Sanibel Community Church holds ‘Puerto Rico Relief’ drive
By MEGHAN McCOY
The community opened its arms and embraced a drive the Sanibel Community Church held for Puerto Rico, a drive that filled a U-Haul truck for those affected by Hurricane Irma.
Sanibel Community Church Pastor Dr. Daryl Donovan said he is ordained with the Christian Missionary Alliance, which is a global denomination, that has 63 churches in Puerto Rico. He said Sanibel Community Church is nondenominational, but three of the pastors within the Christian Missionary Alliance group who are ordained.
“The word went out in our district newsletter, which is all of Florida, that they were setting up a warehouse on the east coast and on the west coast of Florida gathering supplies for Puerto Rico. That is when we said let’s be a local collection site,” he said the morning of Tuesday, Oct. 10. “Yesterday we took the entire U-Haul truck load up into the warehouse in Port Charlotte.”
The word began spreading that there was a Puerto Rico Relief drive taking place at the church, with members of the church donating the following day after information was shared about the drive.
“The city, bless their heart, they let us put a sign out here that said Puerto Rico collection site. It was wonderful. I don’t know how many people said I saw the sign and we brought stuff in,” Donovan said.
He shared a phone call he received the morning after the U-Haul delivery from a pastor in Port Charlotte, sharing that one of the people helping unload the truck had family in Puerto Rico and began sobbing when she saw everything.
The items they collected included bottled water; baby wipes; hand sanitizer; diapers; canned foods; dry foods; baby formula; garbage bags; towels; canned milk; canned and dry pet food; baby and adult pain relief medicine; stomach and diarrhea relief medicine; mosquito repellant; blankets, pillows; first-aid kits; laundry detergent; dish soap; cots; surgical masks and work gloves.
“We pretty much saw everything that was on the list,” Donovan said, adding that he guesses there were several thousand dollars in supplies. “That’s the amazing thing, we had a one week drive for all of that to come in. I think is amazing.”
Water was a highly sought item, which he said the people delivered.
“I was really pleased that there was a lot of water that came in,” Donovan said.
Others gave financially to the cause.
Donovan said the cool thing about all the donated supplies is they will be distributed to all 63 churches.
Throughout the process Donovan heard many stories regarding Puerto Rico and how the people are managing since Hurricane Irma.
“Now people are dying because they can’t fill medications they need. Those are the kind of things we don’t even think about,” he said.
Another story was of a young woman whose husband died. Donovan said she waited a couple of days for relief to come and ended up burying her husband in the backyard.
“Think about it, we were inconvenienced without power. They have nothing,” he said. “That just broke my heart.”
Donovan said he plans on taking a team to Puerto Rico once they can handle a team.
“Our goal is to partner a Florida church with all 63 churches. So in other words, we would take a team of about 20 or so and partner with one of the 63 churches to work with their community, so basically 63 communities would be impacted. That is amazing, I think,” he said. “I got to see a graph of where these churches are and they are just dotted all over Puerto Rico.”
The hope is to get a team to Puerto Rico by February for a week to 10 days.
“We are excited about taking a team over,” Donovan said. “We will definitely stay in touch to see what their needs are.”
Contacts, he said are crucial in circumstances like these because they know their community and needs.
This is not the first time the Sanibel Community Church has decided to put a team together to help a community. After Hurricane Katrina, a group went to Mississippi two years in a row.
“We really couldn’t get in there to help until nine months after the hurricane. That’s how long it took them to get things safe for volunteers willing to come in,” Donovan said.
While helping after Hurricane Katrina, they worked with a church that had an understanding of what their community needed.
“The whole 10 days we were up there we worked 12 hour days,” Donovan said.
In addition to helping those in Puerto Rico, the Sanibel Community Church also donated $10,000 to help Lee County after Hurricane Irma touched Southwest Florida. They also provided 300 $50 Publix gift cards to help families restock their fridge.
“We actually have a partnership with about 10 ministries in Lee County, like Harry Chapin Food Bank and Salvation Army. We went to them and said what is your biggest need and we helped them have enough food. We actually worked through those agencies to make sure it gets to the people that really has the need,” Donovan said.
Help was also sent to Mexico after the earthquake and Houston after Hurricane Harvey.
“This church is amazing. The people really are very generous and very compassionate,” Donovan said.