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Gift cards being distributed to laid off workers

April 1, 2020
By NATHAN MAYBERG ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

With thousands of people estimated to have been pushed out of work from their jobs on Fort Myers Beach due to the combined government shutdown of the beaches, restaurants and hotels, a community effort to rally around the #WeAreFMB initiative to raise funds for workers is showing results.

According to organizer Janeen Paulauskis, of Barefoot Event Group, more than $15,000 has been raised so far to purchase gift cards for hospitality workers affected by the cutbacks of the workforce during the coronavirus pandemic.

Much of the funds were raised through the purchase of #WeAreFMB shirts. "The orders are still coming in," Paulauskis said.

Paulauskis has been setting up a table at Times Square to hand out $50 gift cards to needy workers. The gift cards are typically to Publix. The first batch of about 30 cards were given out Saturday. Paulauskis said there have been some delays in getting the card to people due to lack of income verification such as pay stubs. Otherwise, she said the process has gone "very smoothly."

Most restaurants and hotels on the island had trimmed their staffs to bare-bones since the town and county closed down the beaches on March 19. The latest blow arrived March 30 when the town council voted to close all commercial lodging establishments in town.

Due to the concerns about the coronavirus, Paulauskis is notifying workers approved for the gift card to stand six feet apart when they wait in line. Paulauskis is asking recipients to bring a pen to sign their names when they pick up their forms. As of Saturday, there had been about 125 applications for the aid.

The shirts are being sold for $15 at local businesses as well as online. To find out more about donating to the cause or applying for the cards, you can email Paulauskis at or through the Fort Myers Beach Community Foundation website at Workers must pre-register at by submitting a form (a photo of a filled-out form will be accepted) along with a photo of their paystub dated March 13 going forward. Verified registrants will be notified via phone or email.

The funds are being managed by the Fort Myers Beach Community Foundation with the support of a local CPA.



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