Thursday, September 18, 2008

Southwest Florida Chips In To Aid Hurricane Victims

Volunteer Heather Lerner, of Naples, prepares a shipment of medical supplies and food headed to southern Haiti on Wednesday, September 17, 2008, at Hope for Haiti's offices in Naples. Tropical Storm Faye and Hurricanes Hanna and Gustav destroyed crops and livestock in the farming communities surrounding Les Cayes, Haiti. Roads and bridges washed out in the storms have isolated the inhabitants of the area from international relief, which has focused on harder hit areas of the country. David Albers/ Staff

NAPLES — Southwest Florida residents have long been considered community oriented.

Now local charities and community members are doing their part to get aid to those affected by the 2008 hurricane season — in the U.S. and beyond.

On the homefront, Catholic Charities Dioceses of Venice has been balancing aid to locals and those outside of Southwest Florida.

“Locally we’re deploying staff from many of our offices in Collier County to the shelter in Bonita Springs,” said Peter Routsis-Arroyo, CEO of Catholic Charities Dioceses of Venice. “We’ve been juggling staff between four sites in Bonita Springs.”

Routsis-Arroyo said the group has been helping those affected by Tropical Storm Fay’s flooding.

“I think locally the response has been tremendous,” Routsis-Arroyo said. “We put out a call initially for some canned goods and some needs the people that might have lost the trailers would need. I think we are in good shape there.”

According to a statement released by Catholic Charities USA, the group’s Disaster Response Team has been deployed to the Texas coast to help the millions of residents affected by Hurricane Ike — specifically the heaviest hit areas of Beaumont, Galveston and Port Arthur. Catholic Charities identified 17 Community Distribution Sites in Beaumont, five sites in Galveston-Houston and three sites in Brownsville.

The sites are slated to open Thursday.

Members of the Venice chapter, which includes Collier and Lee counties, are not heading to the affected spots.

“I know (Catholic Charities USA) had asked if we could deploy staff after (Hurricane) Gustav,” said Routsis-Arroyo, adding that once the national staff saw Fay’s damage they reconsidered. “They basically said ‘We’ll go in another direction.’”

But it doesn’t mean they might not go in the future, he said.

Other Catholic Charities chapters have been on the ground in Louisiana after Hurricane Gustav and in Texas after Hurricane Ike.

Meanwhile, Collier County officials said as of Tuesday no local agency has been tapped to aid in the Texas relief efforts, but some National Guard and forestry contingents have been called.

“Aid depends on unmet needs,” said Collier Emergency Management Coordinator Jim von Rinteln on Tuesday, adding that Texas has a pretty good emergency management operation in place.

He said down the road Texas might have needs that Florida may be asked to fill.

And although the American Red Cross of Collier County is not sending any kind of volunteers to Texas, spokeswoman Diane Reed said the chapter is contributing to the cause.

“We are sending monetary donations to help those affected in Texas through the Disaster Relief Fund,” Reed said Tuesday.

Southwest Floridians are also doing their part to help those affected in the Caribbean. Naples-based Hope for Haiti is slated to airlift 1,000 pounds of First Aid supplies, medication and food to Haiti’s Les Cayes district Thursday.

A plane owned and piloted by Naples real estate broker William Earls will make the relief aid run.

“The supplies being delivered by Bill Earls are desperately needed,” said Hope for Haiti Executive Director Dorothy Pullen. “The magnitude of this disaster becomes more apparent each day. Infections from cuts and abrasions caused by flying debris are setting in. People are sick from walking through floodwaters and drinking contaminated water. The need for medical assistance is acute. We are extremely grateful that Bill has donated his time and the use of his plane for this effort.”

The plane is taking about 700 pounds of medical supplies donated by Catholic Medical Mission Board – antibiotics, sutures, gloves, tape, antibiotic ointment, vitamins, anti-diarrhea medication for children, Tylenol and other medication and supplies. Kids Against Hunger in Minnesota through the Rotary of Naples donated a pallet of food that includes nutrition packets that reverse starvation in adults and children. About 300 pounds of food packets will be on Earls’ plane.

“I have been flying Angel Flight missions for over 10 years,” said Earls. “I like being able to help people in need while pursuing my passion for aviation.”

In a statement released Wednesday, Hope for Haiti spokesman Kevin Caffrey said the Order of Malta– American Association underwrote the cost of fuel for the effort.

Cuba has also taken a beating from several storms this year.

Getting aid to the nation is a bit complicated, but Catholic Relief Services has worked with Caritas Cubana, the Catholic Church’s relief agency, to provide emergency, humanitarian assistance to the most vulnerable and needy people in Cuba since 1993.

Catholic Relief Services spokeswoman Sara Fajardo said the agency, also known as CRS, along with its partners Daughters of Charity SVP and Catholic Charities Miami had responded to the tragedy with an initial shipment of 170,000 pounds of emergency food and supplies.

The value of the first shipment alone was estimated at $235,000.

“This initial delivery of supplies will be used towards our goal of assisting at least 20,000 Cubans,” says Lynn Renner, CRS regional representative for the Caribbean, in a statement Tuesday. “We are in the process of preparing an additional 80 tons of food and roofing supplies for the people of Cuba.”

Fajardo said the goods were classified in accordance to the Cuban and U.S. government regulations. Each container will go directly to CRS partner Caritas Cubana and will be delivered by them in conjunction with local Cuban officials.

“There is no precedent for an emergency of this magnitude,” says Caritas Cubana director Maritza Sánchez, in a statement Tuesday.

“In the past we’ve been able to purchase available supplies and offer assistance immediately, but the market is facing a shortage. We are in need of food, water, hygiene kits, roofing supplies, and household items such as sheets, towels, and blankets.”

Source: NaplesNews.Com

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