Sonny Kovanes knew just what to do after Community Housing & Resources (CHR) helped him find safe, affordable housing following Hurricane Ian: He told his boss.
Kovanes’ story and passion for helping Sanibel-Captiva recover prompted his employer, e-commerce giant Amazon.com Inc., to make a $25,000 gift to CHR. The gift will be used to help with CHR’s ongoing recovery efforts.
“We were so pleased CHR helped Sonny so quickly after the hurricane,” said Greg Rios, regional public relations specialist for Amazon. “When we heard his story and were aware of the destruction, we knew we had to get involved.”
Kovanes, Rios and other Amazon representatives met with CHR staff and residents at CHR’s Woodhaven property to deliver the check on Aug. 4. CHR Executive Director Nicole McHale thanked the Amazon team and briefed them on the recovery work.
“It’s so exciting for Amazon to make this gift at a time when we least expect it but need it most,” McHale said, adding that CHR is currently spending more on local recovery than it’s taking in.
“We are working on new roofs on all the buildings, replacing soffits and gutters, and two of our elevators are in disrepair. We have residents who are unable to move back into their homes because they need an elevator,” she explained. “While we’ve largely remediated our properties, a few still have major water damage that require additional attention.”
Financial and volunteer support for CHR are crucial in helping the community recover, McHale added.
Bringing 130-mile-per-hour winds, torrential rain and a 12-foot storm surge, Hurricane Ian devastated the islands. Low-income households faced the toughest challenge.
Sonny Kovanes and his mother, Denise, moved into CHR housing in January 2022. While she worked at Bailey’s General Store, a local grocery store on Sanibel Island, Sonny worked as an Amazon delivery driver. In September, Ian brought a double wallop: The storm destroyed their apartment building and wrecked the store, putting Denise out of work. With no place to live, the two evacuated to Ohio.
CHR kept in touch while restoring the apartment. Once it was made livable again, CHR contacted them, and they returned to Sanibel.
Rios said he heard Kovanes’ story just as the company began working on a video about how Amazon continued deliveries to Sanibel in the wake of Ian.
“Immediately, we knew this could be a bigger story,” Rios said. “We heard his story about how he delivers to the island, how he supports the island, and how CHR supports him. Once hearing his story, we knew we wanted to give back and support him and CHR any way we can.”
Amazon’s video crew tagged along for the presentation to CHR, which will be included in the final production.
“We are so grateful and thankful to help this community and pleased to be a part of it,” said Morgan Cassel, human resources business partner for Amazon Logistics. “I know Sonny is excited to be part of this story that is giving back to his personal community. We appreciate Sanibel and CHR allowing us to come do this.”
Added Rios, “Sanibel Island and the surrounding areas are still rebuilding following the destruction of Hurricane Ian, and we hope others can be inspired to support the island any way they can.”
Learn more about Community Housing & Resources at sanibelchr.org.
About Community Housing & Resources
Community Housing & Resources, Inc. (CHR) is a 501 (c) (3) Not for Profit organization with the mission to provide affordable housing for families and individuals who work and who serve our island communities. CHR (Community Housing and Resources, Inc.) was formed in 1979 as a 501(c)(3) No for Profit organization to address the growing need for affordable housing in the Sanibel community. In 1983, an ordinance was passed by the City of Sanibel that established the Affordable Housing Program and CHR was designated as the city’s housing foundation. Today, CHR owns 87 affordable housing units at various locations on Sanibel, including 73 rental properties — one of which is a 12-unit complex just for senior residents — and 14 Limited Equity Ownership (LEO) homes through the Coast and Islands Community Land Trust.