How to help people still struggling in Keys following Hurricane Irma

By Liane Morejon - Reporter
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BIG PINE KEY, Fla. - Help is still very much needed in the Florida Keys after Hurricane Irma, particularly in the Middle and Lower Keys, which experienced the worst of the storm.

Some people are still living in broken homes, some are still living in tents and some have no homes at all. Many other people are out of work and some are so mentally and/or physically exhausted by the strain of it all, that they aren't taking care of themselves.

Debris -- particularly in the canals and waterways -- remains a huge issue. Folks feel forgotten and feel like they can only rely on themselves to pull out of this mess. 

But it seems many mainlanders or people in a position to help are unaware of the needs or how to go about fulfilling them. Here are things people in the Keys need the most right now, according to Keys residents on Facebook.

MANUAL LABOR

  • Pamela Lynn: "We need all the manpower we can get helping clean streets and canals."
  • Midge Jolly: "Many individuals still need help on their land and that owned by others: clearing dead trees and picking up debris from neighboring lots."
  • Chuck Van Meter III: "We need people with the right equipment and experience to remove the larger things that are in the canals, and then properly dispose of it."
  • Kim Stamps: "I own and operate Up The Keys Tours. It is a land-based eco tour operator that primarily operates in the Lower Keys. We have been taking volunteers to BPK to do residential yard clean-ups and now we've moved on to roadside clean-ups, including joining large groups that have been organized by Lenore Baker and Brian Vest. We need manpower. We can't expect the government to climb into the mangroves to pick up the debris. It's going to require a lot more than the government can do on its own. I began offering Volun-tours in November to give Key West visitors an opportunity to help while on vacation. As a relatively new business with limited funds, now even more limited due to Irma, it's difficult to get the word out. We need people to help clean the roadsides and canals and support our struggling small businesses."
  • Thomas Ryan: "We can use help with cleaning up. Nearly five months later, it's volunteer groups doing the hard clean up. Many people in these groups have been working tirelessly since the storm. They can use help and supplies. Many people also need help trying to rebuild."

KNOWLEDGE

  • Ashley Kalus: "We could use volunteers that are lawyers and insurance adjusters to setup a clinic to lend their time and expertise at no cost for community members. I'm a bit shocked that this sort of clinic has not been set up by officials or the Bar Association."
  • Adrienne Matthews-Gilbert: "The community needs clinics set up. Also, to help teach everyone HOW to exactly try to recover from the mold and mildew problem in each and every structure who had this type of damage."

SCHOOLS/CHILDREN

  • Lowe Matheson: "Big Pine Academy needs a lot of support to rebuild lost classrooms and get the students back to normal. Right now multiple grades are being taught in the same classrooms and the Kindergarten is in the cafeteria. Also, a lot of children at the school are in temporary housing situations. Mainlanders could offer time/money/construction help would be terrific!"
  • Lowe Matheson: "Events for Lower Keys kids. With the park on BPK gone and our biggest beach closed, there has not been much for children to do on the weekends."

HOUSING & FOOD

  • Evan Snitkoff: "There's a lot of need for affordable housing and Habitat for Humanity is always in need of donations to help build affordable housing, keep them affordable for decades to come and also help people rebuild, based on need."
  • Barbie Dobo: "Both food pantries on Big Pine Key, located in churches, are gone because of Irma. The food pantries were a tremendous help to many of the residents before Irma. Some weeks the pay check just doesn't go far enough, and the pantry helped fill the gap. No one should be going hungry. The need for a food pantry is even greater now because of Irma."

ATTEND EVENTS

  • Saturday, Feb. 24, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. in Big Pine Key:

Reef Relief is partnering with locals once again to clean up the Florida Keys -- this time, the Big Pine Key Avenues.

The meeting location is TBA on Big Pine Key.

Monroe County is supporting the event with trash trucks to pick up the debris after, but event organizers still need trailers to transport kayaks. 

Experienced medics are asked to be on standby and a small dive crew is needed to assist with the cleanup. 

Big Pine Kayak Adventures is supporting the event by renting kayaks for $30. 

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