Fort Lauderdale Rotary Spearheads Relief Efforts for Hurricane Ravaged Keys

Some victims of Hurricane Irma are feeling a little bit better thanks to the efforts of The Fort Lauderdale Rotary Club. The Club joined Rotary clubs from throughout the area to deliver donations for the victims of Hurricane Irma in the Keys.

Rotary Club President Jonathan Keith helped lead the volunteer effort immediately after the storm. Volunteers used social media and personal contacts to get the word out. Members of Broward County Rotary Clubs opened their homes to collect donations. Wow, did they come.

Contributions flowed in, both large and small. Rotarians collected all manner of things, including hats for protection from the sun, clothing, water, personal hygiene items, nonperishable food, leather gloves, bug spray, and tools to work with.

The relief effort began with a sea plane ride to Big Pine, Islamorada, on Wednesday, September 13th. Keith joined fellow Rotarian, Rick Marshall. On a different date a sea plane ride to the Keys might top a tourist’s list of fun things to do. However, this trip served as a reconnaissance effort to assess damage and need.

Keith and Marshall immediately contacted fellow Rotarians at the Rotary Club of Weston shortly after they returned from their flight. The two groups began planning relief efforts and secured a distribution center in Key West for supplies. Meanwhile, the parking lot at of the First Baptist Church in Ft. Lauderdale was turned into a donation collection center.

A 53-foot truck was packed with priority relief items, donated by a broad swath of the community. More than 20 volunteers worked all day sorting and loading donations as the community dropped off supplies. The supplies were then flown to Key West on a donated Florida Air Cargo DC3 aircraft.

This was truly a historical Rotarian event for South Florida. Multiple clubs came together and served communities in need. According to Keith, “It’s been 25 years since we have seen this kind of devastation in South Florida. Our Rotary Club of Fort Lauderdale along with Rotary District 6990 came together as a massive ‘TEAM’ to collect and distribute tons of supplies as though we were a stream-lined mega corporation.  I am so proud to be a Rotarian!”

The Fort Lauderdale Rotary immediately began working toward relief efforts for Puerto Rico when it became evident Hurricane Maria was headed directly for the islands. Look forward to a follow up article on their endeavor.