Monroe County Commissioners Michelle Coldiron and David Rice, with past Commissioner George Neugent, tour one of the two Long Term Recovery Group’s volunteer bunkrooms. CONTRIBUTED

The Monroe County Long Term Recovery Group opened its mobile Volunteer Village on March 5 on Big Pine Key. The village, set up on county-owned land, is a way to house volunteers temporarily when they come to the Keys to help with hurricane recovery. 

“This village symbolizes the strong community spirit of the Keys and offers encouragement to other areas in the state and nation that are struggling to recover in the challenging months after a natural disaster,” said Michelle Luckett, executive director of the Monroe County Long Term Recovery Group. “It demonstrates the power of collective action.”

The village has two container bunkrooms that can each accommodate 10 volunteers and a mobile bathroom provided by the Salvation Army until the Volunteer Village bathroom is installed. The containers are on chassis that make them easy to move during hurricane evacuations, or to relocate to other sites where recovery help is needed in Monroe County.

Luckett thanked the Monroe County Board of County Commissioners, County Administrator Roman Gastesi and Assistant County Administrator Christine Hurley for their guidance. She also thanked County Building Official Rick Griffin and his staff for their support.

The celebration was attended by about 100 people, including Monroe County Commissioners David Rice and Michelle Coldiron, former County Commissioner George Neugent and county staff. 

Rice and Neugent were part of the July 2018 County Commission meeting that tasked the recovery group with finding solutions to housing volunteers. 

“Although we are a long way from full recovery, there is a marked difference from the days and weeks after the storm,” Rice said. “This was the right thing to do, and today we are seeing the results of Michelle and the group’s efforts.”

The bunkrooms are already booked through April with volunteer disaster recovery groups. There is also interest from an outside donor to fund a third mobile bunkhouse. By the end of March, the Long Term Recovery Group will have a phone number set up for potential volunteers to call. 

“Now the real work begins,” Luckett said. 

– Contributed 

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