Sahar Shaikh and about 30 other women spent an hour packing up 100 spaghetti and meat sauce lunches to be delivered to Miami Gardens residents who were struggling after Hurricane Irma.
When they were done, 20 men dropped off the meals door-to-door in a combined effort by the Islamic Center of Greater Miami and the Muslim Women's Organization of South Florida, said Shaikh, MWO president. One woman started weeping when she saw the hot food.
"We were absolutely honored to be able to do that for them," she said.
Across South Florida, nonprofits are starting funds, delivering food and organizing supplies for those affected by Hurricane Irma, including those in the Caribbean, the Keys and Miami-Dade and Broward counties.
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The Miami Foundation, the nonprofit that runs the annual Give Miami Day, has set up The Hurricane Relief Fund to support groups working on the ground to rebuild. It’s also created the Irma Caribbean Strong Relief Fund to help small Caribbean islands such as Barbuda and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Irma Community Recovery Fund, focusing on Florida’s marginalized communities.
The Greater Miami Jewish Federation has been delivering meals to about 700 Miami-Dade residents who are homebound, said Jacob Solomon, the organization's CEO and president.
They started the deliveries Tuesday and are asking people to donate funds to help keep the effort going. In addition to staff, volunteers have been delivering food, checking on vulnerable residents without power and keeping people company.
Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Miami is focusing on long-term needs. They're raising money to send hygiene and clean-up kits, including buckets, mops and bleach, to the Keys, said Deacon Richard Turcotte, the nonprofit's CEO.
He said they're asking people to donate funds to send aid for however long it’s needed.
While some donations are needed to finance the kits, money is also needed to help people pay rent or utilities, he said. Though Catholic Charities serves Monroe, Miami-Dade and Broward, he anticipates most of the need being in Monroe County.
“Imagine losing your home,” he said. “That type of support is critical.”
Episcopal Relief & Development, the arm of the Episcopal Church that funds relief efforts worldwide, also takes a long-term approach, focusing on rescue, relief and recovery. After a diasaster, it often gives gift cards to people from local stores, so they can choose what they need most.
“It not only affords people dignity, it also helps stimulate the local economy, which needs to recover post-disaster,’’ Robert Radtke, president of Episcopal Relief, wrote in a blog post.
Looking outside of Florida, Coconut Creek-based Food for the Poor has already delivered one container of blankets and hygiene kits to the Caribbean.
The nonprofit is focusing mostly on Barbuda and St. Martin, two Caribbean islands hit hardest by Hurricane Irma, said Angel Aloma, the group's executive director. After blankets and hygiene kits, they'll be sending food and medicine for conditions like hypertension and diabetes.
"We basically are guided by their needs," he said. "If it's chairs and tables, we send chairs and tables."
He said he encourages people to donate to any organization they choose, but it's important to remember the Caribbean because the local nonprofits and government organizations there can't provide the same aid as those in the U.S.
"Can you imagine in a country that already has issues with those things? We have to start with helping them survive," he said.
Crowd-sourcing sites also are stepping in. Help Florida with Water, a Minneapolis group, launched a Go Fund Me campaign on Wednesday to raise $150,000 to purchase pallets of bottled water for Floridians that survived Irma.
Home Depot, meanwhile, is sending a convoy of 45 tractor-trailers carrying water, plywood, generators and other hurricane supplies to Florida, according to a report on Fox4.
Here is a sampling of local nonprofits who are helping Irma victims:
▪ Hope South Florida is offering housing assistance to displaced families and veterans. Contact Ted Greer at 305-301-9380.