Parishes | Schools | Priests | Masses |
More in this section MAIN MENU

Volunteers bring hope to Florida Keys

Hurricane Irma’s devastation to Monroe County prompts Catholic outreach

KEY WEST | Parishes, schools and volunteers from around the Miami Archdiocese said they couldn’t sit idly by in the wake of Hurricane Irma’s devastation to Monroe County.

The result was a series of ad hoc collections of post-hurricane supplies and volunteer manpower over the last few weeks which culminated in a Sept. 26 caravan of care to the Florida Keys. The effort included collections at St. Timothy, St. KevinSt. Brendan, St. Louis and Our Lady of Lourdes parishes.

Five high schools also decided to collect supplies for the Florida Keys after the hurricane, including St. Brendan, Belen Jesuit, Our Lady of Lourdes Academy, Msgr. Edward Pace, Immaculata-La Salle, and St. Thomas Aquinas in Fort Lauderdale.

Angelina Castillo Kelley, a housing manager for a Key West Housing Authority residence for senior citizens, thanks volunteers from throughout the Archdiocese of Miami who delivered a caravan of emergency supplies Sept. 26 to locations throughout the Florida Keys as that region recovers from Hurricane Irma.

Photographer: TOM TRACY | FC

Angelina Castillo Kelley, a housing manager for a Key West Housing Authority residence for senior citizens, thanks volunteers from throughout the Archdiocese of Miami who delivered a caravan of emergency supplies Sept. 26 to locations throughout the Florida Keys as that region recovers from Hurricane Irma.

Volunteers from throughout the Archdiocese of Miami deliver a caravan of emergency supplies Sept. 26 to locations throughout the Florida Keys as that region recovers from Hurricane Irma. The donated items had been collected at a dozen Catholic schools and parishes in Miami following the storm, and were left at hard-hit sites and agencies from Key Largo to Key West.

Photographer: TOM TRACY | FC

Volunteers from throughout the Archdiocese of Miami deliver a caravan of emergency supplies Sept. 26 to locations throughout the Florida Keys as that region recovers from Hurricane Irma. The donated items had been collected at a dozen Catholic schools and parishes in Miami following the storm, and were left at hard-hit sites and agencies from Key Largo to Key West.

What started out as a small project grew to a community-wide effort, according to Maria Blanco, a member of St. Timothy Parish and an organizer.

“It has truly been a collaborative effort by all and any time we run into an obstacle, someone comes through with a donation or assistance to make this happen. We lit a small candle, and our Church community has responded so we can light the world down in the Keys.”

“Everyone at our parish was excited and our pastor and school provided us with room for storage and put an announcement on Facebook, and that same afternoon we were being bombarded with donations,” said Lourdes Mestre, another member of St. Timothy who accompanied the convoy along with her husband, Richard Mestre.

“We know of a lot of people who were just jumping into cars and going wherever, but we didn’t want to do that. We wanted to make sure that where our supplies were going is where they were needed the most,” Lourdes Mestre said.

The group focused on leaving donations with low-income housing facilities, foster care programs and senior citizens.

State Rep. Jeanette Nunez, a Miami Republican who chairs the House Select Committee on Hurricane Response and Preparedness in Florida, accompanied the group and provided a Miami Dade Fire Rescue escort from Miami to points as far as the Basilica School of St. Mary Star of the Sea in Key West. Her office also provided contact with some of the drop-off locations.

Joining the delegation to the Florida Keys were Richard Blanco, Annie Hernandez of Epiphany Parish in Miami, and Kathy Mesa, a member of St. John Neumann in Miami. Mesa said she wanted to reach out to people in need after a traumatic event like a hurricane.

“We are all called to mission, and over the years I have tried to get involved as much as possible,” Mesa said. Her family has vacationed in the Florida Keys for many years and wanted to help Monroe County residents.

“It is one thing to see the pictures but it is always different seeing it in person. Being on the drop-off end of a collection and the distribution is very different,” Mesa said.

Separately, at St. Thomas Aquinas High School, Margie Scott, assistant principal for student affairs, said the student body collected a truckload of items destined for the Star of the Sea Outreach Mission and food pantry on Stock Island, which is associated with the Basilica of St. Mary Star of the Sea Parish.

The items were loaded onto a rental truck donated for the project by one of the school parents.

“We are primarily focused on cleanup efforts and I have heard from direct sources that water and bug spray are primary needs,” Scott said, noting that there may be longer term engagement between the school and the Florida Keys.

“We were beginning to think about a student workforce to go down,” she said, “but it was suggested to wait until things are better off and the area ready to receive us.”

Kathy Mesa, a member of St. John Neumann Parish in Miami, speaks with Father Stephen Hilley, pastor of St. Justin Martyr Parish in Key Largo, during a distribution of post-hurricane supplies. Volunteers from throughout the Archdiocese of Miami delivered a caravan of emergency supplies Sept. 26 to locations throughout the Florida Keys as that region recovers from Hurricane Irma.

Photographer: TOM TRACY | FC

Kathy Mesa, a member of St. John Neumann Parish in Miami, speaks with Father Stephen Hilley, pastor of St. Justin Martyr Parish in Key Largo, during a distribution of post-hurricane supplies. Volunteers from throughout the Archdiocese of Miami delivered a caravan of emergency supplies Sept. 26 to locations throughout the Florida Keys as that region recovers from Hurricane Irma.


Latest News

Feature News

School News

Homilies

Press Release

Statements