Organizers of a Key West relief effort for the people of the Bahamas suffering from the horrors of Hurricane Dorian had one word to emphasize Wednesday: Money.
“Money is the short-term goal,” said Paul Menta, a local rum distillery owner who is running the social media part of Key West Cares.
“Right now we need the money to be able to get to the supplies,” Menta said. “Please get your people to donate. Please keep up with the website.”
Kurt Lewin, a local bank official, told people not to send cash but only checks or online credit card payments.
More than 150 people gathered at Key West City Hall on Wednesday afternoon to join the effort, Key West Cares, by volunteering or contributing money or items.
“Let’s get these monies rolling fast,” said Mayor Teri Johnston. “That’s what ‘s going to get some people surviving or not surviving.”
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Key West Cares, endorsed by Johnston and other city officials, plans to take planes and boats filled with emergency supplies to Key West’s sister city Green Turtle Cay, a barrier island only reachable by boat in the best of times.
But in the immediate aftermath of Dorian, which parked over the northern Bahamas as a Category 5 storm for more than a day with 150-mile-an-hour winds, people are still shattered by the devastation that has caused at least seven deaths.
For right now, Key West Cares is primarily in the fundraising business.
They’ve set a benefit concert for Sept. 14 at the Key West Theater. And Key West High School’s auditorium will open Thursday for five consecutive days to act as a temporary donation center collecting the most needed items, such as chainsaws, tarps and blankets.
“We could use some help sorting things.” said organizer Jeremy Wilkerson.
The auditorium will be open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. starting Thursday and ending Monday.
Many in the Bahamas’ northwestern islands remained stranded and in need of food, water and shelter.
During post-hurricane relief efforts, many times the best intentions of good Samaritans can end in wasting goods that never reach the needy and wasted efforts.
Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Minnis asked those who want to help “to work with reputable charities with proven records. Donate your time, talents and resources to their relief efforts and this will make a big difference.”
Key West leaders also asked people to listen to the instructions from the relief groups.
“Please don’t clean out your closet,” said organizer Amy Culver. “We ended up with stripper shoes [after Irma]. We don’t need it over in the Bahamas. Be thoughtful.”