Looking Back . . . .
by Fred Smith
The AFA Disaster Relief Program has been working to assist those bird owners impacted by various disas- ters since hurricane Andrew back in 1992. The Disaster Relief Fund has been supported by donations from individuals, bird clubs and bird supply com- panies and others. The American Federation of Aviculture does not charge any administrative fees for the monies received, therefore 100% donated is used to assist those in need during a natural disaster whether members or not. I remember that phone call from the AFA President Dr. Benny Galloway 17 years ago in 2004 appointing me as AFA Disaster Relief Coordinator. Florida had just been hit with hurricane Charlie and with many bird facilities located within the central and southern areas of the state suffering great damage, I needed to organize a group of volunteers to assist those in need. I immediately got on the internet and asked the bird world to contact me if they were in need or knew of someone needing assistance or if they could help. Dr. Susan Clubb started checking on her clients to see who needed assistance then she contacted me with their names and addresses. Several breeders and individuals started calling offering to help. I began compiling a list of those needing assistance and telling the volunteers where to meet me. Since there had not been any major disasters since hurricane Andrew, we needed to start raising money for the disaster program. The volunteers and I worked until dark each day and then I would once again get on the internet and update what was being done and that the program needed donations. Immediately donations started coming in from everywhere. Bird lovers al- ways help others when the need arises. As I recall, the first donation was a check from the Virgin Islands for $500! Since that day thousands of dollars have been donated. AFA can be very proud of those who have supported the organization in so many ways. I had a friend who had filled his barns with rolls of cage wire when he bought out the remaining inventory of a wire company that had gone out of business in Tampa. He lived 20 miles away so I called him asking if he would sell me some rolls for AFA Disaster Relief. After quoting me a very low price we loaded my trailer with several rolls. As I went to pay him, he told me since it was AFA helping other bird lovers in need he would take another $100 off per roll! Due to his age, he couldn't physically help, so this was his way of sup- porting AFA. One Friday evening after I had gotten home from helping build temporary cages for birds, I received a call from a longtime AFA supporter, Dwight Greenberg. He said he would be off work on Saturday and offered to help me with those impacted by hurricane Charlie. Very early the next morning we headed back down to south Florida. After working all day cutting trees off the tops of Amazon cages, we drove to Punta Gorda to check out the conditions and see who might need help there. As we approached Punta Gorda, we saw the hospital parking lot with several hospital tents set up due to the hospital roof being destroyed. On down the street we came to a lot where a house had been before Charlie removed it. There was nothing there but concrete steps that lead to what had been the front door. On the steps sat an elderly couple, apparently the owners, possibly thinking about what had been their home. As we slowly drove down the street, we saw people just walking. Nowhere to go but just walking as if in a daze. As we approached the next property, we both began to cry. There was a white house … The front walls and roof were gone. Insulation lay on what was a kitchen countertop and a table. There was a bed- room next to the kitchen. The clothes closet door was missing but the clothes had already been straightened in a neat row. In the kitchen we saw a lady sweeping the floor, despite the front wall being missing! As we drove out of town we noticed those high tension towers way up in the air with house insulation hanging on the wires.
22 Volume XLVIX ● January 2022
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