The Gulf County Sheriff’s Office, Gulf County, and the cities of Port St. Joe and Mexico Beach issued an ambitious challenge to the community about a month ago.
“We asked the general public to match what we had already started with,” said Mayor Rex Buzzett. “We started with $15,000 (in donations from the cities and County), and sure enough, they matched, and we ended up with $30,000.”
The funds, collected through a drive organized by the Sheriff’s Office, were earmarked to be sent to Southwest Florida to aid in Hurricane Ian recovery efforts.
On Thursday, November 17, officials gathered to celebrate the culmination of their fundraising efforts.
At Port St. Joe’s City Hall, Gulf County Commissioner Phillip McCroan, Sheriff Mike Harrison, Emergency Management Director Matt Herring, Port St. Joe Mayor Rex Buzzett and Mexico Beach Mayor Al Cathey presented Samaritan’s Purse, an evangelical Christian humanitarian organization, a check for $30,000.
Buzzett said that when choosing an organization to donate to, Samaritan’s Purse had been an obvious choice.
“We talked about an organization to give the money to. We had great help from a lt of organizations — The Red Cross, Salvation Army and so forth. But with Samaritan’s Purse, we know the work they did when they were here,” he said.
“And we know the money we give them for Hurricane Ian relief will go to Hurricane Ian relief and will not be spent administratively.”
Samaritan’s Purse spent a year coordinating recovery efforts in the area following Hurricane Michael, establishing their home base at the First Baptist Church in Wewahitchka.
Mark Nelson, the regional director from the organization, was present to accept the check from the fundraiser.
“I was just looking back at the numbers, and we reached about 980 families in this area and about 1,250 over in Panama City,” Nelson said. “And we were still rebuilding homes even after the immediate recovery.”
“We’re doing the same with Ian. Ian is going to be a long response. I would say that we have about 3,000 open requests, still, and we’ve worked about 1,400 so far.”
Those who wish to volunteer with Samaritan’s Purse’s Hurricane Ian response can visit https://www.spvolunteer.org/project-response/640.