Sarasota Magazine: One Year Stronger – Hurricane Ian Recovery and Rebuilding

Sarasota Magazine: One Year Stronger – Hurricane Ian Recovery and Rebuilding

Two women standing outside in botanical gardens with two crafted flamingos.
Peace River Gardens 10 months after Hurricane Ian hit.

The following article was written by Gulf Coast Community Foundation and appeared on Sarasota Magazine’s website on October 1, 2023

It seems unthinkable that on September 28, 2023, one year will have passed since our region was struck by Hurricane Ian, one of the most powerful storms ever recorded in the U.S.

Gulf Coast Community Foundation’s (Gulf Coast’s) team responded immediately with critical humanitarian aid to hard-hit southern Sarasota County including Venice, North Port, Englewood, Charlotte County, Lee County, and DeSoto County. Our Board of Directors approved funding within 24 hours of the storm’s impact and generous donors locally and from across the country matched it quickly, providing aid to volunteer groups and nonprofits hit hardest. This not only allowed us to extend care to children and adults, when they needed it most, but to fulfill our purpose as a community foundation in responding to our community’s greatest needs. Now that the sun is shining, hard work is still happening to bring families back to their homes, some who lost nearly everything.

Our Hurricane Ian Recovery Initiative has supported over 200 grants to our resilient nonprofit partners. Together with our generous donors, we have provided $3.5 million in immediate relief to area nonprofits devastated by the storm. We truly are stronger, together.

Of the many hopeful stories we have received, two nonprofit organizations who experienced extraordinary damage from Hurricane Ian are highlighted below.

outside of torn down building from a hurricane
Venice Theatre is rebuilding and repairing a year after Hurricane Ian.

Historic Community Theater

Venice Theatre, a longstanding partner of Gulf Coast’s, experienced tremendous devastation after Hurricane Ian destroyed the 432-seat Jervey Theatre, unveiling a jaw-dropping visual for all to see who crossed the bridge into historic downtown Venice.

We provided Venice Theatre with multiple grants totaling $640,000 to support their staff and the rebuilding of the Jervey Theatre. The company has been able to accomplish great feats with the help of Gulf Coast and many supporters.

In January 2023, electricity was restored in the main building and its 90-seat Pinkerton Theatre was ready to host shows again and continues to do so. The theater has maintained its staff and has worked diligently with Sweet Sparkman Architecture and Interiors, Magnum Builders, and Boone Law Firm to apply and be approved for rezoning, a height exception, and the exterior redesign.

The first major construction permit for rebuilding the back wall of the building has been approved with work expected to start soon.

Due to increased costs, more damage being uncovered, and modern building codes, Venice Theatre must raise an additional $7 million dollars to make a full comeback. The best timeline for the reopening of the Jervey Theatre is late 2024.

Rural Botanical Oasis

We provided Peace River Botanical & Sculpture Gardens (Peace River Gardens) a $20,000 grant to assist them in re-opening to the public. The funding helped with their hurricane rebuilding, replanting, and re-blooming efforts. They are a sanctuary of art and nature in rural Charlotte County that took a direct hit from the eye of the storm on the Peace River.

We sat down with Peace River Gardens’ Executive Director Tanna Horner to learn more.

We know that your organization and team suffered greatly in the days that followed Hurricane Ian. Can you tell us more?

big tree on its side after hurricane hit
Damage from Hurricane Ian to Peace River Gardens.


Horner, with tears in her eyes shared: “It was a traumatic time. We couldn’t generate any revenue after Hurricane Ian and we needed help reopening our doors and replanting. My first reaction was, ‘How am I going to pay my staff?’ It looked like an atomic bomb went off here. Our local community was also affected badly. I reached out to Gulf Coast Community Foundation for help and the speed and efficiency they gave was incredible. Other things took months, but Gulf Coast allowed me to breathe, knowing that payroll is covered and that we will be okay. It gave me faith, faith to our Board of Directors, and a lift of the spirits. It propelled others to give.”

The good news is that Peace River Gardens has made huge progress since Hurricane Ian. They have reopened, but there is still more to be done each month. “We lost 250 trees and 80% of our plant life. Our organization is stronger because of Hurricane Ian, but it’s been a long road of recovery,” said Horner.

“The grant from Gulf Coast allowed me to keep every staff member employed – 15 individuals total. The process to apply for a grant from Gulf Coast in the event of a crisis was seamless. Until you go through this, you don’t know how catastrophic something can be. The storm brought our community together. It strengthened our belief in your organization and our trust that we are here to support the community. From the bottom of my heart, I am grateful for your donors and for Gulf Coast,” concluded Horner.

To learn more about Gulf Coast’s Hurricane Ian Recovery Initiative and the nonprofits who received assistance, click here.