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Sending Relief: Veterans, SWAT and Community Volunteers Come Together For The Bahamas

Tania Ortega-Cowan

All along the Treasure Coast, relief efforts are underway for parts of the Bahamas devastated by the cat 5 Hurricane Dorian and then hit again this past weekend by Tropical Storm Humberto.

MZ: Just think of yourself as having nothing. And what do you need most?

That’s Col. Martin Zickert, retired US Air Force, of the Veteran’s Council of Indian River County. The Council teamed up with Walking Tree Brewery, the Indian River County Sheriff’s Office SWAT team and dozens of hard-working volunteers recently to receive emergency supplies for Bahamas relief efforts.

MZ: “We’ve got water. We’ve got medical supplies. We’ve got feminine products…

…tents, bug spray, toothbrushes, toothpaste, diapers, formula. They are working with organizations that have the legal access to the Bahamas, including Catholic Charities in Ocala who will then get it into the hardest hit areas in the Bahamas.

JT: “Let’s give a shout out to McCully Marine in Fort Pierce who is going to move a lot of this stuff out for us.”

That’s part time Vero Beach resident Jennifer Toby who came all the way from Houston to help organize the effort.

Major Eric Flowers from the Indian River County sheriff’s Office explains the SWAT team connection to the relief effort.

EF: “Rob Ryan is on our SWAT team and he certainly brought this to our attention. He said it would be great for our SWAT team to be out here for our relief efforts.”

Ryan is also a veteran and Sheriff’s Office Liaison to the Veteran’s Council.

RR: “Yeah, I did four years in the Marine Corps before I came here to the sheriff’s office. We just love being part of the community and that is what we’re here for, to help in all the efforts.”

SWAT Team member Michael Dilks adds,

MD: “The community has shown an overwhelming response to us through Facebook messages, reassurance, and just showing up here to donate. I think it’s great.”

Volunteers are on hand separating items by category and getting them on pallets for shipping. The vast open space of Walking Tree Brewery is the perfect spot to collect everything. Zickert explains:

Credit Tania Ortega-Cowan
Volunteers pack items inside Walking Tree Brewery

MZ: “They called us and said, can we be of service to you?”

BM: “Hi, I’m Brooke Malone office manager here. My husband Mike Malone is the brewer and owner. When it comes to crisis, we offer our space and we offer our help any way we can.”

In addition to the space, they also provided and exhausted their own supply of pallets. She describes how...

BM: “…local moving companies, roofers, several shipping organizations have brought their spare pallets. White Glove Moving & Storage, United Against Poverty have brought us boxes for packing.”

The space is also filled with dozens of volunteers including...

EM: “Elijah.”

Elijah is 7 years old.

TOC: “What’s the most fun part of this?”

EM: “That you get to sort.”

TOC: “And what kind of things are you sorting here?”

EM: “Food.”

We soon run into a volunteer team from Junior League of Indian River.

Credit Tania Ortega-Cowan
A team member from Junior League of Indian River tapes up a box of relief items

KP: “I’m Kelly Peters. We got involved through our members- our concern for what is going on in the Bahamas. It’s kind of like an extension of Florida – so many of us go over there and enjoy and really love the people, the land and all that it has to offer so we just want to do anything we can to support them.”

Father/son team Thom and Hunter Morgan came to drop off items and ended up staying to help. Here’s Thom:

TM: “Some friends were telling us how we could help out here at Walking Tree and we brought some things by and decided to help out for the next couple of hours.”

Hunter is 16.

HM: “It does make me feel really good.”

Wherever you decide to donate, be sure to check out the charity first as, unfortunately, scams occur during tragedies like this one.