Holiday Help For Florida

Many residents are still struggling

Montauk students have decided once more to band together and send help to hurricane victims — this time to tiny Everglades City, on the southwest coast of Florida, which was battered during Irma’s devastating surge two months ago.

Although the mayor there recently promised that more than 90 percent of the city’s businesses would be operational over the next two weeks as the tourist season begins, press reports show that many residents are still struggling, having been denied financial aid by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, simply because of the vast number of claims received during a season of devastation across the country.

Following the success of hurricane relief efforts in September, when Beatrice Flight and Carli Stuckart, third graders at the Montauk School, raised $620 to send to Houston, students began thinking of other ways to raise money, especially with the holiday season approaching.

Karen Theiss, the school’s nurse, said that as she and several students began researching communities in Florida that needed help, they were drawn to Everglades City because, like Montauk, it is a small, tightly-knit community where most people know one another.

“We learned that the Everglades City school has 200 students from prekindergarten to 12th grade,” Ms. Theiss said. “Of the 122 families who live there, 42 were displaced because of the storm. We decided this would be a good fit for Montauk.”

Carli’s big sister, Sarah Stuckart, a sixth grader at Montauk, organized a three-day bake sale at school, taking in about $1,000. She also contacted Dennis O’Reilly of the Montauk Fire Department, who was instrumental in getting the department to donate $1,500 toward the cause. The students, with the help of Ms. Theiss, bought about 150 gift cards from Publix, a supermarket chain with an outlet in Everglades City. 

“Now, everybody who lives there can enjoy a great Thanksgiving dinner,” Ms. Theiss said.

Montauk students also made about 200 cards to send the Florida families some Thanksgiving cheer. In return, they asked for Everglades City students to share some of their firsthand accounts of living through a natural disaster.