UPPER KEYS SCOUTS COLLECT SUPPLIES FOR HURRICANE IAN VICTIMS

Holding up signs for their hurricane relief effort, scouts from Troop and Pack 914 collected donations for people impacted by Hurricane Ian. KELLIE BUTLER FARRELL/Keys Weekly

Hundreds of 24-packs of water, Gatorade, dozens of boxes of baby diapers and wipes, cans of non-perishables, bleach; that was the show of generosity outside the Tavernier Winn Dixie Saturday afternoon as piles of donated hurricane relief supplies continued to multiply.

“It’s been overwhelming, it’s been amazing,” said Jason Swensson, Scoutmaster for Troop 914. “Everybody has been very generous, has gone out of their way to at least donate something,” he added. Local Troop 914 along with Cub Pack 914 organized this effort to collect donations for the hard hit victims of Hurricane Ian along Florida’s gulf coast.

“I think it’s a really good thing to donate to people that don’t have as much as we do,” said 9-year-old Cub Scout Anderson Ervin. “We’ve had so much help when there’s problems in the Keys, people always respond. This is our time to give back,” added mom Donna Ervin.  “I thought it would be good to do it. We’re donating to those in need,” said 12-year-old Scout Zach Swensson.

Debra Swensson organizes donated baby diapers and wipes in front of the Tavernier Winn Dixie. KELLIE BUTLER FARRELL/Keys Weekly

The Sea Base aquatic program for Boy Scouts of America donated two vans and trailers for the relief efforts. Tim Stanfill works for the scouts’ national office and he is also the Cubmaster for Pack 914. Stanfill said the Sea Base program had 18 sailboats in Placida near Port Charlotte when Ian struck with a vengeance. Many of the boats were destroyed or badly damaged. The scouts sent relief supplies to the captains of those boats. Stanfill knew so much more could and should be done.

“If we’re going to be sending vans and supplies for captains, why don’t we just send it for the entire community? ” he asked.

Upper Keys resident Jen Nieder was more than happy to pitch in with a 24-pack of water. “We all know how it is, we got hit by Irma,” said Nieder.  Hurricane Ian hit very close to home for Nieder who grew up visiting her grandmother’s condo along Fort Myers Beach. Her uncle still lives there. He is safe, but many along the west coast are struggling.

 

“You just want to help those people. The footage coming out is so hard to see,” said Nieder as she choked back tears.

Winn Dixie shopper Kristina Landino also has a very personal connection to the hurricane-ravaged area. Her 97-year-old mother lives in Sarasota. Fortunately, she made it through the storm and is also safe. Landino applauded these local scouts for helping relief efforts and doing it in such an organized manner.  All shoppers were given a list of needed items as they entered the Winn Dixie. 

“I’m so delighted. They make it so easy. I’m so glad they’re on your way in so you can buy all the stuff, it really makes good sense,” said Landino.

Besides donating supplies, some shoppers also gave cash. Relief effort organizers used that cash to buy more desperately needed supplies. The donations made in front of this Winn Dixie will be driven to Fort Myers and Port Charlotte. “We might have to take multiple trips at this point, because of the outpouring of support,” said Stanfill. 

“It’s been overwhelming, but not surprising,” added Stanfill’s wife Melissa, an adult leader with Pack 914. “We have done other food drives and different things in our Keys community and people are always extremely generous.”

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Kellie Butler Farrell is a journalist who calls Islamorada home. Kellie spent two decades in television news and also taught journalism at Barry University in Miami and Zayed University in Abu Dhabi, UAE. She loves being outside, whether spending time on the water or zipping down the Old Highway on her electric bike, Kellie is always soaking up the island lifestyle. Kellie and her husband own an electric bike rental company, Keys Ebikes.