Local fishermen help those devastated by Ian

CORTEZ – The local commercial fishing community has mobilized to help their southern counterparts following the devastation from Hurricane Ian.

The Organized Fisherman of Florida (OFF) Cortez chapter has already made one boat trip to Pine Island to deliver supplies to fellow fishermen who lost everything, and more trips are planned.

OFF Executive Director Alexis Meschelle is spearheading the campaign with her husband, OFF President Nathan Meschelle.

“When our guys saw that fish houses down there that had been in existence for three generations were gone, their boats were gone, their traps were gone, we knew we had to help,” she said. “We couldn’t imagine what that would be like to lose all that. And we knew that they would do the same for us.”

Another boat will be going down in about a week, she said, adding that supplies also are being sent to Arcadia.

“Right now, there’s a high need for coolers, propane and non-perishable foods,” Alexis said. “We can slow down a little bit on clothing.

“This started off small, we thought maybe we would help 20 families,” she said. “But I was told that our donations have already helped over 4,000 people. I am honestly so impressed with our community.”

According to the OFF Facebook page, drop-off sites and needs are as follows:

Swordfish Grill and Tiki Bar, 4628 119th St. W. in Cortez. – Coolers and baby items. Additional supplies are needed, but these things are of high importance now. Please drop items off with the hostess.

A.P. Bell Fish Co., 4600 124th St. Court W. in Cortez – Everything, particularly non-perishable foods, dog food, cat food, horse feed, ice, gas, clothes, baby items and generators. Please drop items off with Savannah at the office.

P.J.’s Sandwich Shop, 12342 U.S. 301 in Parrish. Same as at A.P. Bell. Please drop items off with Theresa.

According to the A.P. Bell Fish Co. website, “We are looking for donations for Arcadia as they are still underwater and most people have no homes. We are looking for toilet paper, dog food, cat food, non-perishable food, fuel for generators, soap, feminine hygiene products, baby food, diapers and blankets. Please drop at A.P. Bell in Cortez or PJ’s Sandwich Shop in Parrish.”

Donations may also be made through Venmo to Organized Fisherman of Florida.