In the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, the fifth strongest recorded hurricane to have hit the U.S., Florida residents are still in recovery mode nearly 6 weeks after landfall. Said to have cost up to $50 billion in devastation, Hurricane Ian wreaked havoc in Southwestern Florida that will have effects lasting longer than most of us could imagine.
Island Brands team knew they wanted to get involved, but how? In an effort to figure out how Island Brands, USA can best support victims of Ian, we’ve been surveying potential partnerships to see where we can make the biggest impact possible. In our search, we sat down with Jenna Byrne, founder of Byrne Ocean Conservation and Water Warrior Alliance (WWA) to talk about what she’s seen on the front lines of the relief effort.
WAA, active in communities from Tampa Bay to the Florida Keys, is currently providing weekly hot meals and monetary donations to residents in need as well as conducting debris removal from storm-damaged waterways and testing water quality for safety.
Jenna, who has lived in St. Pete for over 10 years, started WWA with the goal of improving sustainability in our oceans through research, relief efforts and prevention education. As soon as news came that Ian would hit Florida as a category 4, Jenna and her team started planning. “As a Florida resident and having lived in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina, I know firsthand the devastating effects a hurricane can have on residents and the environment of local communities,” Jenna explained.
At first WWA began by giving canned goods to the cause, but they quickly realized that with the severity of the debris there was nowhere for residents to store or prepare food for themselves. With that in mind, WWA quickly pivoted to providing hot food to victims via food trucks. In trucks loaded with tens of volunteers, The Alliance takes the trip down once a week to serve Florida-based vendor-gifted meals, remove debris via scuba search and distribute funds to those who have lost everything.
The most important takeaway from our conversation? This process is far from over. Before Florida can even start to rebuild, the debris removal process can take months– and WWA plans to be there for however long it takes.
“Rebuilding of SWFL's infrastructure will take years and can't get underway until the debris is cleared. This includes removal of debris causing navigational hazards. Water quality is also always a pressing issue post-hurricane, due to the unknown amount of chemicals and contaminants that end up in the waterways. It will take years for the water quality to return to normal levels around the most devastated areas. We have seen progress and continue to do our part to assist in debris removal and moving these communities back to livable and workable. As a new hurricane threatens the East coast, negating the damage, by moving vessels and potential pollutants out of the path of the storm is imperative. With the help of Island Brands, we’ll be able to devote even more resources to urgent Hurricane restoration projects.”
- Jenna Byrne, WWA Founder
The next step became obvious– we needed to do our part to help. Island has committed to donating 1% of beer sales in Florida from Nov 1st to May 1st to WWA’s hurricane restoration efforts, ensuring that our entire Florida network — from wholesale partners to consumers — can pitch in by selling (and consuming!) for a good cause. Helping is as simple as picking up Island from your nearest store!