Hurricane Dorian was still thrashing the Bahamas, sitting over the island chain for an enervating length of time, when the Benjamin community began springing into action.
Lindsey Drevins ‘08, Tim Drevins ‘08, and Alexandra Devine ‘08 quickly began brainstorming ways to help their friend and fellow alumna Katie Jervis ‘08 and her family who live in Freeport and were being accosted by the storm. Though her home remained standing, her neighbors on the island were not as fortunate. With the help of Grant Gyland ‘07 and Lindy Bradford ‘11, they raised over $5,000 in five days to purchase supplies and textiles that were immediately delivered to Freeport by boat and plane. Jervis met the deliveries first hand and distributed them to people in serious need.
“Our efforts are not yet over, and we hope to get more supplies over to the Grand Bahamas sometime next week,” said Lindsey Drevins.
Taylor Aguirre ‘11 and Hattie Reedy ‘12 also collected over $6,000 that was used toward supplies and brought directly to Jervis.
Dr. Robert Greer ‘01’s name came to mind when an overwhelmed nurse in the Bahamas reached out to a doctor in Fort Lauderdale about needing more hands on deck. Greer, a pilot who helped with aid work in Haiti after the Earthquake, was quickly mentioned.
“Tropic Ocean Airways was running a few seaplane flights over and the Bahamian government cleared me for relief efforts. I was stationed at Hope Town Volunteer Fire Rescue Command Center for the duration of my time,” said Greer.
Greer said the most pressing issue currently is money.
“A lot of the reports I’ve received are saying that some of the relief items are just sitting on the docks - either adding to debris or pollution,” said Greer. He cautioned those who are well-intentioned to get in touch with a specific island, community center, or person and ask what they need to help rebuilding.
Greer will be returning to the Bahamas within the next six weeks and setting up a patient-centered medical home that can monitor chronic illness, provide acute care, and focus on mental health.
“That will be the next big hurdle,” said Greer. “We evacuated so many people that I have no idea who is still there.”
Director of Student Services Susan Poncy, who helped coordinate the School’s relief efforts led by citizen activists, said many alumni reached out offering their help. Poncy said Lisa Interlandi, a current parent and former Benjamin student, donated a generator, cook-stove and additional supplies to the effort. Poncy said Adrienne Propp ‘13 called to offer her help from afar and shipped relief items down for the School’s collection. Jennifer Porter ‘07 took two pallets of hurricane relief items to the collection warehouse to add to Benjamin’s donations. Administrative Assistant Ami Reece ‘86 was also involved in relief efforts in conjunction with Operation 300.
Poncy said all told, the School sent three large box trucks filled with relief supplies to hangars at Witham Airfield in Stuart, Florida. The School worked under the leadership of Matthew Kuntz and a grassroots group of civilians who used their own aircrafts and boats to get the items delivered quickly. Their first delivery was made the day after the storm left the Bahamas. The group worked closely with U.S. and Bahamian Customs, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the Bahamian Defense Force, to make deliveries in Scotland Key, Marsh Harbour, Treasure Cay, Grand Cay, Freeport, West End Village, Old Bahama Bay, and Green Turtle. They took their own security personnel and, working with teams on the ground, were able to get supplies into the hands of people in the villages who have less accessibility.
Dozens of other alumni participated in relief efforts, from collection supplies through donation drives, to serving as boots on the ground. Among them:
Seneca Moss ‘95 helped raise over $1 million and orchestrated an enormous donation relief effort. Moss worked in conjunction with Hope Town Relief Aid to evacuate over 250 Hope Town residents by sea and air. The organization brought in a professional security team to secure the island, collected 50 tons of supplies, transported doctors and trauma nurses to Hope Town to provide care and secured a 14,000 square foot warehouse in South Florida to store donations. The organization’s current goal is to transfer near-term relief and recovery efforts back to Hope Town Volunteer Fire and Rescue and aid in rebuilding the community.
Pat Kelly ‘94 made trips to the West End to provide relief and plans to take a plane over next week. Kelly says Gunnar Askeland ‘96 secured space on the late Chris Cline’s barge and is loading a shipping container for Grand Cay today. Ed deMarcellus ‘93 will also be involved in the effort.
Kelly says Jack Hill ‘93, Owen Buckman ‘93, Andre Bourassa ‘91 and Brad Flourney ‘91 have all made relief trips to Grand Cay. Clark Beaty ‘95 also collected and distributed supplies.
Christian Searcy ‘98 coordinated a multi-unit operation to airlift four pallets of water to the western Bahamas and over 2,500 pounds of supplies to Marsh Harbour. He personally witnessed the U.S. military on the ground at both Marsh Harbour and Treasure Key delivering supplies. In addition, Searcy worked with Winner’s Circle Charities to collect tax deductible donations to pay for fuel for planes and boats aiding in the humanitarian crisis.
Brooke Grogan, Esq. (Smith, 05'), and her Law Firm, Smith, Gaskill & Shenkman, P.A., organized an Abaco Island Hurricane Relief Collection Drive for necessity and survival items (First Aid kits, cleaning supplies, water, hygiene products, chain saws, etc.) that were shipped to Cooperstown on Great Abaco, via container, which left the Port of Palm Beach on Tuesday, September 10. The items will be distributed in Fox Town and other hard to access areas where the items are needed most. The container was sponsored by The Taylor Foundation, Tropical Shipping, Palm Dale Oil Company, and Clock Spring NRI.
Len Lindahl ‘89, Lenny Lindahl ‘21, Thomas Anspach ‘89 and William Anspach have been assisting the Bahamas by delivering donated goods to West End (Old Bahama Bay) by boat.
Lindy Bradford ‘11 has been taking trips to the Bahamas with her current boss and their foundation, the Mastroianni Family Foundation, doing rescue missions and bringing over 250,000 lbs of supplies on over 150 flights to the many people in need. The Bahamians they have rescued were brought back to Jupiter with little more than the clothes on their backs. Lindy also coordinated a plane drop off to bring supplies directly to Katie Jervis ‘08 in Freeport. With the help of Benjamin parents and alumni, over $15,000 was raised to purchase supplies that were also taken directly to Katie on the ground in Freeport to disburse to the people most in need. Katie and her friends and family have been handling these supplies out.