PEMBROKE PINES, Fla. (CNS) -- The
nation watched in sadness and outrage at the deaths of eight elderly people in
Hollywood without air conditioning and electricity following the historic
passing of Hurricane Irma.
Members of nearby St. Edward Parish
in Pembroke Pines and the local Knights of Columbus council, hearing the call
to be good neighbors, prepared hot meals and set out to knock on doors and
check in on senior citizen residents four days after the storm.
The group was given permission
to go door to door with their hot meals and water supplies at the expansive
Century Village Pembroke Pines housing development in western Broward County Sept.
Residents there reportedly had
been without electricity and air conditioning for days, although power was
being restored even as the parish volunteers were making their rounds.
According to news reports,
police confirmed earlier in the week that about 60 percent of the 15,000-person
community of mostly retirees still didn't have electricity and was under a "boil
water" notice. Century Village is a community comprised of people 55 and
Compounding the hardships, many
elderly citizens at Century Village were unable to get around the four-story
buildings because the elevators were not working and some residents couldn't
climb three and four flights of stairs.
The volunteers visited several of
the buildings with hot meals consisting of Cuban food and pasta along with
Scott O'Connor, the Knights' state
secretary for Florida and a resident of Pembroke Pines, noted that his own
mother had lived in Century Village at one time.
"It is a large community built
for citizens over 55 years old and in the early days it was primarily
Jewish-oriented, but now it is quite an eclectic mix of people and a kind of
self-contained city," O'Connor said. "We are out here helping and that is
what we do; it doesn't matter what religion you are, we are helping everybody."
One of the issues the housing
complex has, he said, is that the residents are susceptible to loss of power
and there is only one elevator in each of these buildings.
"Sometimes you have elderly
people who may have mobility issues and can't get down the stairs, and so
bringing meals and supplies in for them is really a necessity and something we
can do to help," O'Connor said.
"Normally when we get affected
by storms it is localized. But in this particular case, Hurricane Irma affected
really all of our Florida jurisdiction. And we still don't have access to the
Florida Keys here on the fourth day."
Daniel Diaz, grand knight of
Council 14698 in Pompano Beach, helped coordinate the food delivery program
along with five other Knights.
"Because they lost power here
for about a week, all the food in their refrigerator went bad," said Diaz, who
said he rode out the hurricane with his mother at her residence nearby. "This
was widespread and went straight up the entire state."
Diaz, who also is the Knights' state
young adult and college council coordinator, said he will keep looking for ways
the Knights can help in the local hurricane recovery. "We are going to keep our
ears open and see how else we can serve our community."
Irma will be remembered as one
of the Atlantic's strongest hurricanes on record, with peak winds of 185 mph
and Category 4 strength when it landed in the Florida Keys. Some sources are
predicting that insured losses from the storm could total $18 billion in the
Hurricane Irma also caused
significant harm to populations in the Caribbean, including the U.S. Virgin
"Before Hurricane Irma, we set
up the network in terms of communications and figured out who was doing the
various positions in the state and with coordination with Supreme," said Knights
District Deputy Peter Chiaravalle, a resident of Fort Lauderdale.
"We were lucky on the east coast
of Florida -- we didn't get hit as bad as we thought we might have,"
Chiaravalle said. "So a lot of preparation work really paid off."
Elsewhere in Florida, the
Knights were already down in the Keys helping out and a supply truck from the
north of the state was waiting to go there, said Joe Cox, public relations
coordinator for the Knights' region six in Florida.
"It is in times like these that
we find out who has a willing heart and a ready hand to do something for our
fellow human beings who have suffered a lot," he said.