Local groups step up to help with hurricane relief efforts


By: Diane Feen Contributing Writer

There was hysteria and then a sense of calm pervading South Florida last month. Hurricane Dorian was slated to hit our shores with a ghastly gush of rain and wind gusts of up to 200 miles per hour.

But as luck would have it, we were spared. There was rain and a bit of panic (water and gas shortages) but we were left pretty much intact after the ferocious storm passed.

But for those who live in the Bahamas, it was a different story. It was one of hardship and death, displacement and despair.

The Category 5 hurricane hit the Grand Bahamas, Great Abaco and other nearby areas. It’s estimated over 60,000 people were affected, and 45 percent of their homes were destroyed.

It was heartbreaking to watch – but out of compassion grew a mammoth surge of goodness. Organizations and charities – churches and non-profits rose to the challenge of helping those in need in the Bahamas.

“Our hearts are with our Bahamian friends who have suffered unimaginable tragedy. South Florida has a connection with the Bahamas, so a lot of our sister Leagues contributed to our relief efforts,” said Cristy Stewart-Harfmann, president of the Junior League of Boca Raton.

The Junior League accepted donations for Bahamian hurricane victims at their headquarters, the Vegso Community Resource Center.

The lobby of the Resource Center was overflowing with medical hygiene products, supplies and diapers destined for those who desperately need them in the Bahamas. Junior Leagues in San Diego, Ocala, Savannah, Boston and Virginia also sent supplies.

Another local business that stepped up to the plate in a big way was South Florida IPIC Theaters. Their Hurricane Dorian Relief Supply Drive went from Miami Beach to Delray. They sent out an extensive list of items to be collected – ranging from canned foods to tents, generators, baby formula and more.

They collected 600 cases of water, 60 cases of diapers. 50 cases of hand wipes, 130 boxes of canned and non-perishable foods and other items. Those who donated were given complimentary IPIC Access Gold Pass (and 30-day Gold Trial memberships).

The Boca Raton Airport also supported Bahama Relief Efforts by suspending customs Fees (until Nov. 17) and collecting donations. Private pilots were able to come back to the US after humanitarian relief visits and bring people back to the US. The Boca Raton Airport Administration office served as a collection site for donations.

The Delray Beach Library came up with a unique idea to raise money and consciousness for the cause. Their “Food for Fines” drive encouraged people to bring in overdue items to the library and all fines would be forgiven. Instead people were asked to bring non-perishable items to be shipped to the Bahamas.

At Cross Country Home Services (in Boca) they had a corporate match fundraiser for disaster relief.  So far CCHS employees have raised $5,130, bringing the total donation to over $12,000.

If you know the Delray Elk’s members then you know they sprang into action for hurricane victims.  “Members Iain Paterson and David Stenson coordinated the logistics so the Elks could get donations directly to those who need it. They went by barge, yachts and planes. We collected, sorted and boxed up donations. We’re still accepting monetary donation,” said Carol Eaton.

St Joseph’s Episcopal School, The Boys Market, Walmart, the Delray Chamber and the entire community was very generous, said Eaton.

Matchmaker – and king of the single’s social scene – Steve Fox also got into the fundraising mode. Over 350 people came to a fundraiser at Carmine’s La Trattoria of Palm Beach Gardens.  “We are fortunate to be able to safeguard our loved ones, homes and valuables.  As we hunkered down in the comfort of our homes, we watched those less fortunate lose everything. The question is not why did I decide to do the party for their benefit, but how could I not?”

The Boca Raton Firefighter & Paramedic Benevolent Fund held a collection drive, the City Cellar Wine Bar and Grill did and Temple Beth El of Boca Raton collected items and funds for Bahamians.

“Across South Florida, we are breathing a sigh of relief that Hurricane Dorian passed by. However, we know that across the Bahamas, the devastation has been overwhelming. In keeping with our Jewish values of tzedakah, and not standing idly by, we are asking all members of the synagogue to help out in the relief effort,” said Senior Rabbi Dan Levin.