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Date of Issue: March 17, 2005

Storm relief continues on Island
Relief from Sarasota
Johnny Milano of Holmes Beach unloads relief supplies contributed by generous homeowners where he works at The Landings in Sarasota. Milano said he was relieved to find a dropoff near home at Ooh La La! and The Islander office in the Island Shopping Center, and that another location had declined to take more supplies. Islander Photo: Bonner Joy

Two hurricanes down and another making nasty gestures, Anna Maria Islanders continue strong efforts to help the victims.

From churches to civic organizations to individuals, all manner of items the victims need are being collected and sent inland for distribution. Most of the Island's help is destined for victims of Charley, though some may end up going to people harmed by Frances, and some of those in need may be the same for both storms.

It will depend partly on a couple of policy meetings Wednesday. All Islands Denominations, the organization of the Island's six churches, was meeting at 2 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 8, and the Anna Maria Island Privateers service group at 7:30 p.m., both to decide where their efforts from now on will be most useful.

Charley went inland from the Gulf 50 miles south of the Island and Frances crossed Florida about the same distance north, with Islanders relieved and grateful in both cases. Now Ivan is threatening at the end of the week.

AID continues to accumulate donations at the activities room of St. Bernard Catholic Church, 248 S. Harbor Drive, Holmes Beach, and the vacant store offered by The Islander and Ooh La La! Bistro at 5408 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach. Frank McGrath, president of AID, said those items will go east of the Island rather than the Punta Gorda area, which he feels is more aligned with Sarasota.

"Everyone needs," he said. "But Wauchula, Myakka City, Arcadia, Fort Ogden and other small places in that area have gotten less attention from other groups so we're helping there."

Water is not needed now, he said, and clothing is too hard to handle in volume, but great needs exist in household supplies and appliances, canned foods, towels, linen, baby items, pet food, and cleaning materials of all kinds.

The Privateers collection points are the Ooh La La! space and the Sea Horse restaurant, 12012 Cortez Road in Cortez. Canned food, batteries, tools, baby items, pet food and cleaning materials are high on the Privateers help list. They too are concentrating on the Charley-ravaged area east of here.

Both organizations are accepting cash donations for hurricane relief, too. Such help may be mailed to the Privateers at P.O. Box 1238, Holmes Beach FL 34216, or AID at P.O. Box 305, Anna Maria FL 34216. The Privateers have received more than $3,000, said Eric Rushnell, president, while the figures for AID's hurricane fund are still being counted.

The Chiles Group were collecting dollar donations last week at the Beach House restaurant, 200 Gulf Drive N., Bradenton Beach, and that relief is marked for the Red Cross, although Hurricane Frances may prompt the collection of more supplies there.

Individual efforts are legion here with Islanders' usual generosity. One is a "Cut-A-Thon" Saturday, Sept. 11, at the Amy Dodge Aveda Salon, 5311 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, with proceeds that day going to Charley victims.

Some 140 horses have been trucked in from east-central Florida and are being boarded at Hidden Hills Equestrian Center, Parrish, whose operators include Karen Roetker of Holmes Beach. She said the center had room for 100, and owner Jerry Mastromarino found stalls for another 40 among neighbors.

The help will continue as long as the need exists, which will be for months, said AID's McGrath.

"We get as much out of it as we give," he said.

The Islander has collected names of generous donors of pianos and organs for needy churches and community organizations and, in the wake of Frances, will be sorting out and matching up needs. The demolished church in Fort Ogden is first on the donation list for a piano or organ, a much-needed item to lift the spirits there, according to Harvey Memorial Community Church representative Nancy Ambrose, also a staff member at The Islander.

Publisher Bob Vedder, of the Venice Gondolier, sister publication of Port Charlotte's Sun Herald, said he would spread the word on the availability of the available donations through his associate journalists, who "have seen it all."