Lee County Tax Collector supports assistance for homeless veterans

Those who served our country deserve only the best. Unfortunately, many veterans struggle to adjust back to civilian life, and some of them end up homeless.

Lee County Tax Collector Larry Hart believes every veteran deserves a home.

Hearts and Homes for Veterans Inc. Director David Santini, a former Army sergeant major,

accepts a check on behalf of the organization from Lee County Tax Collector employee Michelle Shayer.

The Tax Collector’s Office continued its support for Hearts and Homes for Veterans Inc. They recently presented a $500 check to former Army Sgt. Maj. David Santini, director of the Fort Myers-based nonprofit that supports homeless veterans and their families.

“As an Air Force veteran, this is an issue that hits home for me,” Hart said. “We have a responsibility to these people who have sacrificed so much to protect our freedom. Our staff understands this and goes the extra mile to make sure veterans in need have the necessities of life.”

The Tax Collector’s Office has raised more than $5,000 for the organization over the past four years. The fundraising efforts of staff include candy and bracelet sales, and the kindness of Tax Collector customers, many of whom have donated their change to the fundraising initiative.

“It’s been amazing, the generosity,” said former Marine Cpl. Don Payton, founder and president of Hearts and Homes for Veterans. “It’s overwhelming sometimes.”

The collaboration began when Payton visited the Tax Collector’s Cape Coral Office as a customer. He and staff members spoke casually about the organization.

Word got to Branch Manager Lorena Velasquez, a former Army sergeant who served in Desert Storm. Velasquez and Patrick Griffin, who spent 20 years as an Army staff sergeant before joining the Tax Collector’s Office, made Hearts and Homes for Veterans the beneficiary of the Cape office’s annual service project.

The organization’s proactive approach stood out to Velasquez. “They don’t wait for veterans to come to them,” she said. “They just reach out to them.”

Hearts and Homes for Veterans interacts with 30 to 40 veterans every week. They provide service on four tiers, Payton said.

  • The first step is getting veterans in homes.
  • The second is to “make an empty house a home,” Payton’s phrase for furnishing and decorating.
  • The third part involves keeping veterans in their homes through financial support.
  • The final goal is to encourage veterans who’ve received assistance to help other veterans in need.

The organization is one of about a dozen nonprofits the Lee County Tax Collector staff supports through various initiatives throughout the year.

“Giving back is at the core of what we do here at the Tax Collector’s Office,” Hart said. “We want the whole community to know we’ve got your back.”

Visit leetc.com to see all of the services the Lee County Tax Collector provides.

About Lee County Tax Collector

The Lee County Tax Collector (LCTC) exists to serve the citizens of Lee County. The office takes pride in organizational excellence and offering exemplary customer service and operates by the credo of “We’ve got your back.”

The LCTC operates leetc.com, the official interactive website of the tax collector, which allows county residents to quickly and easily take care of motor vehicle and vessel registration, pay property taxes, make appointments for concealed weapon permits and more. The agency operates six service centers open daily throughout the county to provide efficient, convenient services. The LCTC works to provide innovative and quality service that supports the growth and sustainability of the community. For more information, visit leetc.com or follow Lee County Tax Collector on social media.