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KNIGHTS HELP HURRICANE DORIAN VICTIMS

9/4/2019

By Andrew Fowler

KNIGHTS COORDINATE ASSISTANCE TO 70,000 PEOPLE ALREADY SEVERELY IMPACTED BY THE NATURAL DISASTER.

Since Hurricane Dorian ravaged the Bahamas and the Carolinas, Knights have responded by delivering basic necessities to the more than 70,000 people affected and raising more than $620,000 to help in disaster relief efforts. (Image by Spirit Juice Studios)

Knights of Columbus members are helping the more than 70,000 residents of the Bahamas and residents of the Carolinas impacted by the massive destruction caused by Hurricane Dorian.

Knights are coordinating relief efforts to ship supplies into the various islands of the Bahamas. Knights in the Carolinas are donating supplies to coastal residents, especially on Ocracoke Island, through private boat volunteers.

Since the storm hit the Bahamas and the Carolinas, the Knights of Columbus raised more than $620,000 through its Disaster Relief Fund, with the funding going to purchasing immediate needs such as canned foods, water, hygiene kits and baby supplies. Knights have raised nearly $7 million and volunteered hundreds of hours to help victims of natural disasters since January 2017.

The Knights of Columbus Supreme Council is also sending blankets, air mattresses, portable gas stoves, solar generators and other basic necessities. Archbishop Patrick Pinder of Nassau thanked the Knights of Columbus for their “concern and support.”

“We would be in miserable state and lacking hope without this kind of assistance,” Archbishop Pinder wrote in a letter to the Florida’s State Council. “This is an excellent example of charity and solidarity. I am profoundly grateful.”

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The category 5 hurricane made landfall on September 1, with maximum winds of 185mph becoming the strongest storm in modern record for the northwestern Bahamas. The islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama sustained the most damage, with the former’s landscape being completely cut in half. Many people becoming homeless as the storm wiped out entire neighborhoods. The official death count is currently at 50, with residents believing that the dead number in the thousands. The confirmed number is likely to climb as officials begin to clear the debris.

“All of the infrastructure is absolutely gone,” Florida State Deputy Scott O’Connor said. “It is such a dire situation for those people there. There's mass exodus off of, you know, some of these areas into Nassau, they're being overwhelmed.”

The logistics of delivering the supplies to the Bahamas have been challenging. For Ron Winn, the Florida Disaster Response Program Chairman, the logistics are more difficult than in previous storms he has seen, like Hurricane Michael last year. But the ocean isn’t stopping him or other Knights from bringing relief to hurricane victims, just like it didn’t stop Knights from assisting Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.

“We have to stage [the supplies], it has to clear customs, it’s got to be shipped or flown over to the Bahamas and right now, it’s very limited of where it can go into until they clear a runway or clear a port,” Winn said. “It’s not like clearing a road, I can’t imagine trying to go out and clear a bay.”

Not only are the runaways and ports either submerged or damaged, but once the supplies reach the Bahamas, Winn is working out logistics of shipping them from one island to the other. Knights are offering to take their personal boats from Florida to the Bahamas to deliver supplies. Currently, Knights are shipping supplies from Miami to Grand Bahama.

“What we’re doing is just a drop in the bucket, but we have to start somewhere,” Dean McGrady, a member of Fort Lauderdale Council 3080. “We need to be proactive, we need to ask as many people to reach out and be as supportive and as generous as possible.”

Edwin Thompson, a member of Nassau Council 10415, and his brother Knights are on an island not impacted to the same degree as Abaco and Grand Bahama. Thompson and his brother Knights are at the ready to be dispatched once the Archdiocese of Nassau gets the all clear from state officials.

But, for now, O’Connor and other Knights say it’s up to individuals and individual groups like the Knights of Columbus to provide immediate relief since infrastructures have been wiped out.

“We're the largest Catholic fraternal organization in the world and the Catholic Church is the largest charitable organization in the world,” O’Connor said. “That's what we do. And so to do any less would not be something the Knights are known for.”

Article has been UPDATED to reflect relief efforts and developments since Sept. 4.

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Share your story with andrew.fowler@kofc.org.