September 28, 2017

After Hurricane Irma struck the southeast, many communities rallied together to help each other.

Our platoons in Miami, Orlando, Tampa and Jacksonville were no exception. They stepped up to help neighbors and community members recover from Hurricane Irma.

In Miami, the platoon mobilized to help the elderly, fellow platoon members, and veterans in the area with cutting downed trees in yards and debris removal. The Platoon is used online group chats and Facebook group to spread the word that members were looking to help out. Our City Impact Manager, Mateo and PLs in Miami and Broward got in contact with United Way – Mission United, Neighbors for Neighbors, Wounded Warrior Project, Team Rubicon, and the Red Cross to assist with additional recovery efforts.

Their task list contained seven homes and an elderly care facility. The small team reached houses on their list and distributed 100 pounds of ice to an immigrant farming community last week.

  • 30 homes were prepared with hurricane shutters and plywood. The homes of the elderly and disabled were prioritized, including the homes of  WWII and Vietnam veterans.
  • Over $20,000 of tree cutting and debris removal was provided at no charge by our members across Miami Dade County. This included assisting various nonprofit agencies who work with disadvantaged youth and special needs students.
  • 200 pounds of ice was distributed to a migrant farm worker community in Homestead, FL.

In Orlando, Platoon Leader Bobby Withers put out an open call for volunteer opportunities through their ongoing support of Irma called Operation Alleviate. Last week, seven platoon members went to Crossroads Corral, an equestrian therapy center and long-time platoon project site, to assist with clean up. They also assisted with debris clean up, helping direct traffic at gas stations, and expect more volunteer opportunities to come in the weeks ahead.

Volunteers with Miami 1st Service Platoon take a pause during cleanup and debris removal.

In Tampa, residents who evacuated have returned to the area and have assessed the damage to their homes and community. Hurricane Irma left many families displaced evacuating to shelters across Florida with whatever they can carry on them or in their vehicles. Children in particular are left with whatever item they could carry or what their parents brought for them (the bare necessities) in the shelter. Tampa volunteered last Monday to stuff over 250 backpacks with kids essentials to bring to shelters.

Trinity Cafe, a Tampa Platoon partner, was hit hard by the storm as well. The platoon mobilized to help them recover from the storm and helped distribute food for people in need of a meal. Platoon Leader Nadja Cockrell coordinated an effort for platoon members, fellows, and alumni to assist with and respond to requests they receive. Requests have been coming through last weekend and into this week.

Volunteers clean out a house in the hard-hit Middleburg community.

In Jacksonville, the platoons went into response mode, with platoon members meeting on a daily basis to tackle a long and growing list of requests from homeowners for debris removal, yard repair and general neighborhood cleanup.  Again, many were left without power, but that didn’t slow their commitment to each other, with constant buddy checks and offers of couches, food, and assistance in any form.

Service Platoon membership is open to veterans and non-veterans. If you would like to roll your sleeves up and be a part of our volunteer efforts, you can register to become a member.