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HomeAt Home & BeyondCommunity agencies are here to support those affected by Hurricane Idalia

Community agencies are here to support those affected by Hurricane Idalia

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As the specter of Idalia hovered above Hernando County last week, it may have seemed that there was nary a ray of sunshine to be found—but now the help agencies of Hernando are stepping forward to meet the needs of people impacted by the storm, spreading warmth and goodwill, not to mention many much-needed donations in their wake.

Shannon Sokolowski, executive director of the Dawn Center’s domestic violence and sexual assault services, shares a special story of giving—one that took place at the center’s shelter as administrators completed preparations for the coming storm.

Angie Bonfardino-Walasek, executive director of United Way of Hernando County, said that United Way is also eager and ready to help residents in the wake of Idalia.

“Here at United Way of Hernando County, we work hand-in-hand with our partners at Hernando County Emergency Management, and we directly oversee Emergency Support Function (ESF) 15: Volunteers and Donations, as well as our local Community Organizations Active in Disaster (COAD),” she said.

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Bonfardino-Walasek offers additional help links for those who need them:
Hernando’s Disaster Preparedness Guide: https://tinyurl.com/3rwrew93
211 Hernando (health and human resources): https://211hernando.myresourcedirectory.com/
988 (National Suicide and Crisis Prevention Lifeline): https://988lifeline.org/
COAD (Community Organizations Active in Disaster): https://www.unitedwayhernando.org/COAD

At this time, United Way has issued a Call to Action to all of those who wish to help UW help others:
– To give: www.UnitedWayHernando.org/GIVE
Select “Disaster Relief Fund.” This restricted fund will help provide relief and flexible resources to identify unmet needs and our most vulnerable populations. In-kind donations such as water, toiletries, and cleaning supplies can always be used and deployed where needed.

– To advocate: www.UnitedWayHernando.org/Resources
Know your resources! Get connected to county resources, as well as our 211 call center for local health and human services.

– To volunteer: www.UnitedWayHernando.org/Volunteer
Pre-register as a Volunteer Reception Center (VRC) volunteer for disaster relief. There is no guarantee that your services will be needed or that you will be called upon to volunteer, but you will only be contacted directly if needed here in Hernando based on our local unmet needs.
“United Way of Hernando County will be working diligently to respond to unmet needs reported to us,” said Bonfardino-Walasek. “We are here should you need us.”

In the wake of Idalia, People Helping People reopened to the public on August 31. “We expect folks will be coming in for food assistance, so any donations of food are very much appreciated,” said Kendra Kenney, executive director of PHP.

In preparation for the storm, People Helping People workers went out in full force to address community needs.

“We went out on Monday for our Neighborhood Blessings program instead of our usual Tuesday run to many of the homeless campsites to provide a hot meal and other items like tarps and tents. We also shared information about where to go for emergency shelter,” said Kenney. “To be honest, many of those experiencing homelessness are not eager to go to shelters as they are afraid of leaving all their belongings behind and coming back to nothing. Many will have stayed and hunkered down. That’s where the tarps and tents come in handy.”

Kenney says that the public can support PHP through cash donations, which can be made at http://www.phphernando.org/donations.

“Because we are People Helping People, we get requests for help with many things beyond providing food and meals,” said Kenney. “That is where the cash donations come in… We can then help with things like replacing items that may have been lost in the flooding (social security cards, IDs, dry clothing, blankets).”

The Community Food Bank (CFB) provides critical food relief efforts throughout the Tampa Bay area–including Hernando County, where CFB supports eight food pantries and nonprofit agencies. For more about CFB, visit https://feed352.org/

“We are prepared to respond with FEMA supplies and food relief as needed,” said Barbara Sprague, Executive Director of the CFB. “Our pantries are stocked and have reopened. We will need the community’s support as our flood victims begin clean-up and relocation measures. We will be here to support anyone in need, and together we will all get through this!”

Megan Hussey
Megan Hussey
Megan Hussey is a features journalist and author who is the winner of Florida Press Association honors and a certificate of appreciation from LINCS (Family Support Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention Task Force) and Sunrise Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Center for her newspaper coverage of these issues. She graduated cum laude from Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., with a journalism major and English/sociology minor, and previously wrote for publications that include the Pasco editions of The Tampa Tribune and Tampa Bay Times. A native of Indiana, she lives in Florida.
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