We Will Overcome
Hurricane Irma will surely be one for the history books, 70,000 square miles of area impacted, with sustained wind speeds up to 185 mph, a storm larger than the entire state of Florida. Years from now we will read about the devastation it dealt Florida and our neighbors to the South and North. Homes, communities, whole cities left in ruins. More than 6.5 million American citizens returned to the “dark ages” for days, weeks in some areas. Our families, neighbors, comrades praying for just the very basic necessities: shelter, food and water. Many areas have limited fuel leaving thousands trapped, with nowhere and no way to escape before or after the storm. Thousands more waiting just to return to see if they even have a home to return to. Hurricane Irma has claimed 69 souls, 26 in Florida alone.
The statistics of Hurricane Irma are staggering. Every single Floridian has been affected or will be affected by the aftermath of this historic storm. Many will tell this story, but this is not the only story to be told.
United We Stand
Across the entire country, we are showing the world that we are not divided, we are united, we are the UNITED States of America. Our brothers and sisters are sending their thoughts, prayers, time, supplies, and hard-earned money, all of which hold great value in a time of need. People of this great nation are coming together to take care of each other, regardless of political views, religion, race, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, etc. This is the type of Americanism that The American Legion strives to promote, in fact it is a pillar of our foundation.
The American Legion, Department of Florida is proud to be an integral part of this nationwide organization, this family of veterans and their families, who are continuing to serve and promote the values for which they have fought. If Hurricane Irma has taught us anything, it is these values, for which we stand, are the most important resources we possess. It’s our perseverance, our service, our gratitude, our compassion that will see us through.
The American Legion, Department of Florida Lights Out
The Department of Florida Headquarters was blessed to have only sustained minimal damage, however we are still without power. Our staff members, were also blessed to have only minimal damage to their homes, and only a few staff members remain without power. Our Headquarters office is open with limited resources. Much of our staff working remotely. Phone extensions will be forwarded to appropriate staff members and calls will be returned in order of voicemails received over the past week. Your patience is appreciated during this time. Once power has been restored, we will return to our regular hours and resume normal business. Unfortunately, at this time we do not have an estimation of when that will be. ***UPDATE: Power has been restored, and we will resume normal business hours Monday, September 18, 2017.
Florida Relief Efforts
Department Commander Steve Shuga and Disaster Preparedness Chair, Bill Hoppner have been working around the clock to organize relief efforts among our Legion family. They have been contacted by other Departments and many posts, offering aid. Many legionnaires and Posts have also reached out expressing great need.
Thursday, September 14, Department of Florida Staff and a few legionnaires met at headquarters to receive a 53’ semi-trailer of goods from the Department of Indiana. The truck contained several pallets of water, personal hygiene items, infant items, paper goods, non-perishable foods and much more. We are truly grateful to the Department of Indiana for such a blessing in our time of need. Not only did they bring needed supplies, but they also presented a check in the amount of $16,057 for additional supplies and aid. Transportation of these items were provided by Indiana’s Teamsters 135, driven by Teamster Rick Smith. The Department of Indiana’s Communications Director, Tim Sproles and representatives from National also made the journey and pitched in to unload and sort items, as well as help spread the word for need. Items provided by the Department of Indiana were quickly unloaded, sorted, re-loaded and more than half is already on its way to two hard hit areas in Homestead and Lehigh Acres.
A Call to Action
A second truck of goods is expected from Maine next week. Commander Steve Shuga is asking for volunteers to help with disbursement of these goods, and operational posts who are centrally located to consider establishing your posts as a distribution point for supplies coming in. Once distribution posts are established, they will be announced and begin accepting additional donated items.
The Department of Florida will be collecting donations of the following items:
Goods will be temporarily accepted through the Department of Florida Headquarters, then distributed and collected at designated American Legion Posts throughout the State of Florida. Please make arrangements with Commander Steve Shuga, firstname.lastname@example.org, before dropping off goods to ensure someone will be there to receive you. If you are interested in volunteering, please contact Commander Steve Shuga, email@example.com.
Monetary donations are also greatly appreciated to help purchase additional needed goods, transport goods throughout the state, and aid Posts with relief efforts. Please visit our website, www.floridalegion.org, to make a donation or send checks to:
The American Legion Department of Florida
1912A Lee Rd
Orlando, FL 32810
Emergency Assistance Available
If you are a Legionnaire, Sons of the American Legion member, Auxiliary member, veteran or active-duty, you may qualify for Emergency Assistance through one of four programs: National Emergency Fund, The American Legion Department of Florida: Hurricane Relief, PROJECT: VetRelief, or Auxiliary Emergency Fund. Details about each of these programs can be found on our department website at www.floridalegion.org.
Together We Are Stronger
Our thoughts and prayers are with all who have been affected. Together, united, we will overcome, we will rebuild, “that which does not break us will make us stronger”.