete school prepared for ongoing learning as well as community and global responsibilities.    The School District of Collier County serves more than 47,000 total students in 29 elementary schools, 10 middle schools, 8 high schools, and a PreK-thru-12 school (Everglades City School). There are also 13 Alternative School Programs.   The district’s two technical colleges (Lorenzo Walker Technical College and Immokalee Technical College) and adult education programs (located at several sites throughout the district) offer students both short- and long-term programs.