This past week has definitely been a week to remember in our community. With so much of an upheaval from Hurricane Irma our way of living has been completely disturbed. Many people in town have stepped up to serve those who have been hit the hardest during this time of recovery and restoration. One local couple has made it their mission to help as many people as they can help.
Shane and Tara Kelly lost their electricity like many others during the Hurricane. Unlike many others however, after an hour and a half they regained their electric power.
“I knew how hot it was first hand, and miserable,” Tara told me. “My first instinct was to open my home to those who didn’t have electricity. And so, I put my home address on the ‘What’s happening in LaBelle’ Facebook group page and told the public to come on…my doors are open,” she added.
What happened next was unbelievable. Tara continued to tell me about the response that she got from that single Facebook post. “We had people from Palmdale to Muse and all the way out to Evans Road. People who saw that post would come through at some point or another to do a load of laundry or take a shower.”
But it wasn’t just a shower and laundry facilities that Tara and Shane were offering.
They also froze buckets of ice for people to come and pick up. They cooked large dinners and opened their home to anyone who was hungry.
“We always had a house full. Every night we made big meals from taco dinners to a fish fry. Even if someone came just to do some laundry we sent them home with food.”
During one of these meals at the Kelly residence Sheriff Steve Whidden and his family were a part of the group and they were talking about the the devastation of the community of Chokoloskee.
“The Sherrif’s daughter Kasey lives down there and was talking about how horrific it was and how many people had lost everything. We decided to feed them. We had been feeding some people in LaBelle but we knew that we could make a greater impact on those affected if we all came together,” Kelly says. “I called in the troops (her friends). Shane went to the store and bought food and strangers and friends who saw what we were doing on Facebook brought food too. A few people donated money and clothes and several people donate bread, potatoes, green beans. It ended up being our own locals who were themselves doing without that were donating to others who had it worse off in other places. It felt absolutely amazing to be a part of the love and caring for others; taking care of everyone with no questions asked.”
Tara, Shane, and friends were able to feed almost five hundred people in Everglades City through their efforts.
“I have to thank Matt and Chelsa Skipper who helped Shane do all of the cooking and I absolutely couldn’t have done this without my Aunt Debbie Tolar and her two daughters. She worked tirelessly doing dishes and sweeping floors. She changed loads of laundry and helped me cook and did everything it takes to feed an army everyday. I will have many many memories of her and me doing this together that will last the rest of my life; memories of doing this for our town and for Everglades City,” Tara said before she added. “And I know I speak for Aunt Debbie when I say that we would do it all again in a heartbeat.”