Good People Doing Good Things — Team Rubicon Again! And Yet AGAIN!

In October 2017 in another ‘good people post I wrote about Team Rubicon, a group of veterans started by Jake Wood, in 2010, initially in response to the devastating earthquake that had hit Haiti, leaving hundreds of thousands dead and at least that many more homeless.    Wood convinced a former classmate and a few other former Marines to join him and starting off with a group of 8, they headed to Haiti with medical supplies and equipment.  But, the story didn’t end there.  After Haiti, Wood and his friend William McNulty did some brainstorming, realized that their group was pretty effective, and veterans had the skills and know-how to do such things.  In the years since, the group expanded to over 150,000 volunteers, 70% of them veterans, and have been all over the world providing assistance to people in the wake of natural disasters and regional conflicts.  In all, they have responded to more than 500 humanitarian crises in the past decade.

Then in July 2021, Team Rubicon crossed my radar once again when CNN reported on them for their response to the pandemic since 2020.  When the pandemic first hit, Wood knew there would be a need for their services, and they were there, supporting food banks, delivering groceries, setting up Covid testing sites, vaccination sites and much more.  And here we are, just over a year later, and Team Rubicon has volunteers helping people in three areas:

  • In Puerto Rico AND Prince Edward Island, Canada, helping to clean up in the aftermath of Hurricane Fiona that hit both locales in late September
  • In Western Alaska where people are trying to recover from Typhoon Merbok that destroyed nearly all the food supply when it hit last month
  • In Florida, coordinating relief and clean-up efforts in the wake of Hurricane Ian that hit at the end of September

When I first wrote about Team Rubicon in 2017, they had 33,000 volunteers … today they have more than 150,000!  Here are a few tidbits from Team Rubicon’s website regarding their most recent efforts.

In Florida

One week after Hurricane Ian made landfall in Florida, Team Rubicon is expanding its disaster response operations in the state. As of October 5, the veteran-led nonprofit’s route clearance teams had conducted 37 route clearance events, moved 6,680 cubic yards of debris, and removed 131 obstructions across the state. 

One week out, roadways remain covered in debris and home owners and residents are faced with extensive damage and flooding, and the overwhelming question of where to turn as they try to recover. To assist the survivors of Hurricane Ian, Team Rubicon has been expanding operations in multiple counties in Florida.

Currently, 67 Greyshirts are deployed in Charlotte County where they are clearing debris, mucking out flooded homes, performing chainsaw operations, and tarping roofs. Another 25 Greyshirts are currently deployed to Lee County and eight are on the ground in Polk County. The veteran-led disaster response organization hopes to deploy more than 300 volunteers to Florida to assist with Hurricane Ian disaster relief over the next month.

In Alaska

On September 16, remnants of Typhoon Merbok produced widespread damage to communities in Western Alaska, including Golovin. The storm flooded homes and businesses; damaged infrastructure—including the power grid and water supply system—and washed away roads and bridges. According to U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski’s office, the 2022 typhoon damaged approximately 1,000 miles of coastline. 

Set along the Bering some 200 miles below the arctic circle and 500 miles from Anchorage, as the crow flies, Golovin was one of the areas most heavily damaged by Typhoon Merbok. Much of the village was under 6 feet of water, and all of it was without power for days. To assist in the village’s recovery, Team Rubicon is deploying a team of volunteers, or Greyshirts, to Golovin to provide muckout and expedient home repair services to the remote coastal village before winter freeze up. 

Over the course of the operation, which is expected to last until October 7, Greyshirts will muckout damaged homes and teach local volunteers how to perform muckouts. Due to the remoteness of the village and lack of local resources, all equipment, supplies, and food needed for the operation will be flown in from Anchorage with the Greyshirts who will be camping and working in primitive conditions for the duration of the operation. To support the community going forward, all excess or unused equipment and supplies will be left in Golovin at the end of the operation.

In Puerto Rico

Less than 20% of the island had electricity and 55% percent of Puerto Ricans were without water. “This is even bigger than it looks,” says Team Rubicon CEO Art delaCruz. “Any disaster that knocks out an entire power grid is a very big deal.”

The first dozen Greyshirts from the Continental U.S. are engaged in recon and establishing operating locations, then will begin assisting with recovery efforts. The organization expects to begin deploying numerous other Greyshirts soon.  

The deployment to Puerto Rico is not the veteran-led humanitarian aid organization’s first trip to the island: It responded to Hurricane Maria in 2017. Greyshirts then returned in 2018 to help with rebuild and recovery efforts, putting new roofs on 512 homes.

This is the third time I’ve written about Team Rubicon, but these guys deserve all the kudos we can give them, for these are people who drop everything to go thousands of miles to help others when the need arises.  They certainly get two thumbs up from me, and I suspect this won’t be the last time, either!

Reflections and Perspective

I don’t know why, but a few things of late have made me do some thinking.  It started with Hurricane Ian and our friend Scottie’s post about the damage he and Ron had suffered.  Roger and I were chatting in comments about how insignificant our own problems suddenly seemed as compared to what the survivors of the hurricane were going through.

Earlier that day, I had been nattering because as I was trying to get something that was at the back of the refrigerator, my arm accidentally knocked a small tub of sauce off the fridge shelf and onto the floor, where the lid separated from the container and left a nice little puddle of sweet ‘n sour sauce for me to clean up.  I cursed a bit and pondered aloud why things couldn’t just go right.  And then … I caught my self … I stopped dead in my tracks and said, “Oh shit … I should be thankful that I have so much in my fridge that this could happen.  I should be grateful that I have a fridge and electricity to power it!  What the hell am I whining about???” 

We humans, it seems, are an insulated lot.  Sure, we (at least most of us) feel empathy for those who are in trying circumstances, but at the end of the day, we’re more concerned with our own convenience.  Last night, I popped into Facebook and saw a post by a friend bemoaning that her new living room furniture was supposed to have been delivered but there was a delay.  She was “not happy”, so her hubby took her out to her favourite restaurant as a consolation.  Most people commented with commiseration over her delayed furniture, or about how wonderful her hubby is (he really is a great guy), but my thoughts were … shouldn’t you just be thankful that you can afford new furniture when some people don’t even have furniture, old or new?  And then, I realized that I, too, would have been grouchy and whiny had I been in her shoes.  And it made me ashamed of myself.

Are we really so insular that we cannot see how petty most of our own problems are?  Does it matter that the cat knocked over the flowerpot, or grease spilled onto the stove burner, when compared to women in Iran being slaughtered for protesting an archaic, misogynistic dress code, or people in Ukraine being left homeless after Russian bombs destroyed their houses, or worse yet, mourning their child who was killed when a bomb hit?

Perspective.  I frequently diss on the wealthy, for they cannot see, will not see, how the rest of us live.  They live a life of luxury in their ivory towers while we commoners struggle to pay our bills and put food on the table.  But, in some sense, don’t we all do the same?  I live in a small rented townhouse that to me is a pain, because we have lived here for 24 years and have accumulated so much ‘stuff’ that we’ve basically outgrown it, but … how many people are sharing a makeshift shelter with a dozen other people tonight, hoping it doesn’t rain and wash their shelter downriver?  How many people are living in tents made of cardboard boxes under highway overpasses tonight?  I had chicken with veggies and rice for supper tonight … how many people had naught more than a scant bowl of rice or a piece of bread?

‘Wealth’ is relative … and relative to so many others, you and I are wealthy.  Yes, there are those who have far more than we do, but … there are more who have far less than we.  I’m not trying to sound ‘preachy’ at all … this is simply my own reflection of how much I have, how lucky I am, and how often I take it all for granted.  I think I need to learn a bit of humility, need to remember more often to reflect on what I have, need to put my everyday frustrations into perspective.  My needs are met, my ‘wants’ are mostly met … life will always be filled with minor frustrations, but that is exactly what they are … minor frustrations.

I shall try to do better.

Good People Doing Good Things — In The Aftermath Of Ian

Last week, Hurricane Ian struck the state of Florida, wrecking homes, businesses, and taking over 100 lives in its path of devastation.  Some of our own friends — Horty & MJ, Scottie & Ron, Mary, Larry and others — were directly affected and our heart goes out to them.  Just as with any natural disaster, people dig down and find their good side, putting pettiness aside to help those in need.  Today’s ‘good people’ post focuses on just a few of those good people.

Small in stature, but with a big heart

Dominic D’Andrea is 7 years old and lives in Indiana … some 1,100 miles from Ft. Myers, Florida, but when his mother explained to him what a hurricane is and how Hurricane Ian had destroyed homes and cost people their lives, he rallied to the cause.  Dominic retrieved his ‘piggy bank’ (actually a rather large jar) and said he wanted to give it to the people in Florida …

“I’m sending it to people in need in Florida … because they had a hurricane… and they need more stuff. Because their house might fall down and they’ll have nothing. I was really saving up for a Corvette or an electric scooter, but people need this.”

His mother, Jaclyn, was so moved by his gesture that she recorded it on video to share with his dad, who was at work.  She also posted it on social media, where it understandably went viral. Methinks young Dominic could teach us all a lesson!  The piggy bank, by the way, held $280 … far more than any piggy bank I owned when I was 7 years old!

Helping the helper

Tony Atkins is a reporter for WESH 2 News in the Orlando, Florida, area and early last Thursday morning, he became a hero to at least one woman.  While covering Hurricane Ian, Mr. Atkins noticed a car stuck in floodwater and could see a woman inside waving for help.  Atkins waded through waist-high waters to the vehicle.

“She handed me her purse. I just told her to get out. She got out through the window. I thought it’d be best to carry her on my back. She got on my back. She asked for help one time, and then I got her to safety.”

He carried her just until they came to a place where the water was only ankle deep, then she proceeded on her own steam.  The woman, a nurse, was on her way to work early Thursday and attempted to drive through the flooding caused by the hurricane.  You can imagine how important it was for her to get to work … no doubt many are in need of medical attention during this disaster … and Mr. Atkins made sure she got there all in one piece.

From Afghanistan to Sanibel Island

South Florida’s Sanibel Island was cut off from the mainland when Hurricane Ian swept away the connecting bridge.  Sanibel Island is home to about 7,000 people, many of them elderly.  Add in wind and flood damage to their homes and it’s a recipe for disaster.  Enter Bryan Stern, a veteran of the U.S. military, and co-founder of Project Dynamo, a grassroots group that helps rescue Americans from Afghanistan and Ukraine.

On Wednesday night, as the storm was battering Florida, Stern and others began gathering crews, boats, and even crowbars for the urgent task that would soon be at hand: rescuing hundreds of people who might get trapped by floodwaters.

“As soon as the sun came up, we started rolling.”

As of yesterday’s news report, Stern and his group had rescued about 20 people, some trapped atop furniture within their homes.  According to Tim Barrett, the training division chief for the Sanibel Fire Department …

“It sort of restores your view of humanity. You see people chipping in and they aren’t getting paid for it. There’s even people whose homes are destroyed, but they’re helping them. They’re still helping other people.”

World Central Kitchen to the rescue!

Whenever and wherever there is a disaster, Chef José Andrés and his World Central Kitchen will be there feeding those in need!  The non-profit is currently operating a kitchen out of Fort Myers and distributing free meals at multiple sites throughout Southwest Florida.  From wildfires on the west coast to Ukrainian refugees and now to Florida where thousands are still without electricity, water, and some are left homeless by the devastation of Ian.

As of Monday, World Central Kitchen had distributed more than 150,000 hot meals and sandwiches. Those include both meals prepared by World Central Kitchen itself as well as around 30 food truck and restaurant partners, including Sarasota fine-dining staple Michael’s on East and Manatee County’s Anna Maria Oyster Bar (with assistance from Gus Sokos of Demetrios’ Pizza House.)

Once again, thumbs up to the fabulous people who give so much of themselves to feed the victims of disasters all ‘round the globe!

BBC NEWS: Hurricane Ian: They stayed for the storm – what happens now?

Setting politics aside today, I want to share our dear friend Scottie’s post. Scottie and his husband Ron have survived Hurricane Ian, but not without damage to both their home and themselves. My heart goes out to them and I feel helpless to do anything other than express my genuine love and concern. Please keep Scottie and Ron in your hearts, for they have been through so much, with more to come.

Scottie's Playtime

Punta Gorda Is the next town up from us so we got what the got. We are in North Fort Myers between Fort Myers and Punta Gorda. I understand everything in this article. Ron is tired. He has fought all his life to make things better and gotten knocked back and down repeatedly. He was tired rebuilding this place before but it was feeling like it was becoming what we wanted. Now Ron has lost hope and feels overwhelmed. My going down yesterday didn’t help his feelings as he feel’s this is hurting me bad. But it is hurting all of us I tell him I just had five days of over doing. Like 30 hours behind the wheel of a vehicle and spending a night trying to sleep in the van in a parking lot. So much more. But we had no information. No one in management came to…

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The Week’s Best Cartoons 10/1

I seem to have a bouncing mind this weekend for I have three separate posts in process, but haven’t managed to finish a single one of them!  So, I figured there’s no better time than the present to see what cartoons our friend TokyoSand has managed to dig up for us!  Naturally, Hurricane Ian is front and center, as is Putin’s brutal war against Ukraine, but there is even more.  These are only a sampling, so be sure to visit TokyoSand at Political Charge to see the rest! Thank you, TS, for finding the best offerings of the cartoonists this week!

Florida and Ukraine were in the eye of the news for most of this week, with of course, other important stories sprinkled in. Here’s how the nation’s editorial cartoonists covered them.

Be sure to check out the rest of the ‘toons!