Key West relief effort sends planes filled with supplies to the Bahamas

Andrew Toppino and Robert Spottswood Jr., of Key West, stand with a load of supplies destined for the people of the Bahamas, specifically Green Turtle Cay, which is Key West’s sister city.
Andrew Toppino and Robert Spottswood Jr., of Key West, stand with a load of supplies destined for the people of the Bahamas, specifically Green Turtle Cay, which is Key West’s sister city.

Key West volunteers sent the first of three Cessna planes filled with 6,000 pounds of supplies to the Bahamas on Friday, aiming to help the island’s sister city Green Turtle Cay.

Boats will deliver the goods to the barrier island, which is only reachable by boat.

While people worldwide are collecting donations and raising money to help the devastated Bahamas, Key Westers say they must do their part to help.

“Green Turtle Cay is small enough, we figured if Key West focused on it, we could make a difference,” said Robert Spottswood, Jr., who helped organize the flights.

Spottswood’s family bloodline is part Bahamian, just like a lot of other families in Key West.

“My brothers and sisters over in the Bahamas are important to the Keys and our culture,” said Spottswood, 31, an attorney in Key West.

The planes began departing the Key West International Airport Friday and two were on the way to Eleuthera by 1 p.m., organizers said.

The effort is to help the people of the islands that were crushed by a Category 5 Hurricane Dorian.

The relief group, Key West Cares, formed by local leaders five days earlier, has been collecting donations this week at local churches and the Key West High School auditorium.

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Three local families paid for the private flights: Linda Turek and two of the most high-profile families in Key West, the Spottswood and the Toppinos.

Each plane load costs about $8,000.

“It’s exhausting and exhilarating at the same time,” Spottswood said of the effort. “I’ve met a lot of amazing people over the last 24 hours trying to pull this stuff together.”

The three planes are just a start, the group said.

“The Conch Republic Air Force and other aircraft are preparing to deploy to the Abacos with relief cargo, and the Conch Republic Navy is mobilizing a series of flotillas to depart to Green Turtle Cay as soon as the US and Bahamian governments confirm it is safe to do so,” they said in a news release on Friday.

Key West Cares is hosting a benefit concert Sept. 14 at the Key West Theater with doors opening at 6 p.m.

For information about the group, visit its Facebook page.

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Key West Cares said it needs supplies such as water, canned and packaged foods, baby food and formula, first aid supplies, mosquito repellent, flashlights, lanterns, batteries, hand tools, blankets and sheets.

People can drop off items at Winn-Dixie stores in Key West, Big Pine Key and Marathon or shop online at Target.com. Local churches Glad Tidings and Unity are two Key West drop-off spots.

In the Upper Keys, the Upper Keys Rotary Club is collecting donated supplies and cash for its “Stuff the Boat” Bahamas relief campaign. Rotary volunteers are set up in places like the Winn Dixie in Tavernier and Publix in Key Largo. Donations can also be mailed to Upper Keys Rotary Foundation, P.O. Box 1514, Tavernier, Florida, 33070.

The supplies will be delivered in four shipping containers aboard a yacht, according to Rotary’s website.

Star Properties and Star Properties Destinations, 99353 Overseas Highway, is accepting monetary donations and tarps and sending them directly to the Rotary Club.

Also in the Upper Keys, donated supplies can be dropped off at Plantation Boat Mart and Marina, 90400 Overseas Highway.

Donations are also being collected at the Florida Keys Masonic Lodge in Tavernier (284 Tavernier Street), Marathon (110 89th Street on the ocean side of U.S. 1) and Big Coppitt Key (550 Avenue F).

The American Legion in the Middle Keys is collecting donations, including water, bleach, clothes (including baby clothes), toiletries, batteries and flashlights at Glunz Ocean Beach Hotel and Resort on Key Colony Beach, 351 East Ocean Drive.

The Christ Episcopal Church in West Coconut Grove, a historically Bahamian community, was the epicenter for a massive community relief effort that brought people of all ages to lend a hand to help those victims affected by Hurricane Dorian.