By Kate Quesada
When the Alafia River flooded in the wake of Hurricane Irma last month, residents living in affected areas lost their homes and possessions, leaving them with many long and short term needs. Within hours, the surrounding community jumped into action with donations of food, water, clothes and offers to help clean and rebuild, under the leadership of Lithia-based charity Seeds of Hope.
“Before most people knew the flooding had occurred, we had trucks full of donations headed to our food bank,” said Seeds of Hope Mobile Food Bank Director Jennefier Patterson. “By the end of the first day, we had so many donations we had taken over the church next door and had a storage unit full of water. It was an incredible community response.”
Seeds of Hope President Leda Eaton set up a response center for the flooding victims at the Shell Gas station on Lithia Pinecrest Rd. and with a team of volunteers helped distribute donations of food, water and clothing to those affected and coordinated help for the victims to clean out and start rebuilding their homes.
“When the flooding first happened, we thought it would maybe mean that a group of families would need help with food and clothes,” said Patterson. “What it turned into is a huge on-going project to help these people get back on their feed and make sure they are not forgotten.”
In order to best serve the flooding victims, Seeds of Hope turned over the clean-up portion of the relief effort to FishHawk Fellowship Church and is now focusing on getting to know the individual families affected and helping them in personal ways.
“We want help by building relationships with the people in need,” said Patterson who bonded with many of the victims when they came into the food bank following the flooding.
Seeds of Hope has set up a separate account for people to donate to the flood victims and Patterson suggests that anyone who wants to help follow the Seeds of Hope Facebook page where they will be posting specific needs for the families as they arise. They will also continue to operate the weekly food bank and are always looking for volunteers to help sort and distribute food.
The food pantry is located next to the Presbyterian Church of Bloomingdale at 710 E. Bloomingdale Ave. Visit www.sohopefl.org or call 489-4599.