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Helping the helper: United Way, Bank of the West donate RV to school counselor

Black couple donates RV to school counselor at United Way Bank of the West

United Way RV donation - Mercilia Valerice, Junior ValericeA Lee County school counselor whose home was rendered uninhabitable after Hurricane Ian now has an RV to call home, thanks to a partnership between United Way of Lee, Hendry, and Glades, Bank of the West and North Trail RV.

Mercilia Valerice, a school counselor at Fort Myers Middle Academy, had 6 feet of storm surge in her home, ruining nearly all her possessions, including a vehicle.

“We lost everything, but I’m thankful I have life,” Valerice said. “That’s what I’m grateful for.”

Fort Myers Middle is one of United Way’s Community Partnership Schools, a relationship that allows Valerice to work with middle school students and their families to ensure they have access to vital resources that address barriers to success, including hunger, poverty, health care and academic support. After Hurricane Ian, Valerice tapped into her network at United Way to make sure students had shelter, clothing, food and other essentials. She made sure they were physically and emotionally OK after the storm, and worked diligently to ensure students were prepared for educational success once classes resumed.

Then, it was her turn to be helped.

Angela Jackson, United Way’s vice president of Community Partnership Schools, coordinated with Bank of the West to purchase a Thor Motor Coach. The 27-foot Class-C vehicle has a full kitchen, bathroom, queen bed, two televisions and other amenities.

“She said ‘Hey, you know, we have a donation of an RV,’” Valerice recalled. “I said, ‘An RV? I’ve never lived in an RV before.’ I didn’t know what to expect. Then I said, ‘Yes, I’ll take it!’

“It’s very nice to help somebody who spends their entire day helping others with a gift like this,” added Brian Mangan, principal of Fort Myers Middle Academy.

About United Way

In addition to raising funds for human service organizations in our community, United Way promotes partnerships and collaborations among agencies, helping them to work together focusing on issues that continue to improve lives. United Way’s mission as a volunteer-driven organization is dedication to improving the quality of life for all people in our community. United Way of Lee, Hendry, and Glades was established in 1957 and over $210 million has been raised and distributed since that time. For more information, please call 239-433-2000 or visit UnitedWayLee.org.

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