Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Goodland Still Reeling From Irma

Here’s how you can help

This photo was taken shortly after the Marco River burst its banks and began its surge through Goodland. Every ground level home in its path was rendered uninhabitable.

This photo was taken shortly after the Marco River burst its banks and began its surge through Goodland. Every ground level home in its path was rendered uninhabitable.

On October 17, the Goodland Civic Association held its first town meeting of the season, the first since Hurricane Irma swept through here in September. In the 11 years that I have been here, I can say unequivocally that it was the largest crowd to ever attend one of our town meetings. They all looked expectantly at GCA President, Bello, as he rose to speak. He did not disappoint them.

Bello, who has been president of the GCA for over four years, had himself suffered extensive damage to his Goodland residence and personal possessions. His street was one of the hardest hit, and neighbors related their own stories of personal devastation and loss, as they lugged their ruined furniture and appliances out to the street. “The resiliency of these people was amazing,” said Bello, “I wanted to do something, but was not sure how to go about it. Everything was so torn up and confused.”

Goodland artist Denise Santos captures the spirit of Goodland in an upbeat rendition. View is of the Goodland Post Office front window, where the author’s reflection can be seen.

Goodland artist Denise Santos captures the spirit of Goodland in an upbeat rendition. View is of the Goodland Post Office front window, where the author’s reflection can be seen.

Two days after the storm, Bello got a call from a resident of Marco Island. His plans for relief started crystalizing after that call. The caller had driven around Goodland that day and was heartbroken at what he saw. “He told me that he and his Marco friends loved Goodland and wanted to help,” Bello said, “It sounded as if he had a substantial donation in mind. I told him I would get back to him.” Bello wanted to talk to GCA’s treasurer, Jim Inglis, before replying to the prospective donor. As it happens, Inglis, our treasurer of 10 years, had extensive experience in this area. For years, Inglis has headed up numerous fundraisings for his church (10,000 members), local charities, and overseas charities, such as Haitian relief. To accomplish this, he helped found No Perfect People, Inc. (NPPI), an NPO, headquartered nearby his east coast Florida home. He is listed on its website as the director on NPPI’s board, responsible for overseeing its charitable efforts. Now Inglis was offering a secure and easy way for donors to contribute. It would relieve the GCA of the onus for maintaining and administering such a fund. Quickly obtaining approval from GCA’s available board members, Bello authorized Inglis to set up a vehicle for receipt of Goodland relief donations. Here is the way it works:

This sign at the entrance to Goodland was put up the day after the hurricane by Rachel Sands, whose own residence was severely damaged.

This sign at the entrance to Goodland was put up the day after the hurricane by Rachel Sands, whose own residence was severely damaged.

A record crowd comes out for Goodland’s first town meeting after Irma.

A record crowd comes out for Goodland’s first town meeting after Irma.

At Inglis’ direction, NPPI has opened a secure FDIC insured bank account, entitled The Goodland Relief Fund. Inglis is the signer on this account. NPPI will not receive a percentage of the funds deposited in the account and will additionally bear all overhead concerning its administration. All funds, sent to NPPI will be used entirely for relief of qualified Goodland residents, and will be tax deductible. NPPI will send tax deductible receipts to all donors.

This double-wide with a reinforced roof disintegrated as it was hit by a nasty gust. It was like an explosion, a witness said.

This double-wide with a reinforced roof disintegrated as it was hit by a nasty gust. It was like an explosion, a witness said.

There are three convenient ways to donate, the easiest can be done on line through an NPPI site, set up exclusively for this purpose. You can also text from your smart phone or send a check by mail. Please see the illustration accompanying this article for instructions. Be sure that the checks are payable to NPPI in order to take advantage of the tax deductible feature.

There is actually a house under there. Photos by Barry Gwinn

There is actually a house under there. Photos by Barry Gwinn

As to how this money will be disbursed, Bello has been meeting with representatives of the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church (UMC), who have been a continuing presence in Goodland since the hurricane. At the town meeting, Pam Garrison, a UMC disaster relief officer, explained how they can help. She said, the UMC’s disaster division is dedicated and experienced in overseeing long term recovery and getting people back on their feet as soon as possible. “[As part of this process] we have protocols to assist affected residents in applying for relief and then determining how much each is entitled to,” she explained. Bello likes this approach as it “absolves the GCA of the appearance of playing favorites.” He would prefer that each case would receive a number or letter designation rather than noting the name of the recipient. He has appointed an executive relief committee, which will meet with the UMC in early November to iron out the details.

I counted nearly 50 Goodland residents at the meeting. I recognized many whom I personally knew to have lost everything.

Goodland is beloved for a lot of reasons. It is unique on the island for those of its gritty residents trying to scratch out a living from their humble homes here. Many of those seemed to be hit the hardest, because of the relative fragility and lack of elevation of these residences. They returned to find mud on everything, furniture and appliances soaked and ruined, and in many cases, equipment which they needed for their livelihoods destroyed. None that I know of had flood insurance – couldn’t afford it. Because of the situation of their residences, it is doubtful whether they could have even gotten any. Many of these people are still living in deplorable conditions, without sufficient furniture or appliances. Many are virtually broke. None of them are giving up. They love living here too much.

Goodland is also beloved by people from all over Southwest Florida, and winter visitors from all fifty states, and even expats living overseas. They all love coming here, for the restaurants, the entertainment (Read Stan’s), fishing, and for a taste of how Gulf Coast Florida used to be. Now the many readers of this paper will have a chance to help us help ourselves to get back on our feet. The GCA will do its best to see that your donations get out as quickly as possible to those who need it the most.

Thank you.

Barry was a practicing attorney before he worked as a Special Agent of the FBI for 31 years. Barry worked for several government agencies another ten years before retiring to Goodland in 2006. Barry is presently the Secretary of the Goodland Civic Association.

 

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