Saturday, April 17, 2021

The Marco Patriots: Past, Present, and Future





In the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, the Marco Patriots have become a leading force here on Marco Island, organizing widespread hurricane relief efforts. With generous contributions made by people concerned about the Marco Island community and other areas ravaged by the hurricane, the Patriots group gathered and distributed those efforts to the people in need in Florida and Puerto Rico.

Along with the group’s charitable notoriety, a spotlight has been shed on the Patriots’ members. What seems like a lifetime ago, in 2003, Marco Patriots founding member ErinMia Melican-Milchman was charged with three felony counts in Broward County, two of which were dropped. The charges were for Failure to Remit Sales Tax. A plea of no contest to the last second degree felony charge was entered and adjudication was withheld. Erin paid restitution and received one year probation.

Erin stated in 2003, unbeknownst to her, her ex-husband mismanaged the couple’s finances, which led to a discrepancy on their taxes. Her ex-husband was abusive physically, emotionally and financially which led to her legal troubles.

“Going through this experience, it teaches you what it’s like to lose everything,” Erin said. “And so you can really empathize with someone that’s had everything taken away that didn’t deserve for it to be taken away.” Erin’s past gave her the perfect experience for being in disaster recovery.

In an effort of transparency, Coastal Breeze News asked Erin how much money the Patriots raised thus far and which organizations have benefitted. Erin was forthcoming in our discussion.

The Marco Patriots, in conjunction with islanders Stephen and Debbie Barker of the Marco Review, raised a majority of their funds through the crowd sourcing website GoFundMe. People made personal donations to their campaign, the Hurricane Irma Relief Fund, eventually raising the group an impressive sum of $92,775. Erin noted all funds raised by the account have been distributed in full.

At the time the fundraiser was active, GoFundMe took five percent of monies raised from the campaigns hosted by its site. The website has since dropped that policy. The number above represents the total amount raised.

In October, the Patriots held the Marco Strong Locals Helping Locals fundraising event at CJ’s on the Bay on Marco Island. The party raised the group another $48,000. The money was acquired through a combination of t-shirt sales, raffle tickets, a live auction, and food and drink revenue.

In November, the Patriots participated in the Hilton Fashion and Fun event, a fundraising fashion show that featured local clothing stores Chico’s and Swim N Sport. All of the proceeds from this event went to the group, totaling $6,281.

Total financial donations from those three events amounted to an impressive $146,056 for the Marco Patriots’ mission.

How the money has been distributed:

Over the past few months the Patriots have worked alongside the Barkers, donating the money raised to various local organizations. The Goodland Hurricane Relief Fund received two payments totaling $50,500. The Everglades Hurricane Relief fund also received two donations totaling $41,500. Meals of Hope in Naples received a $15,000 donation and Our Daily Bread, a food pantry organized by the Family Church of Marco Island, received $14,709 ($4,709 went towards a new refrigerator/ freezer and $10,000 was offered as a donation).

In a post made to the Marco Patriots Facebook group, Erin explained that the group has funds in reserve. She wrote:

“We still have funds in reserve including funds raised at MIYC [Marco Island Yacht Club] for Boat Parade Party and donated by Marco Island Half Marathon as well as private donors and are on the newly formed board: Greater Marco Long Term Recovery Group which includes FEMA, UMCOR, The Salvation Army, F-Troop, YMCA and Marco Patriots…”

On December 15, 2017, Marco Patriots founders/siblings Mark and Matthew Melican, and Erin Melican-Milchman formed a not-for-profit corporation. According to Erin, they are in the process of becoming a 501(C) (3) nonprofit organization.

In our next edition read more about the group’s ongoing efforts and fundraising, including plans made for a concert that did not take place.

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