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Date of Issue: March 17, 2005

Island's huge storm relief continues
Serving relief
Ed Chiles, left, and Martha Wright and Steve Ananicz of the Chiles Group of restaurants, work feverishly (in scalding heat) to set up a buffet for volunteers and victims of Hurricane Charley in Wauchula Saturday. Islander Photo: Bonner Joy
Charley's angel
Jeff Croley of Holmes Beach took vacation time from his job as maintenance superintendent at Veranda Beach Club on Longboat key to travel through rural areas giving aid to victims of Hurricane Charley. He found many grateful recipients in the first week after the storm, and a "cool hug" of thanks from this woman. Islander Photo: Courtesy Steve Nursey
Fill'er up
A hungry victim of Charley receives food provided by the Chiles Group and volunteers Jean Couser and Bill Lowman. Islander Photo: Bonner Joy
Keeping faith
A badly damaged church in Arcadia managed to serve food to hurricane victims Saturday and posted a sign for Sunday service at 10 a.m. Islander Photo: Bonner Joy
Wauchula cleans up
Cleanup continued Saturday in Wauchula in spite of no power, every afternoon thunderstorms and sweltering heat, and many residential roads remained closed. Islander Photo: Bonner Joy
Seeking groceries, supplies
Wauchula storm victims stood in long lines and 100-degree temperatures - Coke cans were exploding - Saturday, awaiting their turn to select a single bag of supplies and food at a Salvation Army relief station. Islander Photo: Jo Ann Meilner

Following the first frantic week of tremendous exertions on the Island to help Hurricane Charley's victims after the storm's landfall Aug. 13, relief efforts here have settled into the long haul.

And it will be long, in the assessment of All Island Denominations, the organization of the six Island churches. "We're setting up now to keep relief going for 12 months at least," said Janet Clark, speaking for AID. "People will need help that long and longer."

Monday, Aug. 30, AID will lead a group of volunteers to Arcadia for a day of help where it's needed. They will start from St. Bernard Catholic Church at 9 a.m., and helpers are advised to "bring water and lunch and dress for the heat," Clark said.

The Anna Maria Island Privateers have raised more than $2,000 cash donations, which some relief agencies recommend over even food to help victims.

The civic organization also has collected canned goods and just about anything victims may need, and hauled it by the vanload to Arcadia, Wauchula and other areas that got little attention from the media.

"We'll keep doing it as long as it's needed," said Elizabeth Christie, treasurer and spokesperson for the Privateers. "We're also working with the American Legion, and they're making a couple of trips a day." The Privateens, the group she organized at Manatee High School where she teaches, have been collecting energetically and are to bring the goods to her classroom this week.

Bell Fish Co. in Cortez gave a heroic 180,000 pounds of ice to the effort. "People need ice to keep their food, with no refrigeration because power is out," explained Karen Bell. Other truckers hauled the ice too, notably Marty Lee and Bradenton Beach city vehicles and employees.

Bell had to cut back on its generosity by the middle of this week so it could service commercial fishing boats with the ice they must have to keep their catches. Some boats even came up from the Port Charlotte area and Ft. Myers, Bell said, for there was no ice for them or anyone else there.

Bell sent ice also to competitor Parker Fish Co. in the stricken area, and kept some 20,000 pounds of Parker products cold in Bell refrigerated units in Cortez.

As Charley threatened, the Bell company moved some 20 commercial fishing boats to moor at the high-end communities of Mariner's Cove and Smuggler's Landing, Karen Bell said. "They looked a little strange, big old grouper boats 50-60 feet long alongside the beautiful yachts there.

"But the people who live there were just great. They came out and helped tie up the boats and batten down for the storm and made everyone feel welcome. They couldn't have been nicer."

Paulette Webb and George Reuss of Holmes Beach went to Wauchula with a load of goods, along with Floyd and Shayne Gilley and Andrea Butrum. From there they were directed to nearby Bowling Green, where they distributed aid.

Martin and Bernadette Hudak shut down their Martin's Moving Co. in Bradenton, joined forces with the Ties Between Friends store and collected donations of goods and $750 cash for the hurricane victims. "I can't tell you how wonderful people are," said Ms. Hudak, who grew up on the Island. "One woman used her last food stamps to buy food for the victims, and wouldn't hear of taking anything herself."

And then there is Jeff Croley of Holmes Beach, who started early and stayed late, all on his own. He took a week off from his job as maintenance manager at the Veranda Beach Resort on Longboat Key, loaded his pickup with water, ice and basic items and drove to remote areas, sometimes making two trips a day.

He drove rural roads and found plenty of folks who couldn't, or wouldn't leave their remote property for help.

He figured those areas would get less help than more heavily populated places, and found he was right. He put 1,000 miles on his truck in six days, driving to "neighborhood after neighborhood, trying to get things to the elderly and low-income people not near to Red Cross or other relief distribution centers."

He took items he got from businesses and individuals, plus $500 he raised from donations along with $250 of his own. He found police officers and soldiers working in the hot sun very grateful for his water and cold sodas, and the people were appreciative - "A lot of them needed help before the storm."

He found teens in Wauchula cleaning up a trailer park, volunteers all over the devastated area helping each other. One woman whose home was virtually destroyed told him, "Oh, I am so glad Anna Maria wasn't hit, too."

He found some families who first declined water, saying others may need it more, but he warmed them up with his offer of a cold soda, and chatted until they admitted they really could use some water and ice.

He's back working at his job now, but on the weekends plans to return to the stricken areas and even in evenings he will be back at it, helping with cleanup and repairs.

He is possibly the Island's best example of how one person really can make a difference.

AID is at it too, and will be until help is no longer needed. To contribute, make checks payable to All Island Denominations, P.O. Box 305, Anna Maria FL 34216, or call 778-6083 for information.

The Privateers also will collect as long as the need is there, with donations addressed to Privateers, P.O. Box 1238, Holmes Beach FL 34217.

Florida Power & Light is matching up to $250,000 in donations payable to the Red Cross, mailed to FPL Community Relations, P.O. Box 219100, Miami FL 33102.

Staff and management from the Chiles Group of restaurants joined owner Ed Chiles and friends in Wauchula Saturday at a Salvation Army relief post, where they delivered collected donations and set up a buffet meal for victims of Charley and volunteers and other relief workers.

They served 600 meals to grateful workers and victims and pitched in wherever needed, in the supply tents, collecting garbage and unloading donated supplies.

One Wauchula resident there said they were battered by 140-mph winds for nearly an hour and a half, and the line there to select "one Publix bag" of supplies stretched to 150 adults or more - and children - all day.

The Chiles Group is still collecting for Red Cross with donations matched by Ed Chiles and FPL. Those donations can be dropped off to the Sandbar restaurant, Anna Maria, Beach House Restaurant, Bradenton Beach, or the Mar Vista Dockside Restaurant and Pub, Longboat Key - or to The Islander office, 5404 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach.

The Islander's Nancy Ambrose and husband David, on behalf of Harvey Memorial Community Church, loaded supplies donated by generous Islanders, went south Saturday on State Road 17 to Fort Ogden and two miles farther, to the Sunnybreeze mobile home community, having been directed there by Croley, who indicated folks there were "very much in need."

Indeed, the community had not one home standing and had just that morning received a generator to operate facilities in the battered clubhouse.

After Sunnybreeze, the Ambroses delivered surplus supplies to Fort Ogden and a church built in 1879, where pews and the piano had been tossed about the chapel and two large stained-glass windows were destroyed.

In the miles of roadway traveled, many power poles and power lines were observed still down in rural areas Sunday, although power had been restored in Myakka City, Arcadia and Wauchula.

And much work remains to be done.

AID vows to work with agencies in Arcadia and rural areas, seeking families with no insurance and still in need of help with the recovery from Hurricane Charley.

Supplies for AID will be accepted at the churches and at the vacant store offered by Ooh La La! Bistro and The Islander in the Island Shopping Center.