OKEECHOBEE — Last Friday, Hurricane Dorian was headed straight toward Okeechobee, and the fact that he never came near us has been met with mixed reactions by the citizens of our town. Some people consider it a huge blessing; some say we were very lucky, and some are annoyed they spent time and money on preparations.
After every storm, we look around and wonder what to do with the abundance of canned goods and water we purchased in case of emergency. Many people choose to take their supplies back to the stores for a refund, and some of those stores end up throwing those things in the garbage because they can’t put them back on the shelves. Megan, an assistant manager at Walmart, said they throw out every single item of food that comes back into their store, no matter what it is, even if it is in a can or a water bottle. Imagine the waste in all the Walmarts up and down the coast of Florida if everyone returns their hurricane supplies! Instead, she suggested, why not donate your supplies to the Bahamas where people really need them right now? Some of the local grocery stores said they do not throw away the non-perishable grocery items, but they do throw out the perishables like cakes, cookies, meats, etc.
If you are returning your hurricane supplies because purchasing them was a financial burden, consider the advice of Dr. Paul Stevens, author of Prepping Without Problems, before the next storm, “People go crazy buying water when they hear a hurricane is on the way. Think about where you live. Do you have city water or a well? Do you have a generator? If you have a well and no generator, you may not have water to flush your toilet if you lose power. You are the person who should consider filling up your bathtub and barrels so you have something to use for this purpose. You might also consider purchasing a hand pump for your well. Igloo coolers are a good option for those with wells and those on city water. You do not have to buy water. Fill containers such as soda bottles and milk jugs from your own tap and store them in the freezer. This not only gives you drinking water but also helps keep your refrigerator cold if your power goes out during the storm.”
The people in the Bahamas were not as fortunate as we were, as they spent approximately 40 hours being bombarded by 185mph winds, and there have been several confirmed deaths already. As is usually the case, Okeechobee wants to help and several have already set up donation drop off points. County Firefighter Brandon Farless has his truck and a trailer set up at station one. That’s the one over behind the sheriff’s office. The city fire department said they planned to join in with his effort rather than start a separate drive. Mr. Farless said if anyone would like to donate, they can just take their items to the trailer and neatly stack them inside. Below is a list of items they are collecting at this site: Bottled water, canned goods, blankets, tarps, hygiene supplies (toothbrush, paste, deodorant etc.), medical supplies, flash lights, granola bars and anything similar, and insect repellent.
There is another drop off point at the Big Lake Boating Center next to Capital Pawn Shop. Ask for H.E. Enfinger.
Walpole has three tractor trailers at the airport in Stuart if anyone would like to drop off donations there.
All Gilbert locations are accepting donations. They are focusing on the barrier islands. The first shipment of donations will be sent out on Saturday morning. Their wish list includes: Food Items: protein bars. canned goods/non-perishable items, bottled water, powdered baby formula, bagged pet food, electrolyte drinks, hygiene items, adult size diapers, baby diapers, baby wipes, sanitary napkins, soap, deodorant. toothpaste, toothbrushes. shampoo, feminine products. sunscreen, brushes, hair ties, tools and hardware, extension cords. large heavy duty tarps, Duct Tape, rope, hammers, drills, staple guns with staples, chainsaws, generators, heavy duty work gloves, nails, screws, drill bits, general supplies, tents. cots, batteries - AA, AAA, D, flashlights, blankets, insect repellent (non-aerosol), hand held portable radios, propane cans, portable burner stoves, solar camping lamps, non perishable solar cell phone chargers, can openers, soft coolers, First Aid items, garbage bags, plastic storage bins, backpacks. For more information, call 855-999-1924.
You can also drop off donations at Christ Fellowship Christian Church.
Swine Time and Barnyard Buddies 4-H Groups are also accepting donations.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs Common Wealth of the Bahamas sent a list of suggested donations:
Most groups suggest you do not send clothing. The official website of the Bahamas states: “We are unable to accept used clothes or old mattresses.”