To the Editor:
1. Did you know?
2. Does Boca care about their neighbors?
At 6:37 a.m. on January 16, 2022 an EF1 (110 mph) tornado ripped through Gasparilla Marina and Estates. Most Boca residents, including myself, assumed it occurred some distance away. Yet it happened less than a mile outside the entrance to Boca Grande. At least 40 mobile homes were damaged, nine of which were completely destroyed. Estimated costs to repair 31 of the homes and clean-up is $550,000. Replacement cost of nine (one was insured but only received $33,000) of the destroyed mobile homes at $150,000 each is $1,350,000. Total damage estimates – $1,900,000.
If that wasn’t bad enough, now the worst news. FEMA, which provides U.S. government emergency disaster relief, will not provide any assistance because the damage was not significant enough. Secondly, Gov. DeSantis said few state funds would be provided, and instead made a plea for charitable donations. Lastly, the majority of the residents were uninsured, as most have modest incomes and coverage provided was insignificant.
So who cares?
U.S. government – no! State of Florida – minimally!
Now some good news. To date, $160,000 has been raised locally and given to the Mobile Homeowners Association. But the maximum given to any affected resident is $11,000. Another $1.2 million was donated by corporations as a result of Gov. DeSantis’ plea. But the maximum given to any affected resident is $10,000. Finally Charlotte County is able to help low-income permanent Florida residents, but only at a maximum of $11,000. So if you were unfortunate enough to have lost your home, the most you can receive is $32,000.
So this is where we should come in: Neighbors should help neighbors!
Here’s how we can help. There are almost 2,000 residences in Boca Grande. If merely half of Boca residents contributed a minimum of $1,000 each, $1 million could be raised.
The first way to help is to donate to The United Methodist Church. Checks or donations payable to Treasurer-FLUMC, with Memo – Tornado – Gasparilla Mobile Home Estates. Mail to: The Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church, 450 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave., Lakeland, Fl. 33815 Attn- Trish Warren (863) 688- 5563 x148. This is 501-C eligible.
The second way to donate to another 501(c)3 is to Charlotte Community Foundation, with memo for Charlotte County Tornado Victims. Address: 227 Sullivan St., Punta Gorda, Fl. 33950 (941) 637-0077. Donations can only be used for repairs and cannot be designated specifically for Gasparilla Mobile Estates.
The last way to help is to give directly to the Gasparilla Homeowners Association. This is not a 501(c)3, but it is not restricted in any way to help those affected. Ted Roberts, (419) 466-7133, is the treasurer of Gasparilla Homeowners Association. He has quantified the damage for each home, the value of each home, what is really disaster relief, and the financial status of each affected resident. He will work with each of these charities to ensure the funds are properly distributed.
As you can see, more help is needed. My wife, Paula, and I are contributing $10,000 to help jumpstart this overall effort.
Donations can be made out to the Charlotte Community Foundation- For the Benefit of Gasparilla Mobile Estates. Their address is 227 Sullivan St., Punta Gorda, Fl. 33950 (941) 637-0077.
Final Thoughts: We have been blessed and are fortunate to live in Boca Grande. We were fortunate that the tornado missed us. If your next door neigh- bors were hit by the tornado, they would either be insured or you would start a fundraiser to help. The range of ages of the affected mobile home residents is between 70 to 85. This was a significant asset for them. Many live off modest income. And many are hoping to live their remaining lives there.
During this Lenten and Easter season, hopefully we can show compassion to those less fortunate. Please be a Neighbor Helping Neighbors. Any questions, I welcome your call at (917) 710-4562.
Bob Planer Boca Resident
Go to: bocabeacon.com/were-just-overwhelmed-gasparilla- mobile-estates-residents-seek-assistance-to-figure- out-their-next-steps-after-the-storm/ for the story that was written on January 28.