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Rec Center opened as 24/7 shelter

By Staff | Sep 20, 2017

Islanders without power sought relief from their homes at the Sanibel Recreation Center, which was turned into a shelter.

“We are very lucky to have a facility of this size on the island where we can accommodate and help our residents during this time. It makes all of our staff happy to be here and help the community,” Recreation Director Andrea Miller said.

The Rec Center staff worked 12 hour shifts while the facility was being used in that capacity.

“We have a great team. Everybody always jumps in city wide and pulls together and gets the job done,” Miller said.

The Rec Center was set to operate as a 24/7 shelter as long as needed.

“We are here until they have power,” she said when the facility opened.

She said they made the decision mid-morning Thursday. The decision was made to try and accommodate citizens who did not have power for an extended period of time.

“We have designated pet friendly areas. We have closed the dividing wall in the gymnasium. The far side of the gymnasium is our designated pet-friendly area. The pets need to be leashed, crated and in control of the owner,” Miller said as the shelter operated. “The other side of the gym is where we do not have pets.”

Those who sought the Sanibel Recreation Center for shelter were advised to bring their own bedding, towels, toiletries and food.

“We have showers here,” Miller said, which the public was able to use.

There was also plenty of electricity for charging via power strips.

Legos and card games were out and ready and different program rooms opened. They had televisions with DVD players, affording people the opportunity to play a movie. Coolers of water were available at the Rec Center.

As soon as they opened the doors at 6:30 a.m. Thursday morning, she said they had many people use the facility to take a shower.

“We have had decent foot traffic come in and out. Mostly what we are seeing is people coming in cooling off for several hours and going back out. Whether they are working at their homes, or taking care of things and come back in again to take a break. It’s been more intermittent traffic right now,” Miller said.

The weight room and pool area were closed, and fitness classes were not being offered.

“We are still working on getting debris out of the pools and getting the chemicals balanced and getting our pumps primed up,” Miller said last week, adding that those areas were their main focus.

Prior to the decision to turn the Rec Center into a 24/7 facility, they opened their doors as a cooling and charging station with water.

On Wednesday many residents made a stop at the Rec Center to charge their laptops, cell phones and portable battery devices.

As of 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 13, Miller said they had 39 people use the facility for charging and cooling and 15 people who showered. She said they also had two dogs that spent the day with them.

The Sanibel Recreation Center is at 3880 Sanibel Captiva Road.

The phone number is 239-472-0345. Miller can also be emailed andrea.miller@mysanibel.com (service is intermitant).