Bank Of The Bahamas & Partners Send Huge Relief Bundles to Cat Island

Wed, Oct 5th 2011, 10:56 AM

A little more than a month after Hurricane Irene slammed into Cat Island in the central Bahamas, tearing off roofs and tearing apart lives, the mailboat M/V KCT arrived late last week with a container packed with love and crammed with proof that people cared. It bore furniture, paper goods, cleaning supplies, food, toiletries, clothing and more.

The owners of the M/V KCT, refusing to accept pay for shipping relief supplies, were among the unsung heroes who partnered in a drive started by Bank of The Bahamas to assist the hurricane-ravaged island.

"We've been told that Cat Island is not officially a disaster area, but tell that to the people who still have tarpaulins instead of roofs, families and elderly people whose furniture and personal belongings were destroyed by constant rains after the floods and wind of Irene," said a resident. "We need help and we appreciate help."

Help came in the form of newfound friends pulling together. "Bank of The Bahamas is the only full-service bank in Cat Island and we feel very much a part of the community," said Michael Basden, BOB Marketing Manager. "When Hurricane Irene hit, we wanted to reach out with assistance immediately." For the first few days, the head office in Nassau was unable to reach Cat Island except by cell phone to the branch manager, Letitia Brown. "Once we learned that everyone was safe, we gave thanks, asked what was most needed and got down to work."

The bank's active sponsorship committee launched Cat Island Code R.E.D. (Relief Effort Drive), placing donations boxes in all four New Providence branches, at Phil's Food Services on Gladstone Road and setting up an account for cash donations. Internal memos circulated. Donations came in. So did friends. Andrew Stanford, a 30-year banking veteran who now owns and operates a trucking company, donated all services, working on and off for three days to collect donated furniture from Lyford Cay to Eastern Road in one of his two trucks -- Dirty Paws Hauling and Stanford Moving. He and his team assisted loading cartons of paper goods, cleaning supplies and food purchased at Phil's from donated funds and other monies allotted by the bank. Phil's partnered from start to finish. In addition to making the drive part of their weekly promotional campaigns, the food giant provided goods at a substantial discount.

When the boat arrived, bank staff were overwhelmed. There were so many supplies they were able to create 75 care packages and with the help of the Anglican Dioceses deliver them in person from one end of the island to the other on Saturday. Four families got furniture.

"I'm very blessed," said Marie Wilson, a grandmother from Stevenson who had lost everything and did not even have a bed to sleep in after the storm. "I appreciate what Bank of The Bahamas did. I cannot believe how blessed I am." NEMA helped repair her roof. Now, furniture that the week before filled an expensive residence in Lyford Cay has a new home in Cat Island.

"It's amazing how these things snowball," said Basden. "One day we are trying to figure out how to help and the next week we are wondering how we are going to distribute everything collected. People do have a heart and when disaster strikes in The Bahamas, that heart is very big."

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