Helping people, communities, and the environment after Hurricane Michael

As with all who are following the devastation from Hurricane Michael, I’m shocked and saddened by the destruction. Michael hit an area of the coast that I know and love, and it will be a long time before it is whole again. My first step after the storm was to contact as many friends and professional colleagues as possible to check on their well-being, which has been hard to do with electricity and cell service out in most of the area. Next I completed daily monitoring of miles of aerial photography looking for any environmental issues caused by the storm. That includes pollution from industrial facilities, as well as the coastal resilience issues of beaches and wetlands that provide natural buffering from storms. That work continues. With authorities asking those who do not live in the area to stay away until initial recovery efforts are complete, I’m staying out-of-the-way for now. But I plan to visit the area in the coming days to help with cleanup efforts and to check on environmental issues along bays, bayous, and shorelines affected by the storm. As recovery plans take shape, GRN will be working with affected communities to help ensure that recovery is done in ways that protect vulnerable communities and the environment. For now, we want to shine the light on some of the very special people in the area and the work that they do. All would benefit from volunteer help and donations so that they can further their work in the face of unprecedented new costs and challenges due to Hurricane Michael. All have portals on their websites where one can give safely and securely. Here are some that I suggest:Volunteer Florida Volunteer Florida leads initiatives throughout Florida that use volunteerism as a strategy to meet needs. They have a questionnaire on their website to help match volunteers with opportunities in the storm-affected areas, and accept donations to the Florida Disaster Fund used for post-Michael recovery. www.volunteerflorida.orgSt. Andrew Bay Resource Management Association This group provides vital water quality monitoring all around the waters of the Panama City-area, and assists with restoration. Their work is incredibly important to protecting local waterways and will be needed even more as the area recovers. www.sabrma.orgGulf Specimen Marine LabFor over 50 years, Gulf Specimen has educated thousands of children about the special ecology of the panhandle waterways and fought for their protection. The Lab and its “living dock” were damaged in the storm. www.gulfspecimen.orgFlorida Urgent RescueThis group is evacuating dogs and cats impacted by the hurricane in partnership with Delta Airlines and others.

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