Donations to help hurricane victims

OKEECHOBEE — After Hurricane Michael slammed into the Florida Panhandle on Oct. 10, leaving 35 dead and thousands homeless, the communities around Lake Okeechobee started grass roots relief efforts to help storm victims.

This is the trailer at the Trading Post flea market collecting supplies for Hurricane Michael victims.

One such hurricane supply drive is spearheaded in Okeechobee by Hobart and Patti Lee. Last weekend, the couple drove through town to see if there were any hurricane relief drives.

When they did not see anyone else organizing relief efforts, they decided to step up.

“We’re Christians,” said Mrs. Lee. “I said to my husband, the Good Lord gave us this trailer.

We should use it to do good work.”

Trading Post flea market donated space in the “park n’ sell” area at 3100 U.S. 441, and put the hurricane drive on their marquee sign. The Sign Guy donated a sign for the side of the stock trailer which they hope to fill with donated supplies.

She said the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office and Okeechobee City Police Department are making regular checks on the trailer to keep the donations safe.

Okeechobee Emergency Management director Mitch Smeykal contacted his counterpart in Calhoun County to coordinate delivery of the supplies and distribution to those who need help. Mrs. Lee said her husband has been given a special pass to allow him into the storm-hit area, and phone numbers so that he can let those in Calhoun County know when he leaves Okeechobee and when to expect his arrival.

Mrs. Lee said they hope to fill the stock trailer over the weekend so he can leave on Monday.

She said items started coming in slowly during the week. Someone even generously donated a generator. She said the generator is in a secured location and won’t be loaded on the trailer until Monday.

“I think it will all come together over the weekend,” she said.

The Lake Okeechobee News also has a drop box for hurricane supplies for those who wish to drop off items during regular office hours on Friday. Newspaper staffers will make sure the Lees have the donations before the trailer leaves Monday.

The following items are needed desperately by Hurricane Michael’s surviving victims:
• Baby supplies (diapers, wipes, non-perishable baby food, etc.);
• Bedding;
• Blankets;
• Tents;
• Tarps;
• Large totes;
• Paper products;
• Personal hygiene products;
• Canned or sealed, packaged food (nothing perishable);
• Tools – powered and manual, a generator which you probably will not get back;
• Landscaping tools – saws, gas-powered leaf blowers, shovels, axes;
• People willing to caravan to the Panhandle and assist with repairs.

NO CLOTHING DONATIONS WILL BE ACCEPTED. Emergency operations managers in the hurricane-hit areas have stressed that donations of clothing will not be accepted at this time.
Please place your donated items in the trailer which will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Those willing to caravan to the Florida Panhandle to assist with repairs should contact Raye Deusinger by emailing: rayedeusinger@gmail.com.

This Hurricane Michael Relief Effort is co-sponsored by Okeechobee Chamber of Commerce, Okeechobee Main Street, Hobert Lee, Okeechobee Blood Roundup representative Raye Deusinger, Okeechobee Sheriff Noel Stephen and deputies, Chief of Police Bob Peterson and officers. The Trading Post Farmer’s Market, the Lake Okeechobee News, WOKC FM-AM and the Okeechobee community.

Publisher/Editor Katrina Elsken can be reached at kelsken@newszap.com

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