Post 19 Commander Wade Foster unloads pallets of water from a truck full of supplies sent to Florida American Legion department headquarters from Indiana on Thursday, September 14, 2017 in Orlando.

Florida after Irma: No electricity, but not powerless

The American Legion Department of Florida headquarters sits in one of the neighborhoods in Orlando which was still without power Wednesday night in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. Across the state, Legion posts are without power and dealing with damage.

But that hasn’t stopped Legion family efforts to lend helping hands.

“The Legionnaires are doing their very best to provide the basic necessities that we know that we need,” Department of Florida Commander Steve Shuga said.

Early estimates of Irma’s impact on the United States put the insured losses at about $18 billion, most of that in Florida, which bore the brunt of the hurricane’s impact. The Florida Keys, home to Arthur Sawyer Post 28 and William Weech Post 168, were particularly hard hit. The storm knocked down trees and caused flooding in other parts of the state.

“It’s been detrimental to a lot of folks. This brings back a lot of bad memories from our 2004-05 period when we had a lot of hurricanes criss-crossing the state. Those several storms took several hours to do the damage that this one storm did in a period of about 24 hours,” Shuga said.

“A lot of the posts took on direct hits from a lot of wind damage, tornado activity, high winds and heavy rains, and it took its toll against a lot of the infrastructure. A lot of these posts lost power because of the power grids … therefore it has hurt them and they’re unable to open up their doors and continue serving their communities and their veterans. Some, they have the opportunity to go ahead and get generators, but then the commodity of gasoline is the next priority and everyone’s fighting to make sure they have enough to keep it going.

“They’re doing the best they possibly can, they’re resilient, and they’ll overcome it,” he said.

Shuga and others have been working to find out where the need for relief is greatest. Making it easier for them is that they know relief is on the way. A trailer filled with donations from the Department of Indiana arrived Thursday late morning, and Shuga said he had also heard from the Department of Maine that they were going to be sending a trailer as well.

“We’re really good at passing support on to other folks, and now this state really needs the support and assistance by so many to get us back on our feet so we can continue to serve and support one another,” Shuga said.

 

How to help

There are several ways to support relief efforts in Florida, Texas, and other areas affected by the recent hurricanes, through donations to your local post or to the National Emergency Fund. Donations can be made online here.

Shuga also said direct donations may be made to the Department of Florida, 1912A Lee Road, Orlando, FL 32810. And those with questions about sending support can email him at commander@floridalegion.org.

"Once I receive your email, I’ll do my very best to coordinate with you and then we’ll arrange for your necessary support and supplies to be received here so we can get things out there to the people who need them the most," Shuga said.


National Emergency Fund

When natural disasters like tornadoes, floods or wildfires strike, The American Legion’s National Emergency Fund swiftly delivers needed money to veterans in their communities.

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