Hurricane Dorian relief efforts under way
That’s what Hurricane Dorian left in his wake as it passed through the Bahamas as a Category 5 storm, with sustained winds of 185 mph, leaving chaos behind.
Members of the Southwest Florida community are rallying to support the islands in forms of fundraising and sending supplies, as thousands of homes were left in ruins.
As of Thursday afternoon, the death toll hit 23 people.
“We are in the midst of a historic tragedy in parts of the northern Bahamas,” said Dr. Hubert Minnis, the Bahama’s Prime Minister on Twitter Monday as the storm continued. “We know that there are a number of people in serious distress. We pray for their safety and will provide relief assistance as soon as possible.”
Early reports and video out of the Bahamas shows completely flooded roads, power lines and trees scattered about and storm surge that has completely washed away any remnants of what used to be.
The record-setting storm sat almost at a stand still over the Bahamas for more than 24 hours, ravaging homes and churning up foundations and structures.
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio-R on Wednesday requested that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Mark Green provide an assessment of all humanitarian assistance readily available for the Bahamas under current accounts, and whether additional funds will be needed for disaster relief, a release from Rubio’s office stated.
On Tuesday, Rubio and Senator Rick Scott-R urged President Donald Trump to waive or suspend certain visa requirements for Bahamian citizens who have relatives residing in the United States. This will allow citizens of the Bahamas, who have low visa overstay rates, to stay with family in the United States while the country rebuilds in the wake of Hurricane Dorian’s unprecedented destruction, continued the release.
Here are some ways you can get involved in assisting the Bahamas through your local community.
* * Stokes Marine
Stokes Marine out of Fort Myers is looking supplies to bring via a flotilla of private vessels to the Bahamas.
Stokes got the green light to make the trip, as a contact they have in the Bahamas will be waiting for them to help tie up to shore and distribute supplies in an orderly fashion.
Currently, Stokes has about 10 to 14 vessels on board for the journey, along with its own, and is expecting to head out to the Bahamas Friday and return Sunday.
“The entire team at Stokes Marine is overwhelmed with gratitude for the amazing spirit of generosity within the entire Southwest Florida community. Together, we have collected enough donations of essential supplies to support several delivery trips to our friends in the Bahamas, and we are confident our effort will not only be well-received but will make an immediate difference in the lives of people who have been devastated by Hurricane Dorian,” Austin Peterson, General Manager of Stokes Marine, said. “Upon delivery of the collected supplies to Grand Bahama Island and Abaco, the Stokes Marine relief effort will revert to voluntary and individual participation in larger coordinated efforts to rebuild. We encourage all of Southwest Florida to seek out opportunities to give of their time, talent, and treasure to help restore the beautiful Bahamas we all love so dearly. Thank you again for all of your support. This week has reminded us once again just how special the community is in Southwest Florida.”
They plan to make several roundtrip deliveries.
Peterson said they are loading up boats with the basics: water, canned food, baby formula, tents and any other basic survival tools to bring to the effected areas.
“We’re assuming there’s nothing over there,” Peterson said.
Stokes is asking anyone who can to donate supplies in their effort to provide even the slightest bit of relief to Bahamians.
Donations will be accepted at Stoked from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. today.
They welcome volunteers to assist in sorting, organizing and loading supplies.
Officials said donations have been generous thus far, and hope to continue to build their stock for the trip.
Lowes has already donated two generators for them to take to the islands.
Peterson said they have no expectations in terms of housing in which to stay, and that most will probably be hunkering down in their boat or using tents to camp overnight.
They plan to make land in Port Lucaya on Grand Bahama Island.
Those at Stokes do have a small connection to the islands, as it is a vacation destination for some of those integrated in the business.
“This has nothing to do with Stokes and everything to do with the Bahamas,” Peterson said. “We feel helpless.”
Boaters in the convoy will navigate two ways: from the Port of the Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, or up the Caloosahatchee River, through Lake Okeechobee and out the St. Lucie River down the to Bahamas.
Peterson said whichever route captains choose, they will meet before they make it to the island, as he expects lots of debris in the water which could make for a challenging and potentially lengthy path to shore. Staying together helps mitigate these issues.
Those wanting to help out can drop off basic goods to locations around the county that are pitching in and collecting items that will be packed on boats and make the journey.
* Stokes Marine, 15955 Pine Ridge Road, Fort Myers
* Venue Naples, 13240 Tamiami Trail, N., Suite 205, Naples
* Stilwell Enterprises and Restaurant Group, 16876 McGregor Blvd.
* All Out Bail Bonds, 2220 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, Fort Myers
* Norman Love Confections, 11380 Lindbergh Blvd., Fort Myers
* Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce, 2450 Estero Blvd, Fort Myers Beach
There is a GoFundMe account as well for those who wish to make a monitory donation to their efforts.
“This money will be used for supplies and supplies only,” said Peterson.
The campaign has a million dollar goal, and has raised over $48,000 thus far.
To donate, visit www.gofundme.com/f/bahamas-dorian-relief.
* * Salvation Army
“As we give thanks and are relieved that Hurricane Dorian did not come our way I am being asked how we can help the people of the Bahamas. The fastest and the most effective way that your resources are doing the most good is the Salvation Army. With a grassroots organization in the Bahamas, the Prime Minister of the Bahamas suggests the Salvation Army as one of the fastest ways to help those in need,” said Mike Welch, chairman of the Greater Lehigh Acres Chamber of Commerce said via email.
A cash donation allows charitable relief agencies to use monetary contributions to purchase exactly what disaster survivors need. Monetary contributions are also easy to get to the disaster area. Moving a container of donated goods can sometimes cost more than the value of the items”
Donations may be made directly to the Bahamas:
Mail checks to: Salvation Army World Service Office P.O. Box 418558 Boston, MA 02241-8558. Mark checks with “Hurricane Dorian International Relief”
* * Red Cross
Monetary donations can be made online at www.redcross.org/
* * Royal Palm Coast Realtor Association
The Royal Palm Coast Realtor Association is spearheading an effort to bring urgently needed relief to the Bahamas in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian.
RPCRA, which has offices in Fort Myers and Cape Coral, is the National Association of Realtors’ Ambassador Association to the Bahamas, and recently hosted its Bahamian counterparts at an association event in Fort Myers.
“Our hearts go out to our many friends in the Bahamas,” said Josh Burdine, president of the RPCRA, via a release. “The catastrophic consequences of Hurricane Dorian are almost unimaginable and will affect Bahamians for years to come.”
Burdine said that while infrastructure is a longer-term problem, the basic day-to-day needs of storm victims is something where RPCRA members can offer immediate assistance.
“This is an urgent humanitarian crisis,” he said. “Our friends are in trouble and we stand ready help. That’s what Realtors do.”
The immediate need is for basic supplies and personal hygiene items, according to Burdine.
“We have a list of specific items on our Facebook page, including things such as first-aid kits, batteries and solar-powered chargers,” he said.
Burdine has been in contact with officials from the Bahamas Real Estate Association, who suggest that donations of goods and money be facilitated only through HeadKnowles, a Bahamian nonprofit group. Monetary donations can be made directly to HeadKnowles via the nonprofit’s GoFundMe page: www.gofundme.com/f/headknowles-emergency-funds
Donations for distribution through HeadKnowles may be dropped off at any of RPCRA’s three offices in Lee County: 2840 Winkler Ave., Fort Myers; 17640 South Tamiami Trail, Fort Myers; or 918 S.E. 46th Lane, Cape Coral. Organizers urge members of the association and the public to donate.
RPCRA will monitor receipt and deliver supplies to HeadKnowles for delivery and distribution in the Bahamas for those in need.
* * Child Care of Southwest Florida
Child Care of Southwest Florida is partnering with Venice-based Agape Flights to collect critical supplies for those impacted by Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas.
Donations of new items can be dropped off from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays at Child Care of Southwest Florida’s administrative offices at 6831 Palisades Park Court, Suite 6, in Fort Myers.
Agape Flights is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit, Christian aviation ministry. Its mission is to provide excellent aviation service delivering cargo, mail and humanitarian aid to missionary partners serving Christ, carrying hope to the nations of the Caribbean.
Relief supplies requested by Agape Flights include the following items:
Non-Perishable Food Items
Protein or granola bars
Prepackaged pouches/packets of chicken or tuna (no cans)
Prepackaged cheese or peanut butter crackers
Peanut butter (no glass containers)
Trail mix, nuts
Individual juice boxes
Individual pouches for water
Antibacterial hand and face wipes
Paper towels (regular and dispenser roll)
Hygiene First Aid Supplies (Travel Sizes Preferred)
Toothpaste and toothbrushes
Hand tree saws
Batteries (AAA, AA, C or D)
Lunch paper bags
Water storage containers
Gallon-sized sealable plastic bags
* * Grand Bahama Disaster Relief Foundation
The Grand Bahama Disaster Relief Foundation was formed by the Grand Bahama Port Authority to provide relief efforts for Grand Bahamians affected by Hurricane Dorian.
The website includes drop-off locations, goods to donate, government forms and approved charities.
* * NEMA Financial Donations
The National Emergency Management Agency
Bahamas Disaster Relief Fund
Delivered by mail to: NEMA
P.O. Box N-7147
All cash donations can be deposited to:
RBC Royal Bank (Bahamas) Limited
Account number: 05625 1281013
Beneficiary name: Bahamas Disaster Relief Fund
For direct deposit or wire transfer:
JP MORGAN CHASE BANK
Beneficiary bank account number: 001 1 188448
RBC Royal Bank (Bahamas) Limited
Beneficiary account number: 05625 1281013
Beneficiary name: Bahamas Disaster Relief Fund
* * United Way
The United Way of Miami is activating Operation Helping Hands in conjunction with the Miami Herald to help those affected by Hurricane Dorian.
Visit UnitedWayMiami.org to donate.
-Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj