Volunteer effort at shelter praised
Two weekends ago, our area was hit by hurricane Irma. Disaster can bring out the best in a community, and in Pasco County I saw just that.
I was proud to spend the weekend as a volunteer at Trinity Elementary School, which was one of the nearly two dozen Pasco County schools used as shelters. I could not have been prouder of how well the staff and administrators for the Pasco County School District responded. Right up to the start of the worst weather, volunteers continued to pour in about as fast as evacuees.
Just at the one shelter where I was, we served nearly 5,000 meals over 3½ days. The school staff and the volunteers worked tirelessly (many 24 hours a day) to feed and care for some 650 evacuees. I doubt I have ever heard the words thank-you as much as I did from those in the shelter. They were more than just appreciative for a safe place to stay and a warm meal to eat. I worked the food line, and nearly everyone said thanks each time they came through.
Right before the storm hit late on Sunday, Trinity Elementary principal Aimee Mielke called out over the PA system for a few volunteers to help move boxes of food and water from the cafeteria building. Within three minutes, we had more than 75 come out from the shelter eager to do what they could to pitch in. In less than 10 minutes, we had formed a human chain and moved three pallets of food and water into the shelter building. The line included those in the shelter, school staff, volunteers like me, deputies and even National Guardsmen.
Our area, while suffering the harsh effects of the storm, dodged a real bullet named Irma. Our communities will come out stronger because of it. I ask that when you see a Pasco County teacher or administrator that you thank them for all they do. After all, they may have been one of the volunteers taking care of your friends, family or neighbors during the storm.
Cynthia Armstrong, Pasco County School Board, District 3
Community effort appreciated
As Hurricane Irma approached Pasco, our community rallied together to support one another. We are blessed that as a community the storm did not have the impact we had anticipated. We are also thankful for the support our first responders received. It is heartwarming to know that we serve a community that stands with those who are protecting them. The gratitude to our deputies, firefighters, utility workers, road crews and others visible to the public was unbelievable.
However, there is one group in our county's hurricane response that may be overlooked. This group may have only been noticed by those who were there, but we should all be thankful for what they did. Estimates are that over 20,000 people went to the shelters at our schools and the Senator Mike Fasano Regional Hurricane Shelter. The volunteers and personnel who worked in these shelters ran little cities, with some schools sheltering up to 2,500 citizens.
As the storm shifted toward Pasco, the shelters opened quickly and filled in hours. Turning no one away, they provided shelter for those with special needs, families and pets. In some locations, it truly looked like Noah's Ark. Superintendent Kurt Browning, the School Board, the district and especially all the volunteers deserve kudos for their outstanding work.
We are thankful and appreciative of the amazing support our Sheriff's Office receives. We are also thankful for our partners who were there to provide a home for those in need.
Chris Nocco, Pasco County sheriff
Grateful for caring professionals
I spent two nights, Saturday and Sunday, in the hurricane shelter at River Ridge Middle/High School during Hurricane Irma. With the unpredictability of the storm's track, the shelter was suddenly filled to capacity as mandatory evacuations covered the area here.
Kudos and thank-yous to the Red Cross, the volunteers and the National Guard for their handling of a maxed-out shelter filled with people, pets and folks with special needs.
I couldn't be more grateful for their attention to detail in keeping everyone safe and secure during the storm.
We are truly blessed with caring professionals.
Andy Jones, New Port Richey
Listed shelter wasn't open
You had in your newspaper a list of shelters to go to when Irma was coming. The list contained Chasco Elementary School. What a shock when I went there to find that school completely closed. I was desperate to find a shelter to go to, and that was the closest to my home. I am also going to send a letter to the superintendent of schools to get an answer.
Carol Ann Bayer, Port Richey
Campaign pledge unfulfilled
Too bad state Rep. Amber Mariano didn't fulfill her campaign promise to bring $45 million from the state to fix west Pasco's flooding problem. And shame on her father, Commissioner Jack Marino, for voting for an increase in the annual storm-water fee by $38, which wouldn't have been needed if his daughter had kept her and Jack's own promise to the voters of House District 36.
The voters deserve representation and need to remember this as they see their flooded streets and more importantly when they go out to vote in 2018 and 2020.
Ken Savich, Holiday