Though Hurricane Irma made its second landfall on Marco Island, the damage we’ve received has, for the most part, been manageable. In essence, it’s nothing that can’t or hasn’t been fixed. And in the weeks following the historic storm, it seems like we’re almost back to normal.But some areas across Southwest Florida including Goodland, Isles of Capri, Everglades City, Chokoloskee, East Naples, Cape Coral and Immokalee are still reeling from the effects of the storm.
In the weeks following Irma local groups like the Marco Island F-Troop (an organization of about 42 men who play golf together at the Island Country Club), and the now famous Marco Patriots have become instrumental in aiding the abovementioned communities, supplying them with everything from water to baby food to gas-powered generators.
The F-Troop takes its name from a 1965 sitcom. Over the six years since the F-Troop’s inception, the group has evolved from a bunch of friends who just play golf together to an extremely active philanthropic club.
“We support almost every charity that comes along having to do with Marco Island or Collier County,” F-Troop member David Copelin said.
Recently the F-Troop raised over $35,000 for 10 families who live out on Six Ls Farm Road in East Naples. According to Copelin, the families had been neglected and overlooked by hurricane relief efforts and were struggling.
“We bought supplies and we continue to supply them,” Copelin said. “We speak to them and find out what their actual needs are at this point and we try to give them everything that they need to survive.”
Like most people, Copelin discovered the Marco Patriots Facebook group through a family member.
“During the hurricane, my daughter saw the Marco Patriots and steered me that way for information. Right after the hurricane, I saw all these efforts that they were doing to help people,” Copelin said.
The Marco Patriots is an online group, which now has well over 9,000 members. It was created by islanders Captain Ron Hagerman, Matthew Melican and Erin Mia Milchman as a means of registering people who decided to stay on the island during the storm.
“We knew that it was going to be an overwhelming task for the City and we have the upmost respect for them,” Milchman said. “So just for assistance, just for human need, we were able to register over 200 people who stayed on the island and dispatch welfare checks to them.”
As the group grew, so did its purpose. The Marco Patriots has now become the goto line of communication for all things hurricane relief related. Every day, truckloads of supplies are delivered via USPS to the Marco Patriots home base. From there they’re sent off to the areas that need it most. There are plans to distribute supplies to Key West and now Puerto Rico, which just received a devastating hit from Hurricane Maria.
Since learning of the Marco Patriots, Copelin has spent nearly every day volunteering for them. Members of the F-Troop have also joined in on the action. Earlier this week a group of F-Troopers, as well as Island Country Club Club House Manager Bid Bakkar, Director of Membership and Marketing Heather Hall, and Membership Services Coordinator Jennifer Orr met at the Marco Patriots headquarters. There they unboxed shipments, inventoried supplies, and delivered necessary items to the families who live off of Six Ls Farm Road.
“I think the Marco Patriots are just phenomenal,” Copelin said. “I can’t tell you how much they’ve done for people.”
According to Milchman, one of the founding members of the Marco Patriots, the volunteerism exhibited by the F-Troop has not gone unnoticed.
“These guys have been amazing. The FTroop guys from here on the Island, they’ve been here with me shoulder to shoulder every day in the hot sun. You know, all retired guys, just dedicated,” Milchman said.
If you would like to donate to the Marco Island Hurricane Irma Fund visit www.gofundme.com/886c9-marco-island-hurricane irma-fund. For more information on the Marco Island F-Troop visit: www.facebook.com/marcoislandftroop.
For more photos of the F-Troop joining forces with the Marco Patriots visit our website.