Join forces to get back to business as usual

United at Work fund collecting donations

by Angie Matthiessen, Executive Director – United Way of Charlotte County

The Golden Rule says do unto others as you would have them do unto you. This moral principle was the namesake for a chain of dry goods stores in Colorado and Wyoming in the late 1800s.

James Cash Penney became a partner with the original owners of these stores, eventually embarking out on his own. The chain grew and changed its name to the J. C. Penney Company in 1913.

The pride Penney took in his stores was equally matched with the pride he took in selecting employees who could carry on the chain’s good name, even after it was no longer Golden Rule. He valued his employees and understood that they were an integral part of his business success. “Growth is never by mere chance,” Penney said, “It is the result of forces working together.”

Charlotte County businesses, not unlike James Cash Penney’s dry goods stores, are built on a strong workforce. As our community takes steps of growth back to business as usual, it will only be through forces working together - - with an emphasis on our workforce.

Prior to Hurricane Ian, many of our residents were living paycheck to paycheck. Most did not have a rainy-day fund to tap into when a (literal) storm came. When we have talked in the past about ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed), it has been said that these individuals and families are one crisis away from becoming homeless. And now we have had our crisis.

In the 2018 Report, “ALICE:  A Study of Financial Hardship in Florida”, it was noted that, “The impact of natural and man-made disasters is often felt more by ALICE workers and low-income communities.” Our ALICE workers were impacted by this storm in indescribable ways, and their recovery is OUR recovery. They are the workforce that is needed to get Charlotte County back to business as usual.

The United at Work fund was created with this population in mind. In conjunction with a $500,000 matching grant from the Elsa and Peter Soderberg Charitable Foundation, United Way of Charlotte County (UWCC) is building a fund that will be a resource to Charlotte County’s workforce in the weeks ahead.

While there are many populations in Charlotte County that have needs due to Hurricane Ian, UWCC and the Soderberg Foundation have focused this particular fund on the local workforce as a means to position our community towards a faster overall recovery. We need a solid workforce in order to have a solid community.

Charlotte County is currently in the stage of disaster recovery where we are utilizing external relief funds. At this stage, it is imperative that residents look to Federal and State assistance that is immediately available. This includes applying for FEMA assistance at

While that is happening, UWCC is gearing up to leverage this fund with other local resources to meet unmet needs to support our workforce.  

We know that many businesses are not in a position to be able to contribute to this fund, so we look to those who can. We are in a stage of growth, and as Penney noted, we won’t get there by mere chance. We need forces working together to make this happen.

Corporate gifts have already come in from Waste Management, Bank OZK, and Ambitrans Ambulance to take advantage of the matching grant opportunity.
“Ambitrans Ambulance is pleased to support United at Work,” said CEO, Vanessa Oliver. “Many of our health care providers have been displaced or are living in heavily damaged homes, while continuing to provide the highest patient care to our community. Our team members are in need of both help and hope.”  

With your help, we can give help and give hope to our workforce and our community through United at Work. Every dollar in is two dollars that will go out - - out to Charlotte County’s workforce to get them, and our entire community, back to business as usual. Donations large and small will make an impact and can be made online at or by calling 941-627-3539.

For more information about United Way of Charlotte County’s mission:  Mobilizing the power of our community to break the cycle of poverty, please contact Angie Matthiessen, Executive Director. She can be reached at