ANNA MARIA ISLAND – Though the Island didn’t suffer major damage due to Hurricane Ian, some of its southern neighbors weren’t so lucky. While many want to help victims of the storm in Fort Myers, Sanibel, Captiva and other affected areas, some good intentions may not be the best intentions logistically.
“Whenever they have a catastrophe, about six to eight weeks later they have something they call the second catastrophe,” said Bob Slicker, owner of Slicker’s Eatery in Cortez. Slicker is working to find effective ways for locals to help hurricane victims that will do the most good. “The needs change as the catastrophe is being dealt with. Initially, everybody emotionally wants to help, so they gather a bunch of stuff that may not be needed yet and they send it down. All the sudden there’s people that shouldn’t be down there driving up and down the streets that are not ready for the traffic. There have to be distribution points.”
Slicker stresses the importance of getting in contact with local volunteers or agencies in affected areas to make sure it is safe to travel and that a good-faith effort won’t get in the way of an organized plan to address known needs and ongoing relief efforts. Arriving in a severely storm-affected area too soon could unintentionally do more harm than good.
“I would definitely recommend reaching out to the local Salvation Army down there. They are always taking donations,” Kelli Spring of ServPro of West Bradenton/Anna Maria said. “Also, the Moose Lodges are doing some things. The workers had mentioned many of them were able to provide some help as well.” Spring had some friends and coworkers that were affected, and she began collecting some things at her office. She announced at a Chamber of Commerce event that she was making a trip south and, if anyone had anything they wanted to donate, she would try her best to get it down there. She said Hurricane Nicole came at the time they were taking supplies south, hindering some of their efforts. They were still able to get some needed supplies to the area.
Spring’s advice echoes that of Slicker, saying the best course of action is to do some research online and contact groups and organizations who are on the ground in the area to see what they need, how and where they need it delivered, and when they need it.
Both Spring and Slicker also stress that it’s not just food and cleaning supplies that are needed. Many people who lost everything need beds, furniture, dishes and other items needed to get back to a normal life. They encourage anyone who might have a storage unit that contains household goods that are going unused to donate those items.