Several Polk County nonprofits and organizations continue to collect goods for hurricane-ravaged Bahamas.
LAKELAND — Keith Bean and Lex Brown say they are overwhelmed by Lakeland's generosity to the people of the Bahamas — and also exhausted after at least two round trips to Fort Pierce to put donations in a donated shipping container.
“The people I've seen donating brings tears to my eyes, and anyone that knows me knows about the only way that happens is if I hit my shin bone on my trailer hitch,” Brown wrote in a Facebook post to thank those who have helped. “I watched a senior gentleman bring a gallon of water today. He struggled to walk up and place it on the sorting trailer. But when he left, he smiled because he felt good knowing he had done all he could do. I've witnessed it over and over.”
The pair have decided to extend their collection time through Saturday at the Linksters Bar and Grill on U.S. 98 North. They have partnered with a Church of Christ nonprofit to help expedite donations, with all money offered going directly to those in need.
"I'm overwhelmed at the support we have had — I never thought it would have got this big. But that's a good problem to have," Bean said. "Without the team we have, we couldn't have pulled this off ... there's just no words to describe the emotions of everybody coming together."
Several area businesses have come through with everything from cases of water to boxes of chainsaws to multiple air mattresses. A lot of it set sail for the eastern Bahamian islands Friday night on an Albury Brothers Boats barge out of Fort Pierce, which is donating its services.
Right Trailers is offering the use of several enclosed trailers to fill with more donations. Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center sent a truckload of washed and bagged bedding. Cutting Edge Lawn Equipment and Florida OutDoor Equipment donated a pallet of chainsaws, along with gas and oil to keep them running. Mine and Mill sent a truckload of tools and leather gloves. Action Land Service made a large donation to the group's 501c3. Mosaic is sending a trailer of items. Linkster's allowed the use of their parking lot and Champiano Italian Restaurant and Jimbo's BBQ donated meals to the volunteers sorting and packing items.
In addition, All American Furniture in Lakeland and Evans Ranch donated $10,000 worth of brand new mattresses from Ashley Furniture and bought 10 large tents and “every barbecue grill they could find.”
Fantasy of Flight brought four SUV loads of items, including air mattresses. Central Construction coordinated with Beyel Brothers for the use of a barge.
Brown said a donor has now offered the use of a 40,000-square-foot warehouse near the airport.
Maurice's Automotive on Drane Field Road near the airport is a drop off point for Brown and Bean, along with Angel Flight and Sandalsfoundation.org, the nonprofit arm of Sandals and Beaches Resorts.
Gary Coxe, a pilot for Angel Flight and sponsored by Sandals Resorts, is looking for donations that he will fly in Tuesday, leaving about 8 a.m. Brown said he's going to start coordinating with Angel Flight so they can start flying supplies to the islands.
The Polk County Tax Collector's office and Polk State College are partnering with Sun 'n Fun and the Aerospace Center for Excellence to collect donations for the Bahamas.
The Tax Collector's “Gloves for Love” program will be ongoing with Sun 'n Fun/ACE and is accepting leather work gloves, heavy duty garbage bags and bug spray. Residents interested in donating these items can drop them off at any of the service center locations across Polk County during regular business hours.
Polk State College's Student Activities and Leadership Offices at all three Polk campuses will collect donations to send supplies to the islands.
Those who want to contribute additional hurricane supplies and non-perishable food items can drop off those items at the Sun 'n Fun Expo campus.
Kimberly C. Moore can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 863-802-7514. Follow her on Twitter at @KMooreTheLedger.