Hurricane Ian Disaster Relief: Holiday Giveaway
SSSIO (Sri Sathya Sai International Organization) - USA has continued with its disaster relief efforts to help survivors of Hurricane Ian, a Category 4 storm that slammed mercilessly against the Southeast coast and Central Florida at the end of September 2022 and caused widespread destruction. Given the scope and magnitude of the disaster, it was clear that a national response was needed and thus, the National Disaster Relief Team (NDRT) became involved in the relief effort. Sai communities across the country purchased items from a list posted on a website, which were then directly shipped to Sai volunteers in the region who delivered them as needed.
What started as a trickle became a cascading flow of supplies through the generosity of many Sai devotees. Through this coordinated effort, SSSIO members across the country contributed relief supplies, toiletries, and non-perishables amounting to more than $30,000. Sai volunteers in the region who received the shipment then drove several hours to deliver the donated goods to three collaborating partners on the ground – the Brunson Foundation, Cornerstone Church, and Liberty Church – which served as repositories and assisted in the distribution of SSSIO - donated supplies and food to hurricane survivors.
With the advent of the Christmas season, SSSIO members also brought cheer to the children whose lives had been upended by generously donating toys along with supplies for two giveaway events. The first toy donation took place on December 10, 2022. Dr. Chanetta Brunson from the Brunson Foundation invited SSSIO members to join their “Holiday for Hope” event. Sai volunteers drove vans filled with donated supplies, including several toys, to Fort Myers’ S.T.A.R.S. complex, a gymnasium set up for the occasion.
For the Big Day Giveaway on December, 2022, Sai volunteers packed a cargo van and a CR-V with non-perishable food items, supplies and toys, and then drove a few hundred miles to deliver the goods to both churches. Fifteen children and five teachers from the Sai Spiritual Education (SSE) classes in Fort Lauderdale helped gift-wrap the toys. A few other Sai devotees, including young adults, arrived at Cornerstone Church to volunteer in the huge drive-through giveaway event, jointly organized by federal agencies and other nonprofits. For more than six long hours, eight Sai volunteers worked alongside several other volunteers, strenuously lifting heavy boxes of supplies and groceries into trunks of cars waiting in long queues. In those cars were families grateful to receive the supplies and Christmas gifts for their children. Despite the exhausting work, Sai volunteers felt greatly energized and gratified to help those whose lives had been sadly torn apart by the hurricane.
Just as the magnitude of Hurricane Ian left its powerful impact across the Southeast Region, the magnitude of relief pouring in from people across the country also left its impact on those affected by the storm. Volunteers who offered their money, time and energy, and most of all, their hearts filled with selfless love, were an inspiration to all. They were a reminder of the true meaning of Christmas - giving of ourselves to love and serve others.