Hope 4 Hope Town Sends Its First Relief Ship to the Abacos

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When Chris Rotella, a realtor in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, heard of Hurricane Dorian’s destructive path through the Bahamas, he knew he had to help, so he called his friends around the state.

Chris Carroll of Atlantic Yacht & Ship said he had five yachts ready to go. Brett Rose of United National Consumer Supplies said he’d provide critical necessities at cost and transport them by ground for free. Lisa Segal of Riverside Marketplace offered her three cafes as drop-off locations for donations. Karen Calcano, a surgical physician assistant, recruited doctors and nurses. Scott Young of Tropic Ocean Airways offered aircraft and seaplanes. Julie Berry of Stiles Realty knew how to get the word out. Then, Chris Carroll contacted singer-songwriter and producer Patrick Davis to help with fundraising. And in short order a GoFundMe page for Hope 4 Hope Town was launched.

On Sunday, just one fast-paced week later, the group sent True North, a 108-foot ship loaded with supplies, to Man O War Cay. The chartered vessel contains medical supplies, food, water, diapers, chain saws, hand tools, tents, tarps and 10 people.

Rotella told Soundings that this is just the first step. Future trips will bring doctors, nurses and therapists. Outfitted with 40 berths, True North will serve as a floating base of relief operations and eventually house carpenters and other trades people to start the rebuilding process as the boat moves from island to island.

Hope 4 Hope Town partnered with the City of Fort Lauderdale and Mission of Hope International to bring True North from Haiti. The group is coordinating its efforts with the U.S. Coast Guard and the Bahamian government. “We are in communication with them, so we don’t get in the way,” Rotella said. “They know what we’re doing. We have boats, planes, people and a warehouse full of supplies.”

Meanwhile, the fundraising continues. As of Monday Sept. 9, Hope 4 Hope Town had raised more than $360,000 through songwriter Patrick Davis’ non-profit organization.

Davis, whose songs have been recorded by Jimmy Buffett, Darius Rucker, Lady Antebellum and Hootie and the Blowfish, has a special relationship with the Abacos. He founded Hope Town’s annual Songwriters in Paradise three-day music festival in 2013..

On Monday, Davis announced a benefit concert to be held September 16 at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium. It will feature Darius Rucker, Kristian Bush of Sugarland, Mark Bryan and others to raise additional funds. A full lineup will be announced in the coming days.

Hope 4 Hope Town’s benefit efforts have struck a chord with boaters who’ve spent time in the Abacos. Soundings reader Wayne Burstein of Oakton, Virginia, chartered there in 2013 and was looking for a charity to donate to. He liked Hope 4 Hope Town because it focuses relief efforts not only on Hope Town, but on the barrier islands, including Elbow, Man O War and Great Guana cays. “Visiting those islands made a lasting impression and we plan to take our boat there when we do the Great Loop,” Burstein told Soundings via email. “We have many happy memories of the great people we met there.”

Concert tickets will go on sale on Tuesday, September 10 at Ryman.com and Ticketmaster.com. An online auction with one-of-a-kind items will coincide with the concert.

The Marine Group at Active Interest Media, parent company for Soundings, has chosen to support Hope 4 Hope Town, one of many organizations raising funds for the Bahamas relief effort. Others include Bahamas Red Cross and Third Wave Volunteers.