Featured in Florida Weekly on February 20, 2020.
“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”
That profound quote from Mahatma Gandhi inspired Nina Gray, a retired nonprofit CEO, to give birth to the Collier Resource Center four years ago. She wanted to improve the lives of others and believed she could find a way to make that happen.
“Our organization exists to help people with information and referrals,” says CRC founder and board chair Ms. Gray. “However, what we do in the way of client advocacy and case management is what makes us unique.”
Ms. Gray said that many of the people who contact the CRC simply don’t know where to turn for help. “Navigating the maze of health and human services organizations is daunting, but our 15-person team of compassionate and respectful volunteers knows the community well and, as a result, is able to connect clients with the assistance they need to enhance their quality of life.”
And what the CRC does seems to be making a difference in the lives of the 620 people it served this past year. A short list of the ways it has assisted clients includes helping a mom with a Zika virus baby find a crib, car seat and diapers for her severely disabled child — at no charge. CRC connected a seriously ill woman with a no-kill animal shelter to assure her that when she dies her beloved dog won’t be euthanized. CRC volunteers located a grief recovery group for a father whose only child was murdered. They made a connection with a gift card resource for a homeless woman requiring work clothing and non-skid shoes to do her job. Then they found a job for a senior citizen who desperately needed additional income. They arranged for respite care for an exhausted family looking for help in caring for their seriously ill mother. And one more example — they worked with three organizations to provide furniture, appliances and other essentials needed by a financially strapped single mom.
“It’s a moving experience to listen to each client’s story,” said Betsy Eschholz, a CRC volunteer. “And we hear the relief in a client’s voice when they find someone who truly listens to them and tries to help them.”
“Everyone on our team has so much empathy and we share a ‘can-do’ attitude,” said Marioly Soto, a CRC program coordinator and the organization’s only paid employee. “We are kind and we listen, and the people we’re trying to help express appreciation, simply because a caring person was there for them.”
A CRC board officer, Sheryl Soukup, understands that it can be very frustrating for people who are unable to get their needs met after calling multiple places.
“What we provide is the help of a case manager who can assess needs and connect the person seeking assistance with the appropriate resources while holding their hand along the way,” she said. “Sometimes this involves removing barriers by advocating on behalf of the client. And that’s why CRC was created by Ms. Gray in the first place.”
Barriers CRC clients face are financial constraints, a lack of safe and affordable housing or reliable transportation, a lack of English language proficiency, no access to a computer or the internet, or no computer skills, as well as, what Ms. Gray calls “pride and fear.”
“We are seeing an increase in the number of seniors seeking housing assistance because their monthly income from Social Security isn’t enough to pay the rent. And 68 percent of our clients are women seeking help for their entire family. They’re dedicated to improving the lives of their parents, spouses, children and even extended family,” Ms. Gray said.
CRC’s services are free and confidential.
“We do what we do with a $50,000 budget, so financial assistance from the community is always welcome,” said Ms. Gray.
To learn about ways you can help, visit www.collierresourcecenter.org.If you are struggling and don’t know where to turn for help, call 239-434-2030 or email email@example.com.