By Cristina Alvarez
Hurricane Ian took a sudden turn right before landfall on Florida’s West Coast on Wednesday. Instead of heading toward the Tampa/St. Petersburg area as predicted, the high Category 4 storm directly hit the areas of Sanibel, Naples, and Fort Myers. Not only that, as it moved through the state, cities like Orlando, Kissimmee, and St. Augustine flooded as enormous amounts of rain fell from the sky.
While the last-minute turn spared us from the worst in Alachua County, many of our fellow Floridians were not as fortunate. Whether it’s watching a Tampa Bay Rays game at Tropicana Field, enjoying a Boston Red Sox spring training game at JetBlue Park (a.k.a. Mini Fenway), relaxing and collecting the most unique seashells on Sanibel Island, or visiting Mickey at Disney World; Hurricane Ian destroyed some of the most beautiful areas of our state. It destroyed whole neighborhoods and it destroyed people’s lives. It has changed our state forever.
More than 2.5 million people lost power. Sadly and tragically, some people lost their lives. Those in Sanibel, Fort Myers, Captiva Island, etc. had slim to no time to evacuate. After all, the hurricane wasn’t supposed to hit there. The Sanibel Causeway is now impassable, as chunks of it fell into the Gulf of Mexico. The only way to get help to people on the island is by boat or helicopter.
As I watched the devastation unfold, I couldn’t help but break down in tears. Some of my fondest memories have taken place on the West Coast. I’ve watched the Cardinals play the Rays (and lose every time) at The Trop, and I’ve walked with my daughter on Sanibel Beach many times, showing her how each seashell was different.
When horrific things occur, I always think of a quote from Mister Rogers:
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping’.”
It is now our time to be the helpers. Even though we might not physically be able to go to the hardest hit areas, there are other avenues where we can help our fellow residents and citizens.
Cajun Navy – This non-profit organization led by community volunteers travels to the hardest hit areas to rescue and restore. Coming from Louisiana, these men and women are well aware of the devastation a hurricane can bring. To donate, please click here.
American Red Cross – According to its website, the Red Cross “is a non-profit humanitarian organization that provides emergency assistance, disaster relief, and disaster preparedness education in the United States.” Not only can you go to our local LifeSouth buildings to donate blood, but you can also monetarily help.
To donate blood, here are three LifeSouth buildings in Alachua County:
1221 NW 13th St, Gainesville, FL 32601
4039 Newberry Rd, Gainesville, FL 32607
15652 NW US Hwy 441 Suite F, Alachua, FL 32615
To donate monetarily, please click here.
Florida Disaster Fund – “The Florida Disaster Fund is the State of Florida’s official private fund established to assist Florida’s communities as they respond to and recover during times of emergency or disaster. In partnership with the public sector, private sector and other non-governmental organizations, the Florida Disaster Fund supports response and recovery activities.” It should be noted, however, that no more than 3% of each donation is used to cover administrative costs. To donate, please click here.
Salvation Army – According to its website, “The Salvation Army uses 100% of all disaster donations to support disaster relief. Your donation may be used to provide food and drinks, baby, hygiene, cleaning and other emergency supplies, or direct financial assistance to disaster survivors. Donations may also support long-term recovery programs (including repair and reconstruction programs) or to support disaster relief workers serving in impacted communities. The Salvation Army NEVER places an administrative fee on disaster donations.” To donate, please click here.
It is going to take months or even years to restore the beautiful West Coast. In the meantime, it’s important that we help those in need; not just because they’re Floridians, but because they’re human beings.