- The Washington Times - Monday, August 16, 2004

Will Anderson of Rockville is used to helping victims of natural disasters get back on their feet, but the devastation that Hurricane Charley left behind in Florida struck too close to home.

Mr. Anderson grew up in Punta Gorda, Fla., the tiny retirement community where Charley killed four residents and ripped apart mobile homes. So, when his friends who still live there told him the area was in urgent need of generators, Mr. Anderson didn’t hesitate to respond to the call.

“My area of work is feeding the homeless,” said Mr. Anderson, who works for a homeless shelter in Germantown. “But the demand is for generators.”

So Mr. Anderson, along with his friend and community activist Rocky Twyman of Rockville, formed a community outreach project called “Operation: Florida Generators,” and they are urging every church in Montgomery County to buy one or more generators.

The two men also are working with suppliers such as Home Depot and Wal-Mart to offer discounts to those churches who want to buy a generator for the Florida victims. Under the program, the churches or other donors buy vouchers for the generators at participating stores. The stores will then ship the generators to volunteers in Florida, who will distribute them accordingly.

“I feel this is our responsibility, especially if we are blessed,” Mr. Anderson said. “I believe the church should be the spiritual backbone and they should do what Jesus did — help.”

Mr. Twyman agreed. “This information was like a call from God to action,” he said.

So far, the two men have pulled together about 30 volunteers who are getting the word out about the project and both believe they can recruit about 15 local churches.

Mr. Anderson and Mr. Twyman, who are both musicians, also plan to hold a concert to raise money for their effort. They will perform at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Rockville Seventh-day Adventist Church on West Montgomery Avenue.

Mr. Anderson and Mr. Twyman also ask that immigrants who have benefited from American aid to help in their cause. “Financial support from foreigners who have benefited from American aid [is] greatly welcomed,” both men said.

Mr. Anderson supplied water to victims of Hurricane Isabel last year, as well as other victims of other disasters.

Now, he said he will do all he can to help his hometown get back on its feet, “even if I have to finance this myself.”

They hope the project will be duplicated by churches in other states.

Their project is part of a national aid response to Charley, which insurers are estimating to have caused $11 billion to insured homes alone. The storm killed at least 17 persons and left thousands of Florida residents homeless.

American Red Cross workers from the Washington area are heading to Florida to help victims, and utility repair crews are streaming into Florida’s Charlotte County, where Punta Gorda is located, to begin fixing the destroyed phone and utility lines. The repairs could take weeks, the Associated Press reported.

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