I had the honor of traveling to the Florida Panhandle a few days ago with a very special group of people. We drove a box truck and pulled a trailer that were both filled with supplies for the wonderful folks in Northern Florida. The team was composed of Bob Slicker of the Swordfish Grill, Andy VanHook owner of N.E. Taylor Boatworks, John Cadmus and his wife Lacey from Cortez Watersports & Family Fun Center, Bob, a hardworking volunteer, Laura Bell Adams from Sande Caplin & Associates / Sarasota Post and Lydia Goode who has been displaced from her home in Panama City Beach. She is now living in Bradenton, FL.
We left Cortez, FL at 4:30 am and had a couple of stops to freshen up along the way arriving in Port St. Joe around 1pm. I could not believe what I saw. It really looked like a bomb was dropped in this once beautiful paradise. My mood turned to scared, heartsick and apprehensive. I really did not know where to begin. Should I take some photos? Talk with some residents? The team decided to split up. John and his crew went to a Church to unload the trailer and the other crew parked and started handing out supplies to the residents.
After John and his crew (Lacey, Lydia, Bob and Laura) dropped their supplies off at the church, they drove to Panama City Beach to retrieve Lydia’s things from a storage facility. On the way the had to detour around Mexico Beach and saw so much devastation along the sides of the road. Power lines down, trees bent and snapped, roofs caved in or blown off, debris. And they also saw the hard work the folks have already done: piles of cut trees, piles of debris ready for pick-up, and so many power trucks and crews putting electric back together. They were so impressed with the work that has been accomplished in such a short time, but also overwhelmed by how much there is still to be done.
We (Bob Slicker, Andy and I [Sande]) met so many nice people who were there to help us unload. It made our job so much easier. We met some wonderful people, families that are displaced, kids that are just starting to go back to school, and many folks who lost just about everything. We talked about things like “no Halloween for the kids because of the curfew” and the “unsafe situation in the streets” and so much more.
The folks up there are wonderful people. They deserve better. This hurricane could have hit anywhere in Florida. They need our help, much more help. With colder weather on the way they need coats, hats, gloves. Please don’t forget them.
We made a very special new friend in Port St. Joe, Laura Joelle Smiley Baxley. She works for the Gulf Coast Real Estate Company in Port St. Joe. She spent the entire day with us handing out supplies, lifting heavy boxes and by the end of the day was officially part of the “Crew from Cortez”. Thank you, Laura, for making us feel so comfortable. Your fishing village of Port St. Joe is now officially adopted by our fishing village of Cortez. A Toys for Tots campaign is being set up by the folks at the Swordfish Grill & Tiki, so we can send a truck load of toys to the kids up there for Christmas. And, Heather Elaine who we did not meet until the very end and she took some photos for us and provided refreshments before we left!
The trip up and back was 24 hours door to door. While totally exhausted, it was one of the most rewarding things I have ever done in my entire life. Bob, John, Lacey, Bob, Laura, Lydia, and Andy….. you’re all so special. Thank you to everyone who donated money and supplies. Thank you to the wonderful folks in Cortez who spent hours and hours working at the collection center and helped load the trucks. And a few more special “thank you’s”…. Bob Sliocker’s mom, Ellen Scott who coordinated the packing of the Halloween candy which put a smile on so many kids faces, Katrina Cox, Manager at the Swordfish Grill & Tiki who did so much work behind the scenes to make this trip such a great success and Betsy Howell Plante of the Blessing Bags Project who helped to coordinate and pack the trucks.
Link to more photos: Click here
I am so proud and honored to live in and be a part of our awesome community.
Photos from The Sarasota Post / Sande Caplin & Associates