Government agencies and Toys for Tots come together to support those in need this holiday season while practicing local disaster plan
For Hometown News
TREASURE COAST --
St. Lucie County Emergency Management, American Red Cross of the Treasure Coast, Indian River County Community Emergency Response Teams and Florida Department of Health agencies in Martin, St. Lucie, Okeechobee and Indian River counties are partnering with the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve in their goal to "deliver, through a new toy at Christmas, a message of hope to less fortunate youngsters that will assist them in becoming responsible, productive, patriotic citizens."
On Saturday, Nov. 23, from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m., volunteers and employees from four counties will be accepting new unwrapped toys at St. Lucie County Emergency Operations Center, located at 15305 Midway Road, Fort Pierce FL, 34945 (next to the St. Lucie County Fairgrounds).
When a large scale disaster takes place, counties provide assistance to each other. Exercises are performed to help strengthen their disaster response skills so they are ready when needed. Public Health Preparedness Coordinators from Martin, Okeechobee, St. Lucie and Indian River wanted to develop a multi county exercise to practice local disaster response plans that would also be of benefit to local communities, utilizing volunteers from their respective Medical Reserve Corps units. While improving local disaster response efforts, this Points of Dispensing exercise will also provide toys for less fortunate children during the holiday season and food for those in need. After a disaster a POD would provide residents with an opportunity to get much needed resources like water, food or medicine. Each county has emergency POD plans that explain how they will distribute a large amount of supplies in a timely manner to residents. As part of staying prepared and ready, these plans need to be exercised and evaluated on a regular basis.
"It really started as an idea and has grown into a real opportunity to provide a service for the community as well as exercise our plans" said Sonji Hawkins, Public Health Preparedness Coordinator for Florida Department of Health in St. Lucie County. "We are asking residents from all four counties to come out and bring a new unwrapped toy with them and/or a nonperishable food item. The United States Marine Corps Reserve will be on site and accepting the donations of toys and we are working with local food distribution sites to coordinate the donated food items."
The process "is going to be very simple for participants. All they need to do is drive to St. Lucie County Emergency Operations Center and drive through the POD. Volunteers will be there accepting donated items on behalf of the four participating counties. Participating in the exercise and helping the community you live in will be easier than going through the drive-thru at your bank." explained Brian Sell, Public Health Preparedness Coordinator from Florida Department of Health in Okeechobee.
"The busier we are, the better we will be able to test the effectiveness and efficiencies that we have established in our emergency operations plans and the more families we can help. This is a win-win for participating counties and St. Lucie County Public Safety and Communication/Division of Emergency Management is excited to be hosting the exercise" said Tom Daly, St. Lucie County Emergency Manager. St. Lucie Emergency Operations Center was chosen as the location because it is centrally located between the four counties.
Residents can come out and support the community's preparedness efforts and have a positive impact on local families at the same time by participating in this toy/food drive-thru POD. Donations of new unwrapped toys and/or nonperishable food items will be accepted from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
If coming from Okeechobee, head east on Okeechobee Road/Hwy 70 and fork off onto Midway Road and the St. Lucie County Emergency Operations Center will be on the south/right side of the road. If coming from Martin, Saint Lucie or Indian River county, take I-95 to Midway Road exit and head west and the St. Lucie County Emergency Operations Center will be on the south/left side of the road (next to the St. Lucie County Fairgrounds).
For more information, contact Joan Rivera at (772) 794-7479 or email firstname.lastname@example.org .