They Just Want To Help
I visited Fort Myers today. I’ve been to areas affected by disaster before but rarely so soon afterwards, and what I saw was both heart-breaking and emotionally taxing.
I started out at the Harry Chapin Food Bank. Among other things, they lost part of the roof of the building and at least half of the 150 agencies they serve are still closed or at least not receiving. Plus 20% of their staff were displaced (at least short-term), and all of them had issues with power and water. And yet, the staff and volunteers were there, unloading donations, and loading pallets into whatever vehicle was available (including the back of pick-up trucks) to take into the community. They just want to help.
Next I visited the state Multi-Agency Warehouse, which is run by Adventist Community Services. They have a warehouse full of mostly the wrong things (anyone need charcoal briquets?) and a hodge-podge collection of volunteers. Two of the volunteers were local; one had damage to his apartment, but he was there, because other people had it worse than him. Other volunteers were getting trained while I was there, learning from two young volunteers who had just arrived from Southern Adventist University in Tennessee only the day prior. Five people who’d never had any warehouse experience until this week will be responsible for sorting mixed pallets (and not just a mix of cases – a mix of eaches). They just want to help.
My last visit of the day was to Habitat for Humanity of Lee County. We helped them with an LTL move last week, so I just wanted to say hello. I’m so glad this was my last stop, as it was the most heart-wrenching. My contact at the H4H National Office didn’t tell me that the Lee County group had major damages to their facilities. The complex has office space, two warehouses, a ReStore, and a training center. All buildings had three feet of flood water. Their offices are being gutted and require new drywall, carpet, wiring – the whole works. The ReStore lost part of the roof along with all of the merchandise (a multi-million dollar funding stream to support Habitat homes). The open-air warehouse lost the roof and took all of their finished walls along with it. The closed warehouse survived intact – or so they thought until a strong rainstorm yesterday proved otherwise.
This group that is so dedicated to helping others build their homes has to rebuild their own. And yet, the staff, all of whom are dealing with their own damages at home, have shown up to work in a 100-degree warehouse every day. Their CEO told me that it is because they have families already in the program that they refuse to quit on, and that they know community needs are going to be massive in the coming months. They just want to help.
Both the food bank and H4H are organizations based in the community, and ACS has community roots and a commitment to be there long term. The big aid organizations are already leaving. Community points of distribution (CPODS) are being shut down. But these local organizations are there for the long haul. They are committed to helping Lee County and areas nearby get back on their feet, however long it takes. They just want to help.
ALAN plans to be right there with them. These groups shared a few of their needs with me today. I know there will be many more in the months ahead. I look forward to working with you and your members to fill these requests and others sure to follow. I hope that you , too, will just want to help.
American Logistics Aid Network