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Stokes Marine group makes two trips to Bahama Islands with supplies

By Staff | Sep 11, 2019

After Hurricane Dorian rocked the Bahamas just over a week ago, the outpouring of support from the Southwest Florida community has been vast and plentiful.

Employees and volunteers organized by Stokes Marine out of Fort Myers made two trips to Port Lucaya over the weekend, delivering boat loads of supplies to a region that luckily did not feel the devastation that other areas of Grand Bahama and the Abaco Islands.

While the situation in the area of Port Lucaya is still far from ideal, the supplies brought to the area will spread across the island to help those who are now homeless because of sustained Category 5 winds that churned over the area for over 24 hours.

“Despite initial uncertainty about whether entry into the Bahamas would be permitted, and whether we would experience civil unrest, our flotilla of boats delivered much needed essential supplies directly to Port Lucaya on Grand Bahama Island over the weekend,” Stokes Marine GM Austin Peterson said. “Clearing customs was a breeze on both sides of the trip. US Customs and Border Patrol agents even helped us load up the boats for the return trip on Saturday.”

The group, totaling 8-12 boats, cruised into Port Lucaya Friday evening after the three-hour journey from Dania Beach, where they were met by members of Rotary International to help unload.

Supplies made their way to locals, and members of Rotary International will distribute the supplies where they are needed around the island.

Owner Brent Stokes has a condominium in the Bahamas, and through the condo association, was able to make connections with Rotary to insure the supplies would not go to waste.

None of this would have been possible without volunteers, Peterson said.

“We had about 20 to 25 volunteers make the journey,” Peterson said. “Most of them stayed in one small condo that they got a generator hooked up to and slept on air mattresses. The others slept on bean bags on their boat.”

The flotilla made their way back Saturday morning to Harbour Town and Dania Beach, where they were met by over 30 volunteers that reloaded the boats to make a return trip the same day.

“It’s remarkable, the amount of people who have volunteered or helped in one way or another,” said Peterson.

Stokes Marine, due to the overwhelming undertaking of making trips via private vessel to the Bahamas and the amount of donations they’ve received, is no longer collecting to take to the Bahamas itself.

They have taken all of the supplies received that could not make it onto the boat, and filled two, 53-foot trailers worth that will go to the Ft. Lauderdale airport and Rivera Beach — both locations are mass collection points for cargo ships and flights of supplies that will make their way to Grand Bahama and the Abacos Islands.

“We share our success in this effort with each and every one of you who wished us well, donated supplies, donated money, helped us sort and organize supplies, loaded trucks, prayed for our safety and followed along as we made the journey. THANK YOU!,” Stokes Marine posted on its Facebook page Tuesday. “What we were able to accomplish together within just one week after the storm is simply extraordinary!”

Stokes is hoping to have another flotilla make its way to Hope Town, but the area is not in a position to accept supplies at this time.

“The needs on Hope Town are different than Grand Bahama given the remote location and smaller infrastructure,” Stokes’ page read. “We will follow their lead in terms of timing and specific items to be delivered. Also the distance to Elbow Cay is more than double the distance to Port Lucaya.”

Stokes’ GoFundMe account is still active, and Peterson said they are waiting for more areas to be able to accept supplies. At that point, they will use all funds to help replenish supplies or whatever else is needed. As of Tuesday afternoon, the page had raised over $65,000.

Stokes is asking all in the Southwest Florida area still wishing to contribute to drop off supplies at Hodges University — both the Fort Myers and Naples campuses.

Hodges’ Fort Myers campus is at 4501 Colonial Blvd.

To donate to Stokes Marine GoFundMe, visit www.gofundme.com/f/bahamas-dorian-relief.

-Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj