In over a decade as the Department of Florida’s disaster preparedness chairman, Bill Hoppner has seen plenty of destructive storms.
“I have never seen devastation and destruction to this degree,” he said in a Facebook post after Hurricane Ian.
More than 100 people died from the storm and damage estimates are in the billions. And there’s still much to do before cleanup and relief efforts can begin in earnest in the state’s hardest hit areas.
“Everyone wants to help which is good,” Hoppner wrote. “But we have to understand the logistics. There are still search and rescue missions going on. Still powerlines down. The gas stations are running out of gas and the stations that do have gas have lines blocks long. I don’t want anybody to come in with supplies and not get out because they have no gas.”
The department’s Disaster Preparedness Committee is scheduled to meet Thursday to assess damage, identify distribution centers, and develop a plan of action. In the meantime, the Department of Florida is collecting donated items at department headquarters, 1912A Lee Road, Orlando, FL 32810.
The department is collecting:
Water, non-perishables (canned food, dried meats, hard candies, granola or power bars), dry goods (crackers, nuts, dried fruit, trail mix), peanut butter, hand can openers, hygiene items (shampoo, soap, deodorant, toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash, etc.), bug spray, sunscreen, infant supplies (diapers, wipes, food, formula), feminine products, pet food, batteries (all sizes), flashlights, solar lights, battery operated fans, pocket juice battery chargers, camping stoves, propane, charcoal grills, cleaning supplies (disinfectant wipes, dust rags, dust masks), first aid items (Band-Aids, antibacterial ointment, gauze, medical tape, aspirin, rubbing alcohol, etc.), chain or hand saws, utility gloves, packaged undergarments (all sizes).
Donations can be shipped to or dropped off at Department of Florida headquarters during business hours, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., until official distribution sites have been designated.
In the meantime, American Legion posts outside the disaster area have also been collecting supplies.
A team of Legion Riders is scheduled to leave Post 104 in Pinellas Park, Fla., early Oct. 8 to deliver donated items.
Post 382 in Navarre, Fla., is collecting donations of water, non-perishable foods, paper products, tarps and more. Drop-off times are from noon to 7 p.m.
Post 221 in Niceville, Fla., is seeking donations of water, canned goods, non-perishable items, tarps, gloves, generators, diapers, baby food, new clothing, and new blankets and sheets still packaged. Drop-off times are from noon to 6 p.m.
Legion posts are also providing for relief workers.
Post 69 in Avon Park, Fla., provided pizzas, sodas and a break for the National Guard.
Post 103 in Punta Gorda, Fla., is serving as headquarters for Team Rubicon for the next 6-8 weeks as the organization helps demolition and cleanup efforts.
Resources for those impacted by the hurricane and ways to donate to the Department of Florida’s Hurricane Relief Fund are available at 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.