The Load Out

Members of the Volusia County Democratic Veterans Caucus of Florida prepare to load a truck to send needed supplies to Bay County on Thursday, May 13.

The Volusia County Democratic Veterans Caucus of Florida May 13 loaded a 22-foot Penske truck full of household items, furniture, and clothing for the residents of Bay County impacted by two hurricanes in the past three years and a recent tornado.

Also, the VCDVCF will deliver more than 200 toiletry bags, socks and underwear as part of a special project to meet the needs of young people in Bay County displaced by the storms.

The project was initiated by Danny Fuqua, vice president of the Democratic Veterans Caucus of Florida and former president of the Volusia DVCF, in coordination with Bay County DVCF President Reuben Sparks, the state DVCF and other county caucuses in Lake, Osceola and Marion counties.

Mr. Fuqua, who also is pastor of Word and Praise Family Church in Daytona Beach said, “I did 29 years in the military. When I retired from the military, I wanted to get active in my local community. We have close to 30 (local) members. We do a lot of different things with our veterans here and with our local community.

“We had gathered some items in 2020, (but) because of the pandemic we canceled all travel and all public events. We heard there were over 200 students (in Bay County) that had been displaced. We decided to go back to Panama City. (Treasurer) Sally Garcia made up over 200 care packages for the high school students that are going to graduate. What we are taking up there are non-perishable food items, clothes, personal hygiene care packages for the students, and some household appliances. The real focus today is the high school student. They are living in the woods.”

He described how the group made several trips in 2019 to Bay County, bringing much needed personal and non-perishable food items, but recognized the need there is still great and thus this trip. Some of the people that were living in a tent are now in apartments, but they are not furnished. Three members will drive the truck to meet with Rebuild Bay County agency staff along with the Bay County Democratic Veterans Caucus of Florida, who in turn will coordinate with local agencies there to get donated items properly distributed. Contributions have come from both civilians and veterans, including assistance from Word and Praise Family Church.

Frank Doglione, a U.S. Air Force veteran and VCDVCF member, helped load the truck.

“That area has been hit with some unbelievably bad luck,” Mr. Doglione said. “We’re doing whatever we can to help as much as we can. We help collect it and get it loaded up to get it out there.”

Phil Giorno, a U.S. Navy veteran, is the president of VCDVCF. “We’ve got a lot of people out here to help us, help veterans,” he said. “Veterans helping other veterans.”

This time they are helping homeless youth.

Ms. Garcia said the multiple item hygiene packs she and other volunteers put together had pink labels for girls and blue labels for boys. She said she went to Bay County before and saw the need. “The pine trees are knocked over; every house has tarp on it; people living in tents. They’ve had nothing but adversity over the past three or four years. Then we found out about the high school students,” she said.

In 2019, after the Palm Beach DVCF, under the direction of Carlton Cartwright, a videographer and chapter president, began documenting the plight of homeless veterans in Bay County, the VCDVCF, Volusia County Democratic Executive Committee, Democratic Women’s Caucus of Florida and state DVCF completed four different deployments to Bay County throughout the fall delivering food, clothing and household goods to the people who had been devastated by Hurricane Michael in October 2018.

The area was damaged again by Hurricane Sally in September 2020.

Many people whose homes were damaged by the Cat-5 winds from Hurricane Michael, and who are still battling the insurance companies for payment of their claims, are now displaced again, but this time by the flooding from Hurricane Sally that hovered over the Panhandle of Florida, dumping 2 feet of water in the area.

On learning that about 200 of the 1,000 students at one of Bay County’s high schools might be displaced or homeless, the Volusia DVCF decided to fund a project to provide toiletry bags to the students. Many of the students have parents who have left the area or are unable to care for them for various reasons, such as drug abuse or imprisonment. The school provides special programs for them throughout the school year and in the summer, but their needs are great.

For more information or to donate to the cause, contact Mr. Fuqua at dannyfuqua62@gmail.com or (386) 566-8914, Ms. Garcia at treasurer.vcdvcf@gmail.com or (386) 624-7076; or in Bay County, Reuben Sparks at rbnsparks@aol.com or Patricia Byrd at thomasbyrd27@comcast.com.

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