With the economy “breaking down” for many Southwest Florida residents, Region 1 of the statewide Florida RV Trade Association (FRVTA) decided to provide needed funds to help make the holidays bright. Rather than hold its annual holiday meeting party, the Region took the money it would have spent and donated $5,000 to the Harry Chapin Food Bank. The donation takes place 11 a.m. Tuesday Dec. 15 at the food bank’s headquarters on Fowler Ave. in Fort Myers.
Harry Chapin was a popular New York-based singer-songwriter in the 1970s and ’80s, perhaps best known for his hit, “Cat’s in the Cradle.” He was a passionate advocate for fighting hunger in the U.S.
“We know many in our community are having rough financial times due to the COVID pandemic and its effect on our local economy,” said local FRVTA Region 1 President Everett Henkel III. “This prompted us to give back to the community in a small, but hopefully meaningful manner to make things a bit easier this holiday season.”
The donation to the Harry Chapin Food Bank comes as unemployment in southwest Florida, especially among the hard-hit service and tourism industries, takes its toll on the local population.
According to state data, the Lee, Collier, Charlotte metro area lost 16,000 jobs when compared to September 2019. This represents a job decline of 3.4 percent. The leisure and hospitality industry lost the most jobs with 11,300 eliminated. This was followed by trade transportation and utilities at 3,100 jobs lost, government with 1,900 jobs and educational and health services with 1, 300 jobs eliminated.
Statewide, with the huge reduction in tourism, the state estimates that the 22.1 million travelers that visited Florida from July to the end of September is significantly below what’s needed to provide much needed revenue to fund the state budget as well as secure an estimated 1.5 million jobs.
Besides a monetary donation to the Harry Chapin Food Bank, Region 1 members also are involved in an annual toy drive.
“One of our campground members in Arcadia coordinates an annual toy drive so the local children there can enjoy the magic of Christmas,” said Henkel, also the owner of RV Kountry, a longtime local RV dealership in Fort Myers. “We’re trying to do our part to spread the spirit of the season and help the overall community enjoy the holidays.”
The statewide Florida RV Trade Association is composed of seven regions spread throughout Florida. There are approximately 80 members of Region 1.
At this time, the FRVTA said, local RV dealers and RV resorts/campgrounds are gearing up for the 36th Annual Fort Myers RV Show scheduled to be held at the Lee Civic Center, Jan. 21 -24.