TAMPA, Fla. - Hurricane relief is coming to Florida from all over the country. From donations to volunteer work to simple words of support, people are doing what they can to help Hurricane Ian's victims get back on their feet.
Outside Amalie Arena, under the bolts of Thunder Alley, two PODS are filling up. For the next few days, the Tampa Bay Lightning will collect priority items and basics that the United Way of Florida will bring to victims of Hurricane Ian.
"We opened at noon today and there was a line of cars in the 15-minute circle," said Elizabeth Frazier, executive director of the Lightning Foundation. "It could've been us and I think we all feel very fortunate that it didn't happen here, and we know that what we would want others to do for us, you treat people like you want to be treated."
After Wednesday, items will be collected Thursday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5-7 p.m.; Friday from 12-4 p.m.; and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The need down in Southwest Florida is immense, so the key is to donate thoughtfully. Choose a reputable organization and research what they need. Make sure that what you're giving will make relief efforts more impactful and not add to the work.
The United Way of Florida shared a list of items needed, including tarps, zip ties, flashlights, batteries, diapers, feminine and personal hygiene products. United Way Suncoast, which serves the hard-hit DeSoto County and Myakka areas, is getting requests for hygiene items, children's shoes and socks, nutritious non-perishable food packs and school supplies.
But the United Way, along with the Red Cross, Salvation Army, and Florida Disaster Fund said the best way to help right now is donating money.
"We don't know if they need food. We don't know if they need just to refill with prescription," said Melissa Nelson, president and CEO of United Way of Florida. "If we can hand someone a gift card and let them take care of their needs, it is so much more efficient than items."
"If you're going to spend $5 on socks, please make a $5 donation," said Ela Landegger, Tampa Bay Chapter Board Chair for the American Red Cross. "We have buying power, we have purchasing power, we have great partners that help us make that dollar really count.
Of course, the donation of time is needed now and especially in the future. It costs nothing. And you can volunteer from just about anywhere.
"It's all over our communities, and we need to remember that it will take a long time to heal," Nelson said. "So, continue to give, continue to give us your time, continue to give us your talents, continue to be involved and volunteer in your communities."