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Westchasers Assist Keys, Puerto Rico and Vegas

Once Westchase survived Hurricane Irma relatively unscathed, residents Angela and Ashley Mason started looking for ways to help residents in the Keys.

“We have a personal connection to the Keys,” said Ashley. “My aunt and uncle live in Summerland Key and we have visited the Keys several times.”

Angela, Ashley’s mother, said, “Ashley had been looking for a way to help those so severely affected by this storm. As soon as she heard about a local pilot who was using his own plane to take emergency supplies to the Keys, she reacted.”

She contacted the pilot and the family began spreading the word.

It was Thursday night, leaving very little time to collect donations before the pilot’s first run on Friday. “As it turned out, the neighbors we reached out to were more than willing to help out. Starting Thursday evening, donations began showing up on our doorsteps. This continued Friday morning. Friday afternoon I accompanied her to meet the pilot with all the supplies gathered,” said Angela.

In all the Masons took three carloads of supplies to be delivered to the Keys.

“I wanted to get supplies to people as quickly as possible,” said Ashley. “On Sept. 16, they got permission from the Air Force to fly into the Keys and were able to deliver the first load.”

Days after the supplies were delivered to the Keys, Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico and Ashley decided to continue collecting supplies to send to people in need. This time, in addition to reaching out to friends and neighbors, she started a drive at Schwarzkopf Elementary School, where she teaches. “It has been a great way to teach kids that they need to help when they can because they might need help one day. Our student council made posters and the kids promoted the drive on our morning show. Everyone has played a part.”

Angela said they have appreciated the support and donations from their neighbors on Greenpointe. “It is incredible how quickly they came together. Everyone was so happy to help because they felt helpless for the people in need.”

She added, “I’m proud of everything Ashley did. It’s nice to see people come together for a good cause.”

The Masons have been delivering supplies to the On the Upwind Flying Club. As of early October the group was still flying supplies to Puerto Rico. You can get more information about their efforts at their webpage http://www.ontheupwind.wordpress.com

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Westchase Helps Puerto Rico Drive

Meanwhile in September Bridges resident Maria Aranda and her husband Chris Barrett of The Bridges also kicked off a drive to benefit those hit hard by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.

Aranda, who is originally from Puerto Rico, was moved to take action by the storm’s impact. “The devastation in Puerto Rico has touched everyone there, including my friends and my extended family still living there. Hardest hit have been the poorest residents, who are now lacking homes, water, electricity, food and other basic necessities. These are our fellow American citizens and they need a compassionate, helping hand,” she said.

Scores of Westchase families contributed and a daily list of contributors ran on the Facebook group, Westchase Neighborhood News.

Donated items were taken to a local collection effort, operated out of Homeland Intelligence Technologies, and Hold On, Puerto Rico, which accepted donations at the Tampa Executive Airport.

“Dozens of generous residents stepped forward and contributed over 11 minivans and SUVs full of storm supplies,” said Barrett. “We also had a number of great local residents volunteer on two different days to take the supplies to the collection site.”

“During some very hard days, all of these generous folks served to preserve hope and light,” said Aranda. “I’m grateful to all of them.”

Garage Sale Helpers

In early October Greens resident Denise Morel also emailed WOW about some special folks. “During the Westchase Garage Sale on Saturday, I saw something wonderful going on across the street from where I was,” Morel wrote. “A family that lives on Greenmont (with the help of friends) had made cookies, were selling them and all proceeds were going to Puerto Rico and Las Vegas.”

Our thanks to all the generous helpers this month!

By Marcy Sanford and Chris Barrett

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