As Category 5 Hurricane Dorian scoured the Bahamas the weekend of September 1 with winds of 185 to 220 mph, Florida Rotary Clubs made plans for assistance.
Rotary International has long included disaster recovery efforts in its charitable mission. Rotary International District 6990 includes the Bahamas as well as Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties. It’s the only Rotary District of 522 in the world that includes two countries.
Rotary International District 6990 disaster relief chair, Don Horton, visited Costco Monday September 2 for supplies with hurricane winds still affecting the Bahamas. With five years of experience for Rotary, Horton was prepared with lists of probable immediate needs.
By Thursday September 5 the first four 20-foot shipping containers were packed and on their way to Grand Bahama Island. Rotary volunteers had sorted and packed supplies, put them on pallets, shrink-wrapped the loads, and prepared shipping manifests on the first relief mission to Grand Bahama.
“We were the first boots on the ground,” said Horton. Rotary has five sister clubs on Grand Bahama Island that had a pre-storm population of 73,000.
Meanwhile, Rotarians in Broward and Miami-Dade counties contracted for use of a 181-foot container ship to ferry supplies to the islands.
Rotary International District 6990 Governor Ray Williams announced initial collection areas for transport to a North Miami warehouse donated by a Rotarian to sort supplies. Two sites in Broward County and four in Miami-Dade County were soon joined by other informal sites.
South Florida Rotarians secured the use of a 181-foot container ship and made the first runs to Grand Bahama Saturday September 7. After several Bahamian trips, the last containers of supplies were delivered Saturday September 14.
“The Robbins Fund, a Rotary District 6990-run fund, was created after Hurricane Andrew specifically for disaster relief,” Governor Williams said in a statement September 4. “We are grateful for donated items. Money is preferred for logistical reasons. If we have money, we can order pallets of supplies already sorted, packed for shipment and inventoried.”
“The Bahamas are overwhelmed,” said Horton, just returned September 16 from dropping off the last five shipping containers. “Our problem is we didn’t shut off collections fast enough.”
A Rotary District spokesman Michael Kesti said Clubs are working with Food for the Poor, a respected ecumenical Christian non-profit organization based in Coconut Creek, Florida. It still has limited capacity for relief shipments to the Bahamas.
“Looking to the future, we’re at the next phase already which is long-term recovery,” said Kesti. “We’re working on future shipments of building supplies,
plywood and the like, as well as generators, power tools and ice machines. We hope to rebuild the Rotary-operated community center to offer meals and a place to sleep.”
For specific donations directed to Hurricane Dorian relief efforts in the Bahamas, visit the Rotary District website at https://rotary6990.org/ which accepts donations through PayPal.
The Rotary disaster relief account, The Robbins Fund, takes no administrative expenses. Checks can be sent to The Robbins Fund, District 6990, c/o Marty Kurtz, District Treasurer, 2110 N. Ocean Blvd., #703, Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33305.