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Area agencies rally in wake of Hurricane Michael

By Staff | Oct 11, 2018

The Southwest Florida community is banding together to help those in the Panhandle affected by Hurricane Michael, a Category 4 storm that left devastation in its wake after making landfall Wednesday afternoon at Mexico Beach.

The Cape Coral Fire Department has deployed an engine with four firefighters and the city’s CERT team has responded as well, according to CCFD spokesperson Andrea Schuch.

The crew left Wednesday around 1 p.m. and four members of CERT followed Thursday morning.

“They were both deployed,” Schuch said. “The firefighters responded with a Strike Team of engines that had been requested by the state. I don’t know what their length of deployment will be. Cape Coral’s CERT was specifically requested by the Florida Division of Emergency Management. They will be deployed for seven days to the panhandle and will serve as shelter managers.”

Meanwhile, the Southern Gulf Chapter of the American Red Cross is among those in the state responding with people and supplies.

“Even though Hurricane Michael won’t directly affect our region, we sent as much support to our neighbors in North Florida,” said Jill Palmer, executive director of the area chapter and one of the Red Cross staff members deployed to assist, in a prepared statement. “We are so proud that our Southern Gulf volunteers are always ready to deploy at a moment’s notice and we will be standing by incase more support is needed.”

Red Cross Disaster Program Specialist of the Southern Gulf Chapter Lars Knapp said as of Thursday afternoon they had sent 17 volunteers, a combination of people leaving before the storm as well as those sent Wednesday and Thursday help with relief.

“We started deploying out of our chapter two days ago, the day before the storm hit. We sent out our first wave of volunteers,” he said Thursday afternoon. “Everybody went to Tallahassee first and then they were dispersed around the Panhandle”

One of the teams that left Thursday morning was husband-and-wife team Mark Brewer and Claudia Pisa. Knapp said the reason this team is special is that they were driving an emergency response vehicle to be used as sort of a kitchen.

“They are large ambulance-shaped vehicles. They are used primarily to feed out of,” Knapp said. “On the vehicle they have these things called Cambros, which are designed to keep food hot, or cold, for up to four hours. They are basically a big cooler. Out of the Cambros we will feed people by putting things into clam shells, like take-out boxes.”

According to the Red Cross, Brewer and Pisa are just two of the more than 500 trained disaster workers traveling to the northern region of Florida to join the Red Cross volunteers already in place in Florida, Georgia and Alabama.

The other volunteers the Southern Gulf Chapter have sent are responsible for a variety of tasks including sheltering, mobile feeding, distributing emergency supplies, finding and purchasing supplies and supporting computer operations.

“Anything that you would need for a large organization to function,” Knapp said.

The area chapter will continue to send volunteers as needed.

“We will be sending more people. We will not stop recruiting until we are told the scale of disaster is going down and they have all the people they need,” he said.

Although individuals are encouraged to become volunteers with the Red Cross, those who sign up today will not be deployed to help with Hurricane Michael relief.

“There is a large amount of training for deployment,” Knapp said, adding that those who wish to volunteer can register at www.redcross.org/volunteer and be ready for the next disaster that comes.

The following organizations are among those collecting donations and supplies:

* American Red Cross:

Financial donations are suggested. Contributions may be made by visiting www.redcross.org/donate, or by texting Michael to 90999.

* Cape Coral Animal Shelter

The Cape Coral Animal Shelter is collecting donations of pet supplies and will deliver them to animal shelters devastated in the Florida Panhandle.

Pet supplies can be dropped off through Wednesday, Oct. 17. Drop off points in Cape Coral include: FOS Furniture, 790 Del Prado Blvd. N.; Scooter’s Coffee, 1014 Del Prado Blvd. S. and Raso Realty, 4812 Cape Coral St.

Drop off points in Fort Myers include O’Brien Mazda and O’Brien Hyundai, 2850 Colonial Blvd.; Fort Myers Brewing Co., 12811 Commerce Lakes Dr., #28 and Pet Supermarket, 7070 College Pkwy.

Supplies needed include clean, gently used linens, blankets and towels; new, or gently used pet beds; carriers, crates, leashes and cat litter. Other items include paper towels, cleaning supplies and unopened non-perishable pet food for dog, cat, puppy and kitten. Gift cards are also welcome.

The supplies will delivered by Cape Coral Animal Shelter volunteers to the humane societies of Leon, Bay and Franklin Counties.

* Harry Chapin Food Bank

The Harry Chapin Food Bank will send a box truck full of food and a driver to the Panhandle areas impacted by Hurricane Michael today. They will travel to the area and stay to help in the aftermath of the storm. The food bank also will send a mobile pantry truck and driver to help.

The mobilization is in response to Feeding Florida’s request for help. Harry Chapin Food Bank is a member of Feeding Florida, the association of Florida’s 12 food banks. Other Feeding Florida food banks are also mobilizing to send water and other resources in response to requests for assistance.

The Harry Chapin Food Bank is also a member of the national Feeding America network of 200 food banks, which quickly moved in to help in the Carolinas in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, and is now mobilizing to help in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael.

The Harry Chapin Food Bank still has two staff members assisting in the Raleigh, N.C. area in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence. Dennis Hall, warehouse manager, and Mike Davis, retail logistics manager, have been in North Carolina since Sept. 28 and will return Oct. 14.

“The Harry Chapin Food Bank is here to help when a crisis hits,” said Richard LeBer, food bank president and CEO, in a prepared statement. “Here in Southwest Florida, we understand all too well the human toll of hurricanes. Last year, we distributed 3.9 million pounds of food and supplies after Hurricane Irma, with the assistance of our sister food banks in Feeding Florida and Feeding America. Now it’s our turn to help them. Hurricane victims will need our help, and we’re happy to provide it.”

Those who would like to make a contribution to Hurricane Michael relief and recovery efforts, can send a check or financial donation to the Harry Chapin Food Bank. Donations designated for Hurricane Michael relief will be passed on to Feeding Florida or sister food banks in the affected areas.

For every dollar donated, the food bank can provide $8 in food value.

Send the donations to the Harry Chapin Food Bank Fort Myers or Naples locations:

-Fort Myers Distribution Center, 3760 Fowler St., Fort Myers, FL 33901

-Collier County Center, 3940 Prospect Ave., Unit 101, Naples, FL 34104