SWFL environmental nonprofits do what they must during pandemic

Reporter: Stephanie Byrne Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:
Credit: WINK News.

As we adapt to changes during the coronavirus pandemic, environmental nonprofits do the same.

We spoke to a handful of environmental nonprofit groups in Southwest Florida recently. They told us, despite some hardships, their mission to protect our area’s wildlife and ecosystem remains the same.

“I’ve been here 21 years, and we’ve never seen anything quite like this,” said Robert Moher, the president and CEO of Conservancy of Southwest Florida.

Amid COVID-19, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida in Collier County had to limit its visitors.

“When you close your nature center during the busiest time of the year, there are revenue impacts,” Morher said. “So we have had significant revenue impacts in this fiscal year.”

The Conservancy isn’t alone. On top of canceling a major fundraiser in spring, CROW Clinic on Sanibel Island closed its visitor center for the time being.

“And were closed for three months,” said Alison Hussey, the clinic’s executive director. “That really affected our income statements and our outreach.”

Sarah Owen is president and CEO of Southwest Florida Community Foundation in Fort Myers. In times of disaster, basic human necessities come to the forefront, she said.

“There’s a balance there of looking at the short-term view and wanting to end that immediate suffering but also understanding that we can’t abandon the long view either,” Owen said. “That we have to keep our eye on things like the arts and the environment, so they’re not totally decimated when we come out of the disaster.”

CROW Clinic has since reopened its visitor center, but visitors must wear a mask. Conservancy of Southwest Florida’s nature center is still closed as the Dalton Discovery Center at the property undergoes renovations, which has been in the works since before the onset of the pandemic.

To overcome hardship, these groups use technology to share stories, engage students and create interest in their cause.

“The important thing is people’s health and for us,” said captain Chris Wittman, the program director of Captains for Clean Water. “The important thing is, if we can continue to advance our mission and do so in a way that reaches a lot of people, then, we’re just fine.”

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