September 11, 2019

KEVIN WADLOW/Free Press
Upper Keys volunteers and donations keep coming during the Sept. 4-5 relief effort for the northern islands of the Bahamas devastated by Hurricane Dorian. Rotary clubs in the Florida Keys and South Florida organized the efforts.

KEVIN WADLOW/Free Press Upper Keys volunteers and donations keep coming during the Sept. 4-5 relief effort for the northern islands of the Bahamas devastated by Hurricane Dorian. Rotary clubs in the Florida Keys and South Florida organized the efforts.

FLORIDA KEYS — “People really helped us out two years ago after Hurricane Irma,” said Laura Lietaert, Key Largo Rotary Club president. “Now it’s our turn to reach out.”

Around her on Thursday, Sept. 5, sweat-soaked volunteers carried, stacked and logged essential relief supplies for a planned shipment to the northern Bahamas, devastated by Category 5 Hurricane Dorian.

“People come up and ask, what can we do to help? They want to do what they can,” Lietaert said. “Right now, we’re trying to get them the things they need to survive another day.”

Organized by Rotary Clubs District 6990 covering South Florida and part of the Bahamas, a 181-foot-long ship was scheduled to carry four large shipping containers to Grand Bahama Island and the Abacos earlier this week. Additional trips may be scheduled.

Don Horton of the Upper Keys Rotary serves as disaster-relief coordinator for District 6990. Donations of essentials — tents, generators, flashlights, cooking stoves and more — are welcome, but monetary donations are critical.

“We do a lot better with funds because we can buy in bulk, have the goods shrink-wrapped and get them on the boat faster,” he said in a Rotary statement. “This is a big undertaking but we’re Rotarians, and this is what we do.”

The Marathon Rotary Club presented Horton with a check for $10,000 last week for the relief effort.

Monroe County donated hundreds of heavy-duty tarps that were secured to shipping pallets at mile marker 90.2 staging site.

“Tarps are really what they need,” Lietaert said. “We also have blankets and pillows to give them a place to lay their heads on something other than a palm frond.”

Sandy Swantek of Islamorada was among the volunteers prepping goods for transport.

“I’m thrilled to see all the nice Keys people ready to pitch in,” she said.

Numerous other organizations, including Masonic Lodges in Tavernier and Key West, opened relief campaigns.

Those wishing to donate to the effort can make checks payable to:

• Rotary Club of Key Largo Charitable Events Inc. (FEI/EIN Number 65-1051517) – earmark the check for “Hurricane Dorian Bahamas Relief” – Rotary Club of Key Largo, P.O. Box 252, Key Largo, FL 33037.

• Upper Keys Rotary Foundation (FEI/EIN Number 65-0385528) – earmark the check for “Hurricane Dorian Bahamas Relief” – Upper Keys Rotary Club, P.O. Box 1514, Tavernier, FL 33070.

• Rotary Club of Key Largo Sunset Foundation Inc. (FEI/EIN Number pending) – earmark the check for “Hurricane Dorian Bahamas Relief” – 99411 Overseas Highway, Suite 4, Key Largo, FL 33037.

The District 6990 Rotary, which includes the Grand Bahama Island Rotary, is also collecting for this effort. Make checks payable to The Robbins Fund (FEI/EIN Number 65-0651579) – earmark the check “Hurricane Dorian Bahamas Relief” – Rotary International District 6990, c/o Marty Kurtz, District Treasurer, 2110 N Ocean Blvd., No. 703, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33305.

Each group is a 501 c3 not-for-profit organization and gifts to the foundations are tax deductible.

kwadlow@keysnews.com