People who escaped the devastation in the Bahamas were ferried to Harbourside Place in Jupiter where 18 women and children benefited from a grassroots rescue effort led by the Mastroianni Family Foundation.
JUPITER — When Ovidia Neilly talks about the damage Hurricane Dorian brought to Great Abaco in the Bahamas, she doesn’t mince words.
It’s uninhabitable. "No one can live there right now in that state," Neilly said.
The 35-year-old considers herself among the fortunate. She’s off the island and with her immediate family: mother Teddy Neilly and 9-year-old sister Gayniah Bootle.
Neilly came over Thursday, one of 18 women and children on a flight to Florida through a grassroots rescue effort led by the Mastroianni Family Foundation.
Founder Nick Mastroianni, the real estate developer who brought Harbourside Place to Jupiter, said he has chartered about a dozen flights to the Abaco Islands since the storm.
They’ve been dropping off supplies and ferrying Bahamians over to Jupiter, where Mastroianni is putting them up at the Wyndham Grand hotel in Harbourside.
"It’s finished. It’s done," Mastroianni said of the Bahamas’ post-Dorian state. "It’s generational damage."
Mastroianni started by specifically tracking down people he and his family knew after vacationing in the Bahamas for 20 years. Through Friday night, he’s brought over nearly 40 people and has plans to transport more.
He wants to "try to get them back to normal," offering them food and lodging as well as money to purchase new clothes.
Neilly has known the Mastroianni family for about five years. She met them through her job as catering and events manager at Baker’s Bay Golf and Ocean Club.
She feels blessed to be in Jupiter. Neilly said she spoke with Mastroianni’s son, Nicholas Mastroianni III, ahead of the storm but decided to ride it out.
Afterward, she connected with the Mastroianni family by satellite phone.
"I appreciate the Mastroianni family from the bottom of my heart," Neilly said.
Since coming over Thursday, Gayniah said she’s been focused on relaxing — and "eating a lot of ice cream."
It’s been a far cry from the storm, which Gayniah described as "horrible."
Neilly said she had to hold her front door shut for an hour and a half, "fighting with the wind not to suck my door out."
The mood in her apartment was hectic during the hurricane, Neilly said. Almost 30 strangers ran in during the eye of the storm to seek shelter, she said.
"People were relieved to be alive. But, yet, people were in shock," Neilly said. "They were distraught. They were crying. People didn’t know what to do."
The situation has degraded even further in the days since, Neilly said.
It’s clear in her mind that more Bahamians need to leave the islands, particularly to seek medical attention.
By her own description, life there has changed forever.
"Last week, we were just living a normal life, going to work, the kids just started school," Neilly said. "And now ... we don’t have anything."
But she wants Floridians to know that Bahamians will persevere.
"We’re very resilient," she said. "We are a united people and they should know we don’t give up."