VENICE — Area residents continue to provide emergency supplies and donations to groups working to provide relief to The Bahamas after the devastation of Hurricane Dorian.
Venice residents have been dropping off food, flash lights and financial assistance for fuel of flights destine to Freeport, Eleuthera and Treasure Cay, among other areas.
The most prominent one remains Agape Flights out of Venice Municipal Airport, which began its relief flights Friday and continued throughout the week.
Agape Flight communications manager Abby Duncan said they had already completed five flights between Venice and the Bahamas, along with those flights having “multiple shuttle flights” between the islands.
“The need is huge,” Duncan said. “The key word is flexibility. We can lay out the best plans … but things are changing so much.”
The first needs, food and water, are still necessary but now people and rescue workers are requiring new supplies, like sawzalls, pickaxes and sledgehammers.
“We do know that the devastation is bad. I don’t know that anyone has a full grasp of what it is yet, but we know it’s extensive,” she said.
With each flight costing $2,500 in fuel, financial donations are also appreciated. With about 70,000 pounds of supplies in the Venice hangar, the Christian nonprofit has switched its priorities.
“Part of that change was because the response from the community has been incredible. It’s been beautiful to see,” she said.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Made in Italy of Venice had collected three box trucks worth of supplies from its customers. Made in Italy manager Robert Edelbach credited two of its patrons, Lindsay and Scott Howell, for being the conduits between the restaurant and The Bahamas.
Edelbach said the eatery originally tried to entice donations by offering a free margarita pizza, and while some people accept, others are just wanting to be involved.
“’We don’t need a pizza. We’re fine,’” Edelbach stated customers have said.
Lindsay Howell has said her husband, Scott, has been down to Grand Bahamas several times. They have a place there. She said she didn’t expect the response they received when she posted on her personal Facebook page about their effort.
She said they have been going to the Florida East Coast and flying from there, saving a bit on fuel. They have spent thousands, she said, but noted it is not something they’ve thought about at all.
“They want food, water and batteries,” she said. “And now they are looking for some clothing. Lots of baby supplies. Canned goods, bread and a lot of it is generators.”
She said they have a friend in Grand Bahama who wears 3X clothing, and that’s not easy to find now. It’s that type of item the survivors are now seeking.
Lindsay Howell said it’s not just her or a few individuals working — it’s an effort of so many.
“It’s really been incredible,” she said. “A lot of people are helping out.”
Edelbach said everyone is pitching in.
“We’re buying stuff ourselves and shipping it right down,” he said.
“To help out people in need. It’s the American way,” he said.
Lindsay said her husband, Scott, has said people are breaking down in tears when he gives them a hug.
“It’s pretty bad. Abaco is just flattened. They just need to get those people out of there. Grand Bahama is not livable in a lot of areas, but it’s salvageable,” she said.
Venice Aviation Society President David Wimberly noted it wasn’t just Agape Flights taking off out of Venice Municipal Airport to assist.
Pilots Paul Cellecz and Dennis King donated aircraft, fuel, flying skills and time to help, Wimberly said.
He said each trip likely cost the pilots hundreds of dollars in their personal funds each. One plane had about 600 pounds of cargo and the other had about 400 pounds of relief supplies as well.
“They stripped down their aircraft by removing back seats enabling them to max out their load,” Wimberly said.