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Marathon Fire Department volunteers spend a day in Freeport, Bahamas to put tarps on roofs. The effort was led by the Marathon Lion’s Club. WILLIE GONZALEZ/Contributed

This past week, three Marathon Fire Rescue firefighters traveled to Freeport, Grand Bahamas to install tarps on homes damaged by Hurricane Dorian early last month. 

Marathon’s Jesse Fossum, Jorge Garzon and Weeber Marreio were accompanied by Tiffany Fossum, one of the department’s volunteers. In a single day, they were able to put tarps on eight roofs to make the homes habitable for the short term and hand out food and water for about 800 residents. 

“We are extremely proud of them,” said the department’s logistics coordinator, Mike Card. “It really speaks to the teamwork of this department.”

Two other members of the department covered the shifts to make the trip possible: Capt. Joe Forcine and Alex Bobadilla.

The group was led by the Marathon Lions Club’s Willie Gonzalez. Since the hurricane, Gonzalez and other Marathon volunteers have made three trips to the islands. Gonzalez and Freeport Lions Club President Dudley Bent leave again on the fourth trip on Thursday, Oct. 10. Bent has been in the Keys for a few days, collecting contacts and resources to help his community rebuild. He said it will be a while before the islands are open again to tourists.

“There’s no airport. It’s been gutted. And no hospital; the doctors are operating out of tents,” Bent said, adding that UNICEF, Rotary clubs and the Lions club have been instrumental in helping Freeport recover.

Gonzalez has identified three main projects in Freeport. First is to rebuild the club house, which sustained both wind and water damage. He said he is in the process of applying for grants to cover the cost. The second is to partner with other agencies to fix the Grand Bahama Children’s Home, an orphanage. The third undertaking is the most ambitious.

“We want to raise about $250,000 to rebuild the Walter Parker Primary School, Gonzalez said. “It is one of four middle schools that were damaged in the storm, but is in the best shape.” Bent said the school, where his wife also works, needs a new roof, new ceiling, new computer lab (the machines were all destroyed), new paint and new basketball court. And it needs to happen fast: right now the student body is about 400 but will soon swell to 800 as it takes in students from neighboring schools that were destroyed.

Marathon Lions Club is still collecting monetary donations. Make the check out to the Marathon Lions Club and write “Disaster Relief Bahamas Fund” in the memo line. The checks can be dropped off at both Marathon branches of Centennial Bank. 

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