September 15, 2017
Count your blessings and help any way you can
The popular Summerland Key 43' sportfishing vessel “Sea Boots” hopefully will fish another day soon in the not-so-distant future.
If you're an angler in Florida most likely you have a connection, a memory, a favorite story involving the Florida Keys. So in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, seeing photo after photo showing the devastation of the storm's path, it's not surprising to see anglers taking recovery matters into their own hands.
Many areas of the lower Keys were damaged beyond recognition.
As many as 25 percent of homes in the Keys were destroyed, Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Brock Long said Tuesday evening, and as many as 65 percent of homes suffered major damage. According to FEMA, 90 percent of homes in the Florida Keys suffered some damage.
Keys residents are now returning to their homes, with the Florida Department of Transportation saying all 42 bridges along U.S. 1—the only road into and out of the Keys—have been inspected and cleared.
Many homes in the Big Pine Key area were totally destroyed.
Now the work begins. And that's where Bryan Connley, Royal Palm Beach, of Connley Fishing hopes to make an impact. “It could have just as easily have been us,” said Bryan. “How could I not do something? The Keys are very dear to my heart.”
After seeing the aftermath of the storm, Bryan posted a thread on Facebook asking fellow anglers to help those in the Keys. “I wasn't expecting things to blow up like they have. The amount of support has been amazing. I keep getting calls from people and companies who also want to help.”
Some homes are in uninhabitable conditions, leaving many stranded.
Connley's goal from the beginning was to work really hard for two weeks, collecting all they could and then lead a convoy of trucks down to the Lower Keys on September 23rd. “But, this effort has taken on a life of it's own, and anglers from all over are the fuel behind the fire. In one call we picked up three trucks, totally loaded and ready to go. Dave Gill, from Jacksonville, was prepared to leave for relief efforts in Texas when Irma set her sights on Florida so he waited to see where in Florida he may be needed.
“And then last night, in two calls our two biggest logistical barriers were answered. We needed trucks, big trucks, and that need was answered when AAA Cooper Transportation, a family owned transportation company headquartered in Dothan, Alabama, committed not only trucks but drivers too.
“The second logistical obstacle was storing everything we've been getting donated. We needed warehouse space, lots of it. And then I got the call from Peter Fedor with Farmer & Irwin Corporation, a large locally owned company in Riviera Beach, Florida.
“These two calls were game changers, now we can focus on expanding our drop off locations and collecting donations.
Big Time Tackle, Marathon Key, had over four feet of water in the store, but owner Jack Carlson looks to be a key contact in the restoration efforts throughout the lower keys.
“Our goal is to continue to help the folks in the Keys as long as they need it. I've been speaking with Capt. Jack Carlson, owner of Big Time Tackle in Marathon and we'll be coordinating with him and others on how we can most directly get these donations into the hands of those who need them the most.”
Connley's plan is to make the first trip into the Keys on Saturday, September 23rd. The goal is to bring items needed when they're needed. Right now tarps are at the top of the list, and probably will be brought down before the 23rd.
Supplies are coming in, see the attached list of drop off locations.
Basic needs such as generators, fans, extension cords, plywood, wood screws, smaller AC units, solar phone chargers, insect repellent, toiletry items will be needed. But, as Blair Wickstrom, publisher of Florida Sportsman magazine stressed, “Many of the residents of the Keys make their living on charter boats and will need help getting their businesses, their boats, up and running. Donations of items they won't get from FEMA or the Red Cross will be key and that's where the fishing and boating community can make a big difference.”
Connley reititerated that you can help in a number of ways. No donation is too small. You can drop off supplies at the growing number of drop off locations (see list below), you can drop ship from Amazon or give money thru a Gofundme site at www.gofundme.com/thefloridakeyirmafund
"The people in the Keys aren't going to wait for anyone to come down there and rebuild for them. They're resourceful and hardworking,” said Wickstrom. “But, there's no reason to do it alone. It's the least we can do. I commend Connley and others for getting the ball rolling.”
Current Drop Off Locations
600 Royal Commerce RD. Unit F
Royal Palm Beach, Fl 33411
Florida Sportsman Magazine
2700 S. Kanner Hwy
Stuart, FL 34994
Tournament Yacht Sales
222 S. US Highway One
Tequesta, Fl 33469
Law Offices of Hughes and Martucci
500 Maplewood Dr.
Suit 5 Jupiter, FL 33458
Busy Body Gym
4430 Northlake Blvd.
Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33410
Busy Body Gyms To Go
600 Royal Commerce Rd. Unit F
Royal Palm Beach, FL 33411
Hard Exercise Works
21065 Powerline Rd C9
Boca Raton, Fl 33433
Cabana Colony Youth Center
12180 Alternate A1A
Palm Beach Gardens, Fl 33410
Tolliver Powder Coating
6810 Georgia Ave
West Palm Beach, FL 33405
2457 Quantum Blvd
Boynton Beach, Fl 33426
Sailfish Marina Resort
98 Lake Dr
West Palm Beach, FL 33404
Strong Recovery Towing
2139 2nd Avenue North
Lake Worth, FL 33461
71 S Military Trail
West Palm Beach, FL 33415
Drop at any Florida stores
3581 SW 141 Ave
Miami, FL 33175
Amazon Drop Location
721 East Broward Blvd
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301
Stay tuned to this post for more updates.