Locals Organize Grassroots Aid for Storm-Ravaged Bahamas

Arts & Culture

BY PHILIP LEDERER SRQ DAILY FRIDAY WEEKEND EDITION FRIDAY SEP 6, 2019

As Hurricane Dorian lashes up the eastern seaboard of the United States, locals on the Gulf Coast heave a collective sigh of relief at another disaster dodged. But for Thomas Bethel, a native Bahamian now living in Sarasota, with multi-generational family ties to the island nation, the storm still rages. And to help organize local efforts and channel supplies from givers here to relief efforts there, Bethel this week launched Florida Suncoast for The Northern Bahamas.

His cousin in Marsh Harbour re-established contact after a harrowing eight hours and his aunt, who lives in Freeport—where the hurricane stalled overhead for 36 hours—is now safe, but much of Bethel’s native country needs help in the aftermath of the slow-moving but heavy-hitting Category 5 storm. “The situation on the ground is deteriorating,” he says. “We just couldn’t sit idly by and watch my country be destroyed. We had to do something.” And so the local business owner (Alpha Tango Media and GoZone WiFi, both in St. Pete) with experience in the family freight business decided to put his organizational and logistical experience to the task with this philanthropic relief effort.

Already headquartered in a 10,000-square-foot warehouse in Bradenton—donated by Yellowfin Yachts and Solomon Construction—Florida Suncoast for The Northern Bahamas looks to serve as a central location for receiving, organizing and shipping supplies of all sorts to relief organizations in the Bahamas. With volunteer workers from the area, donated items are sorted, packaged and loaded into labeled containers for transport via its Bahamian partner, Odyssey Aviation. An ideal partner for a quick response, says Bethel, Odyssey Aviation has already made connections with relief operations in the area and been cleared by the Bahamian government to deliver supplies duty-free and without lengthy holdups by customs.

Details on drop-off location and hours of operation for Florida Suncoast for the Northern Bahamas can be found on the organization’s Facebook page, created this past Wednesday and already reaching near 200 members. The page also lists the various types of items needed, ranging from water, non-perishables and canned goods to bandages, diapers, baby formula and feminine products. Bedding and clothing are also welcome, as well as building supplements like hammers, nails, wood and cement.

“One of the sacrifices of paradise is that you are in Mother Nature’s direct path,” says Bethel, who hopes that the communities that often see The Bahamas as a place to vacation and visit, will now see the islands as a neighbor to help in time of need. “This will be a long-term relief effort,” he says, “for the people who now have nothing.”

Learn more at the Florida Suncoast for The Northern Bahamas website below.

Pictured: Devastation in The Bahamas left in the wake of Hurricane Dorian. Photo courtesy of Florida Suncoast for The Northern Bahamas.

Florida Suncoast for The Northern Bahamas

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