DELRAY BEACH, Fla. – Lisa Moss knew exactly which one she wanted. After all, a new car is one of those things that kind of chooses you more than you choose it.
Moss was among 10 Bahamian families who came to a Delray Beach car dealership Wednesday (Feb. 19) to receive a donated car. It was the culmination of a GoFundMe effort for Hurricane Dorian victims, which began even before the killer winds stopped howling.
The first few days of September, the horrific storm of nearly unprecedented strength shredded the lives of thousands who reside in the northern Bahamas.
Moss and her husband lived through the storm's terrifying onslaught and, like many of her friends, family and neighbors, lost nearly everything. The couple, who are cab drivers, lost their home and their car — their primary means of earning an income.
"The way the storm changed my life — I can't even talk about it," she said. “We didn't have a home. We had nothing. But since then, we are receiving blessings like this.”
STUART SAILFISH CLUB
The Stuart Sailfish Club Foundation worked with Ed Morse Automobile Group to donate 30 pre-owned vehicles meeting basic criteria. They had to be vans, roomy sedans or sport utility vehicles capable of carrying Bahamian visitors to resorts, marinas and the airport near Marsh Harbour on Abaco Island, one of the hardest hit areas.
Moss' name was the first one selected in a random drawing, so she was the first to call "dibs" on her vehicle: a Ford Expedition. She placed a tag with her name on it under the driver's side windshield wiper. The gift was emotional for Moss.
"Since I got here, I had my eyes on that one," she said. “It has much room for luggage and I can carry more people than I could with my old car.”
Moss' home is still gutted, but help and hope is on the way. She said she has been told people are coming to help them rebuild soon.
Livingston Cornish and his wife, Patricia, also lost their home, vehicle and jobs. Four feet of water streamed through their house at the height of the storm's fury, he said.
The roof mostly survived, but the rest of the Marsh Harbour house had mildew and mold buildup once the heat and humidity increased in the storm's wake.
"We slept on the airstrip for the first four days after the storm," he said. "When the boats and planes began arriving, people started leaving, if they could. People went to Nassau, some of the other islands, and some, like us, were able to come here."
The Cornishes have been staying in Jupiter since the storm. Livingston has been traveling back and forth to clean up their home and to work at Baker's Bay, a resort on a cay near Marsh Harbour.
"Baker's Bay took care of many of its employees, helping some come over here," he said. "We want to say thank you to everyone here. So many did so much for us."
They couple said they are eager to get back home and back to work transporting people and supplies around Abaco Island.
Dozens of organizations and hundreds of individual donors came together to make Wednesday's philanthropy possible. The Stuart Sailfish Club and its nonprofit foundation wanted to help repay Bahamians for so many wonderful memories spent fishing, diving and boating in their waters over the years, said President Charlie Conigliaro.
"We had helped organize relief flights that began that week after the storm," he said. "We flew over 300 tons of food and supplies and 500 mattresses in the two weeks following the storm."
Donating new cars seemed like a better idea than handing over the cash they raised.
Capt. Patrick Price of DayMaker charter in Stuart and longtime friend Mark Coomber of Stuart, who works for Ed Morse Auto Group, convinced the dealership owner to help.
"We got involved because Mark knows Patrick and Charlie and they got us involved with the foundation," Teddy Morse said. "We wanted to do this and we were just grateful they gave us a chance to help."
Mary Skinner, marketing director for Conchy Joe's Restaurants in Stuart and Jensen Beach, said the desire to help was instant and organic.
"When the storm hit, our president and vice president said, 'We have to do something,' " Skinner said. "We first went down to Stuart Jet Center to help Patrick load supplies onto the planes. But then we thought, 'What else can we do?' "
That's when they started a GoFundMe page that raised $250,000. The restaurants matched every customer's donation, which raised nearly $18,000 alone.
The foundation covered the $14,000 cost for each vehicle, plus VHF radios for each, airfare for the Bahamians who traveled to Florida to choose their vehicle, their hotel rooms, and shipping costs to transport the vehicles back to Marsh Harbour.
- Stuart Sailfish Club Foundation
- Harbour Ridge Country Club
- Conchy Joe's/Dolphin Bar/Your Pie, Inc.
- Shimano Tackle
- First United Methodist Church of Madison, Ga.
- Shurhold Industries
- Sweetwater Brewing
- Harbour Ridge Country Club in Port St. Lucie
- Bass Realty Co.