Florida boaters rally in Charley’s aftermath

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Florida boaters and anglers have begun running ice caravans to aid elderly residents in Hurricane Charley’s aftermath with the help of BoatU.S. and West Marine, BoatU.S. said in a press release yesterday.

Using pickup trucks, SUVs and trailers, volunteers are carrying coolers of ice to West Central Florida for nursing homes and senior citizen assisted living centers that have been without power for days. The boater convoys also are carrying urgent supplies such as fuel and personal care items.

According to Phillip Tyler of the Florida boating advocacy organization, Standing Watch, many group residences in the disaster area are having a hard time obtaining supplies since emergency deliveries come through distribution centers they can’t get to.

“Staff can’t leave these facilities, and many of them are also struggling with their own personal recovery efforts at home,” Tyler said. “Unfortunately, the seniors can’t simply go down to the distribution centers and catch bags of ice off the back of an 18-wheeler, so we’re delivering it to their door.”

Online forum sparks efforts

Tyler said the idea for the caravans surfaced on Florida Sportsman magazine’s ‘Fishing Forum’ on-line message board just after the hurricane hit. Many marinas, fish houses and bait shops around the state had ice on-hand but no way to get it to the disaster area. Tyler and Standing Watch members from the Gainesville area, more than 200 miles away, trucked ice to the scene two days after the hurricane struck while others took ice to the site from Tampa.

Members wanted to go back with more ice but needed a way to keep melting to a minimum during transport, so Tyler contacted BoatU.S. and its marketing alliance partner West Marine.

In hours, West Marine had donated more than 100 large volume insulated coolers from its retail stores in Florida. With the help of BoatU.S., the firm established pick-up points at four stores in strategic locations where Standing Watch and forum members could obtain the coolers to truck more ice to the disaster area.

The caravans rolled again Aug. 18 and will deliver again today, Tyler said.

“We are still searching the state for supplies and volunteers through the Fishing Forum,” Tyler said. “Locally, the Goodyear Tire and Service Centers in Tarpon Springs, Clearwater and Tampa have offered to be collection centers for donated items where our volunteers can pick them up for delivery to the homes.”

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