As Hurricane Ian struck Florida, the American Legion Department of Florida was mobilizing.
“We’re obviously no strangers to hurricanes, and our shared experiences have taught us a few things,” Carrie Kolze, the department’s creative services manager, said via email. “Letting our posts and members know that we’re there for them in these difficult times is a priority to us.”
On Wednesday, Department Adjutant Bruce Comer asked Kolze to get a message out to encourage posts affected by the hurricane to share details with the department headquarters, as well as reiterating to them the availability of grants from the National Emergency Fund (NEF).
Kolze created a form on the department website for posts to check in.
“If they were good, minimal information was required, and if not, the form gave them the ability to include more information and photos of the extent of damage and their needs,” Kolze said. “We then sent out an email to all of our posts and post leadership, encouraging them to check-in and reminding them about National’s NEF program, as well as keeping receipts and documentation that may be required.”
The department also shared the information on its social media platforms.
“Within a couple of hours, we had more than 60 posts respond,” Kolze said. That number had grown to over 100 by Friday morning, three of which reported heavy damage: Post 25 in Lake Placid, which reported its smoking room was destroyed, front overhang was gone, and flashing destroyed; Post 303 in Bonita Springs, whose entire interior was destroyed when the storm surge sent five feet of water into the building; and Post 11 in Arcadia, which was almost completely underwater less than four years after reopening in the aftermath of flooding brought on by Hurricane Irma the year before.
“We expect with power outages and the sheer devastation, it may take time before some of our most affected posts are able to communicate,” Kolze said Friday.
Kolze said the department’s disaster relief committee is scheduled to meet next week to determine how to disseminate assistance from the department’s hurricane relief fund. That fund was created in 2017 to distribute donated funds for disaster-related expenses, such as water, food, paper products and more.
Resources for those impacted by the hurricane and ways to donate to the Department of Florida’s Hurricane Relief Fund are available at https://www.floridalegion.org/resources/hurricane-relief/.
The American Legion stands ready to assist eligible Legionnaires, American Legion posts and Sons of The American Legion impacted by these and other natural disasters.
Grants from the National Emergency Fund (NEF) are available — up to $3,000 to Legionnaires and SAL members displaced due to damages to their primary residence from declared natural disasters, and up to $10,000 for Legion posts that have been damaged by a natural disaster and whose programs and activities within the community have been impacted.
Click here for the NEF grant application.
NEF grants are made possible from the generosity of donations to the fund. Donate here.
In addition to the requirement that an emergency declaration be made for a natural disaster, applicants must be current on their membership prior to the disaster and at the time of application submission, and must provide photos, receipts, insurance paperwork, and FEMA statements if possible.
The Temporary Financial Assistance (TFA) program is also available to assist American Legion eligible veterans with minor children in the home who need financial help to pay for shelter, food, utilities, and medical expenses.
For TFA information on eligibility requirements and how to apply, visit legion.org/financialassistance.