ENGLEWOOD — Among the destruction and heartbreak that Hurricane Dorian left in its wake in the Bahamas, it’s nice to hear something good.
Three-year employee of Bacon’s Furniture Judy Gerhard received an email from her colleague, Jeff Bacon, to gather as many supplies as possible to donate to the Bahamas.
So, she went out to the Englewood Walmart Supercenter on Sunday — her day off. Toward the front clothing area, Gerhard noticed carts sporting piles of clothes on sale for 25 cents each.
Gerhard started gathering clothes, ranging from infant onesies, to extra-large teen hoodies. She started matching clothes together, creating outfits.
Customers around her started inquiring, she said, asking her if she was getting those for her grandchildren. She explained her company’s initiative to give back, which inspired those customers to start picking up bags and bags of clothes and setting them in her cart to donate. One customer added bubbles for the kids, while an employee grabbed two armloads full of clothes and put them in the cart, Gerhard said.
Word then spread to the customer service manager, Kimberly Tuttle, who grabbed three more carts full of clothes and directed Gerhard to the store’s service center.
“Walmart is going to get you all these clothes for free for the Bahamas,” Tuttle told Gerhard.
“I’m sitting there, tears streaming down my face,” Gerhard said.
Gerhard estimated the clothes, at 25 cents a piece, were altogether worth $3,900. Meaning she compiled more than 15,000 pieces of clothing for kids in need.
According to Walmart spokesperson Tara Ashton, each store has some money set away to donate to the community.
The store’s assistant manager, Jamaree Byrd, came to thank Gerhard, saying he’s originally from the Bahamas and his family is stuck there. “I can’t get in there to see them,” he told Gerhard.
Being a victim of 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, Gerhard tries to help every time disasters like these occur.
“I know how it feels,” she said. “This really tore up my heart. I just knew being in the Bahamas they had no where to go; no where and no one to help. They were basically by themselves.”
Once she brought the thousands of bagged-up pieces of clothes to her vehicle, Gerhard could barely close her trunk. She then brought the clothes to her work Monday.
The company, Bacon’s Furniture in Port Charlotte, is working with Sonshine Baptist Church to get supplies to those impacted by the hurricane.
Along with this, Walmart announced Tuesday it is committing up to $500,000 in cash and in-kind donations for Hurricane Dorian relief and recovery efforts.
“In times like these, the efforts of our local stores and distribution centers, as well as the nonprofits, first responders, local officials and government organizations to meet the needs of the affected communities have never been more important,” said Walmart’s vice president of philanthropy Julie Gehrki. “We are grateful to all those providing relief and we want to do our part to help.”
In the past two years, Walmart and its foundation have given nearly $50 million in cash, water, food and other products and raised $44 million in customer donations to support victims of hurricanes, the company said in a statement Tuesday.
If anyone in the public wants to donate items to the Bahamas, they can bring canned food and other items to Bacon’s Furniture at 17701 Murdock Circle in Port Charlotte.
For more information, call the store at 941-625-4493.