Volunteers broaden their scope to ease misery after Irma
Grim realities linger for the lesser privileged in Irma’s wake. For them, a meal, a tarp, some water, clothing and toiletries are a luxury of the times – and spirited bands of Marco volunteers continue weeks later to provide them to ease their misery.
Among them is the Greater Marco Family YMCA, which found new meaning for its recently launched initiative – Togetherhood – by helping not only storm victims in East Naples and Marco Island, but also Goodland and further afield in Everglades City.
First, and within two days of Irma blowing through the region, said Y volunteer Allyson Richards, she and volunteer leaders such as Lorraine Corva went door to door in the Lake Park and Auto Ranch Roads section of East Naples where some of the county’s poorest and neediest people live.
“We distributed food door to door for two weeks,” Richards said. “We gathered supplies from (people and organizations) including the Marco Island Police Department, the Marco Patriots, the Our Daily Bread Food Pantry, the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army.
“When we asked people what they needed, it was usually things like food, diapers, formula and flashlights. We would get them, and then go back the next day and deliver.”
On top of these mercy missions to neighborhoods served traditionally by the Y’s educational outreach programs, Richards and teams of helpers which included many Y instructors. Just to recognize a few: Joan Pernice, Michelle Jordan, Terese Glaser, Nancy Phillips. Many more volunteers found themselves drawn to Goodland and Everglades City to do the same thing.
“In Everglades City we helped set up a pantry,” she said. “We took water to Goodland, and food, toilet paper and water to the Westwind mobile home over-55 community off U.S.41.”
And, for people traumatized at losing so much, Richards said, local psychologist Connie Aria offered her services to try to ease their pain.
“We (the Y volunteers bolstered by concerned citizens) have gone everywhere every day,” Richards said. “My husband said he had never seen me happier (under the circumstances). I said ‘we have a purpose.’”
One sobering conundrum for Richards was that some people were reticent about being helped in public because they had immigration status issues.
They received food, just like everybody else.
A booster for Richards and her volunteers was a call from State Rep. Bob Rommel via MIFD Chief Mike Murphy, which resulted in Rommel diverting a truckload of MRE’s (Meals Ready to Eat) for Marco and surrounds.
Rose Marina, Richards said, also weighed in with nine boxes of boots. Adult sizes went to Goodland, and children’s sizes to Manatee Middle School.
This week, teams included a closer-to-home venue in the form of the Marco Island Charter Middle School, where they delivered food to be taken home to students’ families in need.
“There were just so many people helping,” said Richards, who re-emphasized that teamwork was the key, and that she was simply a team member herself. She did, however, make special mention of Islander Michelle Jordan for going above and beyond.
CEO for the Y, Cindy Love, reiterated the teamwork aspect.
“This is where the community comes together with the whole relief effort and cleanup, helping our families in need,” she said.
Love made special mention of Meals of Hope, Community Foundation of Collier County, United Way and the Naples Children’s Education Foundation (NCEF) for invaluable help and contributions, while long-serving volunteer and board president-elect Jayme Lowe also praised the teamwork aspect of the operation.
She also made special mention of the Y’s Caitlin Porter, whose sterling work in Everglades City made life a little easier for those hard-hit people.
Porter led a group of United Way and St. Matthew’s House volunteers to help a Y After School family in home demo and clean up. They also brought a truckload of much needed supplies requested by Everglades City School Principal, Jim Ragusa and Donation Coordinator, Joe West.
And, asked for a nutshell in how it all went over the past couple of weeks, Love said simply: “We’re still doing it.”
The Y’s Togetherhood program “gives a chance to activate (your) social responsibility by helping (our) neighbors receive the support they need to feel healthy, connected and secure.”
It adds that being a Togetherhood volunteer enables people to enhance their own well being.
Under its umbrella are included the Bread Run to East Naples in collaboration with the Y partner Family Church Our Daily Bread Pantry, gardening to teach children how easy it is to grown their own nutrition, transportation where necessary, a “handy men’s” club to help neighbors with small projects, and monthly social lunches with the aim of social connectivity.
The ultimate aim is to strengthen the community, with all participants being volunteers.
To learn more about the Greater Marco Family YMCA’s wide assortment of programs and activities for youth and adults, visit marcoymca.org or acquire the Marco Y app through the website. To help in Y hurricane relief efforts please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.