Disaster recovery came from near and far Print this post

Bob Reddy – Florida Catholic

Any person who has lived in Florida for at least one year is rarely surprised by the number of out-of-state license plates on roads from seasonal visitors or vacationers.

What did surprise many is the number of out-of-state plates from people not wanting to vacation here but help in the wake of Hurricane Irma.

Barbeque is being served at St. Margaret Parish in Clewiston on Oct. 6 thanks to the coordinated efforts of the Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice, the Divinci Group, Give to Live, and Sonny’s BBQ of Clewiston. The food was prepared to help the people impacted by Hurricane Irma on the road to recovery.

The initial wave of aid has ebbed since the first two weeks of overwhelming support following the storm, but the help continues.

For example, the DaVinci Group, organized with charitable arm of Global Tel Link – “Give To Live,” and Catholic Charities to provide barbecue meals to people at St. Margaret Parish in Clewiston on Oct. 6, and then at St. Peter the Apostle Parish in Naples on Oct. 8.

Hot food dontated to St. Michael Parish in Wauchula following Hurricane Irma is distributed at the parish and at missions in Bowling Green and Zolfo Springs.

Mark Smith of the DaVinci Group and an advisor to Give to Live said he wanted to help and by working through the office of Florida Gov. Rick Scott,’ found a need within the Diocese of Venice. That need was not immediate help, but a hot meal to bring the community together and help everyone to forget about the impacts of Hurricane Irma, at least for a short time. Included with the meal was gift bag for the children and parents which included small things to make them smile.

The barbecue meals, with food donated through the generosity of local restaurants, went to two communities where many people could least afford it and were thrown out of work for days and even weeks, if not permanently. “We just had to come to help,” Smith explained. “We found Clewiston and East Naples needed a boost.”

The God’s Pit Crew Disaster Response Team came to St. Peter the Apostle Parish in Naples following Hurricane Irma from Danville, Va.

In the immediate aftermath of the hurricane, relief organizations came from all across the country bringing food, water, hot meals, cleaning supplies and hope.

The God’s Pit Crew Disaster Response Team from Danville, Va. also came to St. Peter the Apostle Parish less than week after the storm. The team also went to Immokalee and Everglades City bringing with them “Buckets of Faith” which included water, food, cleaning supplies, personal hygiene items, and much more. Led by founder Randy Johnson each bucket also included a Bible and a personal note of support and encouragement.

This truck is one of many from the Operation BBQ Relief of the Kansas City Barbeque Society which served tens of thousands of hot meals across Southwest Florida following Hurricane Irma from their central location at Germain Arena in Estero.

Another huge response was from Operation BBQ Relief, which is from the Kansas City Barbeque Society, and set up their cookers at Germain Arena in Estero and took orders for tens of thousands of hot meals. Those meals reached St. Michael Parish in Wauchula, Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Immokalee, Jesus the Worker Parish in Fort Myers, St. Leo the Great Parish in Bonita Springs and several other locations. The group started as volunteers from competition BBQ teams from eight states that answered the need to a disaster in Oklahoma and have been responding to disasters across the nation ever since.

Members of the Doraville, Ga., Police Department deliver emergency relief supplies to Guadalupe Social Services of Catholic Charities in Immokalee a week after Hurricane Irma struck.

Guadalupe Social Services of Catholic Charities was the center of much outside help. A poor community in the best of times, the hurricane impacted many people. Among the groups coming in were officers from the Doraville, Georgia, Police Department, Univision Spanish-language TV Station in Miami, plus individuals and groups from all over the nation.

Catholic Charities Board Member Dick Rogan loads his vehicle with food donated by the DaVinci Group and will be distributed to the needy in East Naples following Hurricane Irma.

The groups mentioned are just a fraction of those which arrived at parish and Catholic Charities locations throughout the Diocese. The supplies came in cars, pickup trucks, pulled trailers and even multiple tractor trailers and supplemented what was arriving from the state and federal response. In some cases, the outside help filled a critical need in areas where the population was small and the formal response was slow to arrive.

Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice Inc. logo

Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice Inc. CEO Peter Routsis-Arroyo said the outside help made the difference in helping to avoid a humanitarian crisis in many of the hardest hit and poorer communities of the Diocese. “The generosity was overwhelming and made a real difference.”


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