Florida outdoors-folk are always ready to help in time of need, and certainly Hurricane Michael is just such a time. Mexico Beach, Panama City, St. Joe, Wewahitchka, Marianna, Quincy: We’re ready to help!

M/V Sunrise, 53-foot workboat, being loaded with hurricane relief supplies by Destin, FL, watermen. The boat leaves Thursday morning for Gulf County by way of Port St. Joe. Photo by Alex Fogg/Okaloosa County.

Florida Sportsman editors this week are discussing needs with state agencies, volunteer coordinators and our own field staffers (one of whom is en route to survey his wrecked fish camp in Port St. Joe). Two major talking points for now:

One: Sign up with a volunteer database. Volunteerflorida.org is Florida’s lead agency (with governor-appointed commission oversight) for volunteerism and national service. It coordinates with a long list of partner agencies. Right now, VolunteerFlorida is enlisting volunteers for hurricane relief and recovery projects, everything from debris removal to shelter management to warehouse help. That means you! Figure out when you can work, what you might do, and sign up: Partner agencies with specific needs contact you and schedule your work. Many of these groups are already up and running with work in affected areas: https://www.volunteerflorida.org/emergency-management/. There is also a portal at VF to donate directly to the Okaloosa and Walton counties’ United Way.

October 16, Panama City, Florida. American Red Cross workers Terri Mehling and Mark Edwards load a Red Cross feeding vehicle with hot foods to allow city residents who are without electrical power and water to have a hot meal. The food was prepared in mobile kitchens set up by Southern Baptist Disaster Relief. The red Cambro being loaded will keep the food at a safe, hot temperature for many hours. Photo by Daniel Cima/American Red Cross

Another excellent resource: Red Cross coordinators in North Florida, right now, are eager to put volunteers to work. Some of the duties: help with maintaining and setting up sheltering facilities, registering clients, maintaining client information, serving meals, general housekeeping, bulk distribution, driving trucks, etc.

Volunteer registration for the Red Cross is pretty simple. Each volunteer will need to fill out a brief application and pass a background check. The background checks usually come back within just a few hours, 24 hours, tops. Once processed, volunteers will have access to a calendar that has Red Cross needs/locations/shifts available for sign up.

Click here to get started.

Local Relief Efforts

Many church groups are mobilizing to provide meals and other services in hurricane-impacted towns. Southern Baptist Disaster Relief is one such group. You can volunteer with them through flbaptist.org/day-volunteer

The first days after a storm may seem the most opportune time to help, but remember that recovery work may take weeks, even months.

If you are in a rush, slow down! Before starting your own mini-campaign to haul supplies down uncertain roads (potentially taxing local supplies, impeding traffic, etc.), find a friend, co-worker, church or other source with a specific, LOCAL connection to the affected areas. DOA Lures, in Stuart, FL, for instance, was gearing up to carry supplies to friends in Mexico Beach (find DOA Lures on FB). Odds are good someone you know is heading up to help family members or business connections. Host a poker game or informal fishing tournament this weekend to raise travel money or supplies for them.

Ask how you can help, either with finances or supplies. Maybe you’ll be asked to help drive a truck. Maybe you’ll be more useful staying home, working and scheduling vacation days to revisit Northwest Florida this winter–local businesses will be eager to see you, as infrastructure is rebuilt and people get back to work.

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