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corner of content windowHurricane Frances News
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 15, 2004 
CONTACT: Jacob DiPietre 850-488-5394

Governor Bush Presents First Checks from Florida Hurricane Relief Fund

~ Charlotte County's Charley Survivors First to Get Aid ~

PUNTA GORDA - Governor Jeb Bush today presented checks from the Florida Hurricane Relief Fund for $100,000 each to the Charlotte Local Education Foundation and Family Health Centers of SW Florida, Inc. The money from Cingular Wireless and the Merck Company Foundation respectively, will be used to purchase school supplies and assist in the rebuilding of the health centers. This marks the first of many distributions of funds to counties impacted by recent hurricanes.

"We thank all those who have contributed to the Hurricane Relief Fund since Hurricane Charley hit our state on August 13," said Governor Bush. "As our residents prepare for Ivan's arrival and assess needs from Frances over Labor Day weekend, today we begin to get funds back out into the communities that were first hit."

Governor Bush also thanked both companies for their additional support in the impacted areas. Cingular made a $20,000 donation to the Red Cross and provided emergency calling centers throughout the state so those affected by the recent hurricanes could make free calls to their families.

"As many Floridians prepare for Hurricane Ivan and others try to return to life as normal, still many people are suffering from Charley's devastating effects," said Dan Norman, vice president and general manager of Cingular Wireless-Florida. "Thousands of young people in the Punta Gorda/Port Charlotte area are without a school to go back to, and we are fortunate to have the ability to aid in the restoration efforts."

Merck's donation today will be used for the organization's Charlotte Medical Office in Port Charlotte, which provides health care to the medically underserved. Merck Company, Inc., donated nearly $800,000 in medicines and medical supplies for Florida.

"Merck's thoughts are with those who have been so profoundly impacted by the devastating effects of Hurricane Charley, particularly the residents of Charlotte County, including some Merck employees," said David A. Ruth, executive vice president of The Merck Company Foundation. "We are pleased to support the longer-term recovery efforts, especially those efforts that will improve access to health care for the medically underserved and other special populations."

The Florida Hurricane Relief Fund now totals more than $7 million and is being directed to help Floridians impacted by the hurricanes. It is being allocated for needs that cannot be completely met by other relief organizations, federal and state agencies. Impacted communities are deciding how their allocations will be spent. The fund is managed by nonprofit Volunteer Florida Foundation.

Governor Bush recently appointed Florida leaders to guide the fund's growth. The steering committee is chaired by former U.S. Senator Connie Mack, with Tallahassee-based attorney Steve Uhlfelder serving as the voluntary CEO. Vice-chairmen are Joe Lacher, President-Florida, BellSouth Telecommunications, Inc., and Clarence Otis, CEO-designee of Darden Restaurants, Inc. Also joining the committee are Susan Story, President and CEO of Gulf Power Company, who will work to build business pledges, and Tony Carvajal, President of Carvajal Consulting and Management, who will strive to raise more than $2 million for the fund through association members. All committee members are serving as volunteers for the fund.

Governor Bush was joined at the presentation by Steve Uhlfelder, voluntary CEO of the fund and a Tallahassee-based attorney; Dr. David M. Klein, President of the Board of Trustees for the Charlotte Local Education Foundation; Lalai Hamric, President and CEO of Family Health Centers of SW Florida, Inc.; Gary Bonner, Director of Marketing, Cingular Wireless-Florida and Craig Hansen, Senior Government Affairs Manager, Merck Company, Inc.

All donations are tax-deductible and will be used for the hurricane relief effort in Florida. For more information, call 1-800-FL-HELP-1 or go to www.FLAHurricaneFund.org.

-30-

Last updated: July 08, 2005

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