On Tuesday night, devastation struck the island of Haiti. As soon as news broke, candidates Bernard Sansaricq and Yomin Postelnik and Central Florida candidate Commander Tom Garcia got in touch to plan an effective relief effort. They discussed what most immediate relief needs were.
At the end of the night, Tom Garcia located a water purification expert who had previously done disaster relief, loaded up a Cessna and flew into Haiti on the spot. Sansaricq and Postelnik organized drop off locations and relief efforts, with plans for future trips in the works. Sansaricq met with local Haitian leaders as Postelnik established a virtual hotline, providing phone numbers of established task forces to those with families in Haiti.
At the same time, two party chairmen put forward valiant efforts to assist with the crisis. Broward GOP Chairman Chip LaMarca spent an entire day coordinating relief efforts with Tallahassee. At one point, he even made his personal office the central drop off point for East Broward. Palm Beach GOP Chairman Sid Dinerstein met with Haitian leaders, encouraging them and promoting relief efforts. Both chairs have shown an unprecedented level of leadership throughout the crisis.
On Wednesday morning, candidate Ed Lynch, rallied his entire campaign team. In spite of being weeks away from a primary election, his staff decided to put everything on hold. Ed worked to get tickets to go to Haiti and the campaign turned their headquarters into a drop off location for food and supplies.
Candidate Robert Lowry secured 6 tickets to travel to Haiti and planned to make the trip down there. He also helped coordinate medical relief supplies and needs. Candidate Dennis Lamb stayed in touch with local Haitian clergy, offering to assist in any way.
In the meantime, Sansaricq was placing calls to Haitian leaders both on the island and in South Florida. Calls were placed demanding that Haitian refugees be given temporary status within the Bahamas. Unbeknownst to the campaign, the pressure worked.
Postelnik and a campaign volunteer were busy advising local businessman Marc Eisenmann, who was preparing to travel to Haiti to offer relief. Postelnik prepared a list of supplies, as well as a list of what not to bring, advising relief volunteers not to wear jewelry or bright clothing. At the same time, his line, made public in a press release, was flooded with calls from people seeking the numbers of agencies to locate family members on the island, as well as requests to establish drop off centers.
Garcia went on to deliver electricity to a three room clinic, making power out of four car batteries and an inverter. He also delivered food and helped administer medical relief to hundreds, while working hard with relief expert Joe Hurston on water purification.
In the meantime, Eisenmann, guided by Postelnik, traveled throughout the Port au Prince area. Eisenmann came upon a crumbling building with children and adults stuck in it. Speaking with Postelnik for at least some form of guidance, Eisenmann managed to pull two people out of the structure. Republican leader Chad Lincoln also helped with construction knowledge and advice.
Late on Thursday night, Eisenmann came across a five year old boy with a shattered arm and a hematoma. Postelnik, the only point of contact, worked frantically to find a doctor to talk Eisenmann through the situation. When calls to two physicians didn’t work, Postelnik reached out to his network on twitter. Karin Hoffman and Lowry campaign manager Chris Leggatt worked to locate a neurosurgeon.
The boy was airlifted to Miami. Postelnik visited the boy and his father on Sunday, and appealed to the media to help reunite the family. The boy and his father plan on returning to Haiti, where they led a relatively successful life, upon the completion of treatment. Marc Eisenmann has agreed to house the family for the months of therapy that are needed.
On Friday Postelnik assembled a small team of volunteers. Later in the day, he worked to help the owner of a cargo ship that was having trouble unloading relief supplies in Haiti.
When one of the volunteers got stranded, efforts were coordinated with Sheela Venero of Sen. LeMieux’ office, the office of Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart and Chairman Chip LaMarca to help redirect him to Port au Prince. These efforts were successful.
Throughout this time, Bernard Sansaricq kept reaching out to Haitian leaders and candidates Ed Lynch and Robert Lowry organized another mission to Haiti.
On Saturday night, Commander Tom Garcia flew home with a two year old girl in need of follow up medical care, at the behest of a Haitian orphanage. Airport workers asked for follow up documentation, but the girl was held in limbo for over seven hours.
Garcia telephoned Postelnik, who mobilized a team to reach out to elected officials. State Senator and candidate for Commissioner of Agriculture Carey Baker phoned Postelnik at 10:00 pm on Sat. night. This call was followed by ones from Sen. LeMieux. Eventually Congressman Bill Posey and Broward Chairman Chip LaMarca were made aware of the situation and also got involved, despite the late hour. The situation was resolved after midnight.
Relief efforts continue. On Sunday, Chad Lincoln organized a rally for Haiti with Ed Lynch and Robert Lowry. Sansaricq and Postelnik continue to work on getting relief supplies into the country and on reuniting the boy who needed medical treatment with his mother. Several other candidates have allowed their offices to become drop off locations for supplies, and more are in the works.
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