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Homegrown Help for Those Affected by Hurricane Irma

Groups of like-minded people coming together to bring supplies and aid to those in need.

The road to recovery for the Keys after hurricane Irma won't be short by any means, but the determination from anglers and residents around the state to get these towns back on their feet are unparalleled.

Social media has become a huge tool in the wake of Irma, allowing people, that before this technology would have never crossed paths, coordinate and deliver. Because of outlets such as Facebook and Instagram, thousands of people have seen the destruction and how dearly these areas need assistance. Creating pages and groups on Facebook, donation drop-offs were established state-wide and word spread like wild fire. Residents who have weathered these storms before know what it's like and were quick to donate all they could. Paul Struve, of Treasure Coast Tile & Marble, stopped by the FS office in Stuart, to drop off a truck full of supplies and a generator. "I remember when Andrew came through. We loaded up a van with supplies and generators and headed to Florida City, little did I know what I was getting into."

In what started as several smaller independent relief efforts of several Keys residents has led to a centralized and well organized Tent City in Big Pine Key. Anya Elis, who owns Scuba Fun a dive shop in Key Largo, has been helping to coordinate the efforts of the so called Tent City (Visit the Facebook page here.) “We have two main tents, one for food and one for supplies,” commented Anya. In what started out as a pretty scattered effort has been centralized and seems to be working out very well. "We were able to feed about 1300 people per day in need of a warm meal in our food tent. Our volunteers there were met with so much gratitude. We're serving breakfast, lunch and dinner."

A look inside "Tent City" as volunteers are hard at work.

But this isn't happening simply by folks in the keys we have several groups from outside the state who have a background in relief efforts helping out in a big way. Navillus, a private construction company from NY, Bear Search and Rescue Foundation, Heart to Heart and Rescue Warriors are making invaluable contributions to the effort commented Elis.

But, none of their efforts would be possible if it wasn't for the generosity and willingness of others to donate their time, money and supplies. “We're using the tarps brought down by Dave Gill to secure entire homes,” said Elis. And we look forward to supplies coming from Bryan Connley on Saturday. Connley and others with Florida Keys Donation Drive began collecting supplies shortly following the storm to bring down. “We've now got three full semi-trucks here and one coming from Jacksonville, with anything you can imagine. We've got tools, generators, cleaning supplies, I even had a company from New York ship 20 coolers for us to bring, the list goes on and on."

Connley has been hard at work for the past two weeks, coordinating 30 drop-off locations from Fort Myers to St. Augustine and facilitating how to get all the donations to the Keys. "It started as just my shop, then it grew to five places and it just kept growing." This won't be the only trip Connley is taking, he plans on making another run in a few weeks, focused more on construction supplies to help the rebuild.

Blair Wickstrom, publisher of Florida Sportsman, commented that it's all about community. “People have stepped up and will be needed to step up further. The folks in the keys are dependent on tourism and for them to make it going forward they need to be able to begin making reservations, booking trips and getting back on the water. So the quicker we can bring back the homes, marinas and tackle shops of the people in the lower Keys the better their chance of survival in the short-term. They need volunteers with the ability to run chainsaws, fix roofs, dry in homes and get rid of mold.”

A helping hand goes a long way for those in need.

“Affordable housing in the lower keys has been destroyed,” commented Elis. “We need to figure out how we're going to restore and replace affordable housing for the mates, servers and backbone of the service industry in the keys.” Hotels are open in the upper Keys and Key West, if you can come down and help these people out, it will go a long way in getting Keys life back to the way we knew it.”

“Several national organizations have helped us with logistics, organization and with advice on best practices, as well as getting us much needed hands-on assistance. I have still have a home and two businesses that need attention,” said Anya. We very much appreciate the help of these groups that have experience in disaster relief: , , and

Supplies desperately needed


Feminine products



Cleaning supplies

Laundry detergent

Vinegar & baking soda

Bug spray

To keep up with hurricane relief be sure to follow the Lower Keys Hurricane Relief Page.

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