“If you can be patient as you are generous, we can make it through this wonderfully.”
As images of Hurricane Michael’s devastation in Bay County and surrounding areas spread in the days following the storm, groups motivated by compassion began sending supplies to the storm-hit areas.
That generosity is appreciated, but the trailer-clogged roads and shipments of used clothing – including used winter jackets – weren’t what the region needs, county officials say.
Bryan Taylor, president of the United Way of Northwest Florida, said he is hoping people can exercise patience before sending supplies to an area still lacking the manpower and infrastructure to distribute and organize those items.
“If you can be patient as you are generous, we can make it through this wonderfully,” Taylor said. “We are so grateful for everybody’s overwhelming desire to help and contribute and help make things better, but it can unfortunately be very hurtful if it is not managed very well.”
Donations have piled up at various locations throughout the county, said Joby Smith, the emergency management division chief for the county. On Saturday, he said with rain in the forecast, county officials are working to find tractor trailers to house the donated items, so they aren’t ruined before they can be sorted and distributed.
People wanting to help should donate cash to large-scale relief organizations like the American Red Cross, United Way of Northwest Florida or the Salvation Army, Taylor said.
“The best way to help immediately is through cash donations,” Taylor said. “I know people don’t want to hear that, but I’m sorry, it’s the truth.”
Valerie Sale, public information officer for Bay County, said county employees are working to provide immediate relief. Donations will be a vital step in the recovery process, but right now the county doesn’t have the manpower to sort and distribute goods.
“Right now, our focus is on safety and providing immediate needs for folks, so some of these donations, while really well intentioned, are making that process of recovery a little bit cumbersome,” Sale said.
Taylor said the county is setting up a Tallahassee-based warehouse that will be open on Monday and able to receive donations. At that point, items that are most helpful are water, non-perishable food, paper goods, toilet paper, hygiene products and pet supplies.
The county has not yet released the location of that warehouse because officials want to ensure it is fully ready to receive donations.
And for those who want to send their old winter coats to Bay County? Sale had a recommendation.
“Have a yard sale and donate the cash,” she said.
HOW TO HELP
Text NWFLUnited to 41444
Text 850Strong to 41444
Donate to United Way of Northwest Florida
Donate through national relief organizations like American Red Cross or the Salvation Army.
Animal services and care:
Florida Urgent Rescue, Inc., a nonprofit based in Jacksonville, is helping evacuate dogs and cats impacted by the Hurricane in partnership with Delta Airlines and Paws Humane Society. It is accepting donations here.
The Humane Society of the United Statesruns an Emergency Animal Rescue Fund to help rescue, care for and provide temporary shelter to animals in need. Donate to the fund here.
Bear Creek Feline Center, a refuge for wild cats near Panama City, Florida, sustained $100,000 worth of damages that will take an estimated six months to repair. Donate here.
By Ryan McKinnon, GateHouse Media
Originally posted by the Panama City News Herald