ST. LUCIE COUNTY, Fla. – It’s been exactly two weeks since Hurricane Michael destroyed communities on the Panhandle.
Wednesday, The St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office and a Fort Pierce business owner delivered three semi trucks worth of supplies to law enforcement families who have spent the last two weeks taking care of other families first.
Tony DiFrancesco, who owns Tri-County Enterprises in Fort Pierce, said he felt compelled to help the Panhandle, knowing he had the resources to do so.
Tuesday night, on his way to Marianna in Jackson County, he explained, “I see it as giving back to our community, our state.”
For about a week, he collected supplies at Big Apple Pizza in Fort Pierce from the community.
St. Lucie County Sheriff Ken Mascara said he learned what DiFrancesco wanted to do, and offered to help.
Mascara joined the convoy of three semis, and a deputy escort to the panhandle.
Mascara explained he has been in touch with law enforcement officers on the panhandle, which helped him determine which communities could most use the help.
Jackson County Sheriff Lou Roberts said his deputies could use the extra support, along with the thousands of families affected by the storm in his community.
“So, I said, ‘Tony, I think the best thing to do would be to bring those assets to Jackson County,’” Mascara said.
After traveling hundreds of miles, the convoy first dropped supplies at the wind battered Jackson County Sheriff’s Office.
At least seven deputies lost their homes completely.
Nearly everyone in the town experienced damage.
“Many people will benefit from the supplies that were brought here,” said Roberts.
He said the delivery was the largest supply of water to be delivered to them yet.
Then, DiFrancesco delivered supplies to a community relief area.
Marianna resident, Coba Beasley, accepted donations for the Chipola Baptist Association, which has helped 50,000 people since the storm.
“How do we help people? One person at a time,” Beasley said. The contribution from St. Lucie County could help hundreds of people.
He is among the Jackson County residents putting his own needs last.
“Even I have three trees through my roof and a driveway covered in trees,” Beasley said. “It hit everybody.”
Law enforcement officers, like deputy Mike Hodges, are also helping others before tending to their own damage.
“I’ve worked 10 days straight without a day off.”
His own home is a total loss, he said.
“We lost everything,” Hodges said. “We got punched in the face, but we don’t lay down. We get back up and get back at it.”
He is living in a camper for now, as his home is without power and has three trees in the roof.
The St. Lucie County convoy aimed to help the helpers, so they can continue to support their neighbors for weeks, or maybe months longer.
DiFrancesco said he is considering making another trip north in the near future.