Take ac­tion to help our neigh­bors

Tampa Bay Times - - Opinion - The au­thor was U.S. rep­re­sen­ta­tive for Florida’s Se­cond Con­gres­sional District from 2015-2017, rep­re­sent­ing many of the coun­ties hard­est hit by Hur­ri­cane Michael.

Blown-out build­ings. Fam­i­lies liv­ing in tents. Chil­dren with­out schools.

It’s not a scene from a far-off war zone. It’s right here in Florida. The Pan­han­dle, dev­as­tated from Hur­ri­cane Michael and strug­gling to meet the ba­sic needs of our fel­low cit­i­zens.

The ma­jor­ity of these fam­i­lies, like most Florid­i­ans, have never ex­pe­ri­enced home­less­ness — but more than a month af­ter the storm hit, they’re de­pend­ing on friends, neigh­bors and aid or­ga­ni­za­tions just to get by.

It makes me an­gry to know this is hap­pen­ing in Amer­ica — in Florida. And while it would be easy to send out tweets and point fin­gers at politi­cians, I have al­ways be­lieved we can ac­com­plish much more to help our fel­low Florid­i­ans with ac­tion, not rhetoric.

That’s why I have joined Re­build 850, a new bi­par­ti­san ini­tia­tive ded­i­cated to help­ing the re­gion re­cover. Work­ing along­side Re­pub­li­can for­mer House Speak­ers Al­lan Bense and Will Weatherford, we are go­ing to keep the Florida Pan­han­dle’s re­cov­ery front and cen­ter un­til it’s fully ac­com­plished.

Re­build 850 is work­ing in part­ner­ship with Vol­un­teer Florida to raise fi­nan­cial sup­port for the Florida Dis­as­ter Fund to pro­vide aid and to re­cruit vol­un­teers to help with on­go­ing hur­ri­cane re­cov­ery.

The out­pour­ing of sup­port from Florid­i­ans across the state has been vi­tal to help­ing fam­i­lies get back on their feet.

I rep­re­sented most of the ar­eas hit hard­est by the storm in Congress, where I of­ten spoke proudly of the North Florida Way. It stood for all the good I saw in my neigh­bors and con­stituents — and trav­el­ing the state run­ning for gov­er­nor, I saw this same spirit of kind­ness in ev­ery com­mu­nity.

Whether you con­trib­ute time, money or ma­te­rial goods, your gen­eros­ity will make a real dif­fer­ence to north Florida fam­i­lies in se­ri­ous need and get them one step closer to nor­mal.

Gwen Gra­ham

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