By Jessica Easthope
Nearly one month after Hurricane Ian made landfall in Florida, the state’s deadliest storm since 1935, people are still desperate for the essentials, because thousands are still homeless.
“After all the TV stations are gone and everybody thinks it’s okay that’s when we step in because this goes on and it always happens that it hits the areas that have the least,” said Charles Shelley, disaster relief coordinator for Caring Knights Inc.
The group of Knights of Columbus mobilize after natural disasters, collect donations, ship them and often go themselves to help those in need.
“Until you witness the devastation, the pictures and the news don’t do it justice,” Shelley said.
“That giving was the catalyst of Caring Knights and we built the network. It’s still going, we’ve tapped into one of the great resources of our churches,” said Father Michael Gelfant, the president and CEO of Caring Knights Inc.
In Lee County, which includes Cape Coral and Fort Myers and took a direct hit from the category four storm, nearly 500 people are still living in emergency shelters. More than 5,000 properties were destroyed there and more than 13,000 suffered major damage. Damage from the storm could reach $80B.
After every natural disaster the Knights are reminded of the first one that brought them together – almost ten years ago to the day.
“Where we started is where we still are, St. Finbar’s was the hub for Coney Island and the Rockaways which were devastated by Sandy and like I always tell Father, this isn’t our first rodeo,” said Shelley.
The Knights have seen firsthand how long recovery from a powerful storm can take – and they remember who was there when they needed it.
“They came to help us, we had councils that came from all over the east coast to help people here, so that’s the reason we do this, to help those that helped us, give back, pay it forward,” Shelley said.
The shipment of essentials is enough for at least 50 families. It will travel by trucking from the Diocese of Brooklyn and be received by Knights of Columbus in Bradenton, FL at Saints Cosmas and Damian Parish.