At a time when post-Irma focus seems to be more on business and general community recovery, a band of out-of-state volunteers hasn’t lost sight of supplying the basics to needy people.
This week, in conjunction with the Greater Marco Family YMCA, The Immokalee Foundation and the Naples Children & Education Foundation, the visiting volunteers set up a staging area in the Marco Y grounds.
From there, they fanned out to the harder-hit (and poorer) areas such as Everglades City, Chokoloskee, Goodland and East Naples to distribute food, toiletries and other basic necessities to those still suffering.
Ron Berube is commanding officer of the Connecticut Militia, which was one of five similar organizations from states such as the Carolinas Georgia and Massachusetts to answer this particular call.
“We are for all people,” Berube said this week at the staging area. “We’re obviously Republicans and conservatives, but when there’s a crisis we are for all people. We don’t care about political affiliations or color. We are fathers, mothers, children, veterans … just like everybody else. We are like-minded patriots just wanting to help.”
By way of reciprocation, the Y offered to house the volunteers at their Sand Hill campus.
“They were most gracious to us, and they also loved the idea (of the staging),” Berube said.
Patriots group member Kathy Kempel said advance planning had resulted in the mayor of Everglades City already being aware that extra help was on the way.
“We ask for lists of what is needed,” Kempel said. “When we get the info, we go out with the stuff.”
She said the volunteers are also in contact with communities in the Keys for similar relief.
“We’re very excited about helping,” Kempel said. “We were going to Texas (following Harvey), but there was lots of help there, so our contacts said people here really needed the help. It was also better for our resources, coming down the East Coast.”
Despite the volunteers’ general focus off the island, there was indeed a special local touch.
Some parents of children attending the Y’s Early Learning (preschool) program indeed benefitted from the goodies brought down by the patriots.
As for giving up time and money through lost work hours to pitch in and help, Ron Berube summed up perhaps the motivation of volunteers everywhere: “There’s no better feeling. Money couldn’t buy it,” he said.
For more information on the Greater Marco Family YMCA and its wide variety of programs for youth and adults, visit marcoymca.org.