When restaurant owner Stevie Vermillion learned of her friend Will Hollis’ plan to help transport relief supplies to the Bahamas, she had an idea: Invite friends to donate supplies they had purchased but didn’t need after West Volusia escaped Hurricane Dorian.
Two days later, some 40 customers and friends had brought four pallets full to BakeChop, the Downtown DeLand restaurant Vermillion co-owns with Taylor Bass.
“The turnout was awesome,” Vermillion said. “We’re just really thankful for the people who came out. … People are really wanting to help.”
Instead of simply bringing their unused items, she said, people called and asked about specific needs, then purchased the goods: diapers, infant formula, water, tarps, tents, food, cleaning supplies and more. Ella Ran, who owns neighboring business Outsiders USA, brought five chainsaws she found in a pawnshop.
Especially touching, Vermillion said, was watching families encouraging their children to carry donations to the growing pile.
Many of BakeChop’s 20 employees, along with friend Vanessa Thomas, helped organize the goods for transport.
With help from aid organizations and equipment from Hollis House, the Hollises’ woodworking and land-clearing business located at the DeLand Municipal Airport industrial park, Hollis and his wife, Emily, will pick up more supplies from across the state and take them to a relief-staging area being set up in Fort Lauderdale.
The plan is to get a barge to take the supplies to the Bahamas, but the aid organizations will wait for instructions as the relief effort is organized in the devastated island community, Will Hollis said.
He is also helping to send donated fuel to the islands.
“We found a barge that would take almost 14,000 gallons of donated fuel for the Bahamas from Fuel Relief Fund,” Hollis said in a post on Facebook about his efforts. “FRF is a great organization that I worked side by side with during Hurricane Michael, and that’s why I chose to help them find a barge.”
Those who missed the BakeChop drive, Vermillion said, may take donations to Outsiders at 112 S. Woodland Blvd., or Trilogy Coffee Roasting Co. at 136 W. Georgia Ave., just down the street from the restaurant.
Among other local businesses contributing to relief efforts, Skydive DeLand is also soliciting donations for the Bahamas, which the group plans to fly in once they receive government approval. Donations can be dropped off at the business’s headquarters, 1600 Flightline Blvd. in DeLand.