“It has been the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done in my life.” That was Beach House Admission Counselor Chase Addy. He was describing his current involvement in bringing relief aid to the Florida Keys in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.
In the days immediately following the Category 4 hurricane that left a trail of destruction in its wake, Addy, with the help of others from the community, loaded up a big diesel truck trailer with relief donations headed for the Keys. Their mission was to deliver food, water and basic toiletries to residents in the hardest-hit, lower area of the Keys.
“It was like going through a war zone,” Addy recalled of that first visit. Thanks to on-the-ground contacts, he was one of the first to be let in to tour the devastation when the area was still largely closed off to returning residents.
“We saw houses that were completely destroyed,” Addy recounted. “We even saw a 60-foot yacht lying in someone’s yard. We were driving around and there was nothing but military vehicles and probably 200 Humvees and people disheveled walking around wondering where to begin rebuilding.”
Relief, Rebuilding and PB&J Sandwiches
That first trip preceded more trips in the coming weeks, as donations poured in— including 200 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches lovingly prepared by Beach House clients.
Marketing Manager Ryan Le Grange is another member of the Beach House staff who has been instrumental in helping to promote and coordinate the relief initiative now known as “Conch Aid to the Keys.” In his free time, Le Grange volunteers for a local non-profit teen leadership development organization. The Stand Up Foundation, as he describes it, is all about encouraging teens to take initiative in their communities.
Le Grange said he was inspired to lend a hand to Addy and “Conch-Aid to the Keys” when one of the teens he mentors began asking what could be done. Within minutes of Addy’s initial Facebook post announcing the effort and inviting help, Le Grange was on the phone with Addy brainstorming next steps in soliciting relief donations.
Addy recalled the lead-up to that call: “I typed up this whole thing that I was going to put on Facebook, about how the people in the Keys needed us. And I was sitting there getting ready to post it and was pretty scared, because I knew there would be no backing out after— and how crazy it is with three kids, a pregnant wife and a full-time job. But almost as soon as I hit “post,” Ryan saw it and called me and said, ‘Let’s do this.’ In five minutes, Ryan built a website …we thought of a name and worked out a way for people to make cash donations … we found drop-off locations for donations. I truly believe that God helped me walk through the fear and provided me with the Stand Up Foundation.”
How You Can Get Involved
Conch-Aid to the Keys is now turning its sights to assisting in the cleanup and rebuilding of the area, by sending teams of volunteers, including groups of teens, to help in that work.
Addy and LeGrange are also currently collecting donations of lumber, tools, chainsaws, generators and other machinery.
The generosity of donors and volunteers has been overwhelming: Addy said every day about 20 people sign up to help.