Bahamas relief effort quietly continues with help of state lawmakers and businesses

Stewart, Jones and Plakon set collection points to gather supplies

ORLANDO, Fla. – More than a month after the Orlando-Bahamas relief effort first started, organizers say the number of volunteers turning up to help has dwindled but a core group of men and women along with area lawmakers are rallying residents to continue donating badly needed items and cash.

State Sen. Linda Stewart has joined Rep. Shervin Jones and Rep. Scott Plakon to launch a supply effort that will continue through Oct. 14.

The veteran District 13 lawmaker told News 6 she is taking donations of diapers and baby wipes and has seen a tremendous response.

“We’ve just got to step up and help,” Stewart said "There’s so much need over there, you could go to any part of the islands and there’s going to be need.”

Stewart’s district office on 1726 S. Bumby Avenue was filled with boxes ready to be delivered to a massive warehouse in Ocoee.

That facility on 576 Ocoee Business Parkway has been donated by Don Strube, the 60-year-old co-founder of Winter Garden-based Florida Paints.

Strube told News 6 the cost to ship the supplies has prompted volunteer leaders to “reset” the relief strategy with an emphasis on cash donations.

“Cash is number one because they can buy exactly what they need,” Strube told News 6.

As he walked through the warehouse filled with water, non-perishable food, diapers and toiletries, Strube said many of the people are motivated by a love of the Island.

“We’re just a bunch of people that aren’t professionals at this,” he said, “We just have a passion for the Bahamas. My family has been going there for 50 years.”

Chris Lowe is one of the volunteers who joined the effort on Sept. 3 and never stopped.

Lowe spends 18-hour days packing items that are dropped off at the warehouse then moved to air hangars or a newly donated warehouse in Port Canaveral to be delivered via cargo ships.

“Even though I’m not over there I know this is what I can do here.”

The group provided new video and photographs from the islands taken between Sept. 17 and 19. 

The destruction on the Abaco islands is stunning.

Strube said the group has planned several fundraisers including a Christmas toy drive expected  to begin later in October.

The group has an active website that is constantly updated.  

For more information, you can visit abacoforever.com. You can also click or tap here.

Take a look at the well-designed shipping containers that made the voyage to Hope Town on the Abaco islands.

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