Nonprofits, county trying to address immediate needs of hurricane victims

Too early even to know exactly what people are going to need, local nonprofits are already responding to the community’s immediate needs following Hurricane Irma.

 

While some organizations haven’t even finished helping Hurricane Matthew victims, local charities are in the process of identifying the needs — the immediate and the long-term — of those impacted by Irma.

The first place to start for St. Augustine Catholic Charities is with food and water. Its food pantry is open 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.

And it went directly to those downtown Wednesday to hand out food and personal hygiene items.

What happens from there is unclear. Some residents haven’t returned home yet, and others might be out of communication with power out in so many places, along with internet access and even cell phone service down.

“I don’t think I have a real firm picture of assessment yet,” said Mary Kelly Kryzwick, the director of the St. Augustine regional office of Catholic Charities.

Kryzwick said her organization is ready to assist with many areas of recovery, from providing a meal to assisting with the disaster relief assistance program through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Catholic Charities is also referring those who need help with storm damage cleanup to Crisis Cleanup (800-451-1954 or crisiscleanup.org).

So far, the most popular requests have been for food, due to losses from spoilage as power outages continue to plague the county.

“We’re here to help those in need from Hurricane Irma,” Kryzwick said.

Also in position to assist is the United Way of St. Johns County. It had already partnered with other agencies to form the Relief Fund last year in response to Matthew.

Even before Irma struck, the United Way announced that it was making funds available to deal with the new hurricane.

In 2016, donors contributed more than $652,000 to the Relief Fund in response to Matthew. Sixteen local organizations providing relief services received grants totaling nearly $500,000, leaving more than $150,000 to help with response to Irma, said Michelle Braun, president and CEO of United Way of Northeast Florida in a release.

Locally, United Way of St. Johns County president and CEO Melissa Nelson said it is a great efficiency to have the Relief Fund already set up.

The hard part is figuring out exactly who needs what. Like Kryzwick, Nelson said she hasn’t been in position to get a good overall view of the county’s needs. But she said organizations like Catholic Charities are getting funds because they can provide immediate relief.

“We’ll make sure the dollars are allocated where they need to be,” Nelson said.

What both Nelson and Kryzwick worry about is the person who was hurt in Matthew and maybe not even fully recovered and is now dealing with Irma’s effects.

“The thing that’s going to hurt us in St. Johns County is we’re still recovering from Matthew,” Nelson said. “It (recovery) is going to be bigger and longer than any of us want it to be.”

There are many organizations responding to the needs of county residents, including large ones like the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army.

And plenty of individuals and church groups have stepped in to assist, feed or simply console neighbors.

The United Way is accepting donations to the Relief Fund online at unitedwaynefl.org/relieffund. That fund is not distributed to individuals but only to other nonprofits.

Those looking to help can also donate directly to organizations, but they all have different needs and capabilities. For instance, Kryzwick said her office does not have the capacity to accept most physical items. She asks that all donations be made in cash or gift cards.

Assistance offered

Catholic Charities will distribute bags of food, water and blessings bags (hygiene products) from 10 to 11 a.m. today at St. Benedict Catholic Church at 86 Martin Luther King Ave.

County assistance

The county has also stepped up its efforts in providing emergency response.

The administration office announced that it has opened four points of distribution of water, assistance and information for those affected by Irma. The points will be available from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily through Friday. Water distribution will be limited to one case of water per car.

The points are:

n SJC Parks and Recreation Administration, 2175 Mizell Road, St. Augustine Beach

n Solomon Calhoun Community Center, 1300 Duval Street, St. Augustine

n Flagler Estates Road and Water Office, 9850 Light Avenue, Hastings

n Al Wilke Park, 6150 South Main Street, Hastings

For updates on recovery efforts in St. Johns County, visit sjcfl.us/hurricane or call the St. Johns County Emergency Management hotline at 824-5550.

Clinic offers services

FM Medical Urgent Care at 3560 A1A South reopened on Wednesday. From 8 to 10 a.m. today, care will be provided at no cost to the first 20 patients who do not have health insurance.

FM Medical Centers offers urgent care, family practice, physical therapy rehab and chiropractic care.

Council on Aging

The St. Johns County Council on Aging will resume normal paratransit today as well as continuing to support Hurricane Irma transportation generated by the Emergency Operations Center.

COA clients can book their trips using the normal call-in procedure at 209-3710.

 

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