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WLI Shows Up after Hurricane Irma

If you’re reading this and you’re an alumni member of the Wedgworth Leadership Institute, you can be so proud.
When WLI decides to “show up,” incredible things happen!!!

Some of the first reports received by the WLIANR office after Hurricane Irma were from our alumni in Highlands and Okeechobee counties with dairies; both Ben Butler (Class IX) and Susie Bishop (Class VIII) expressed need of some help.

(Both Ben’s and Susie’s dairies are large, milking over 1000 head, and they experienced a great deal of damage and having no power all while the cows still need to be milked.  Our alums are worried about trying to milk on limited generator power, rationed feed since before the hurricane because of a shortage of trucks, fuel, etc., and keeping their workers and their families fed and safe.   Help began arriving to this area of the state after the storm, but in order to get food and water someone has to physically stand in line—something that is not possible when you are milking cows 24/7!)

Last Thursday, Dr. Hannah Carter put the word out to our alumni network.  Her goal was to collect enough items to fill her truck—food and non perishable food—and take it down to these dairies in the hopes it would provide a measure of relief to the families of their workers.  Dr. Carter expected a few items from people who lived here in Alachua County who had leftover  hurricane supplies…

In 24 hours, we collected enough items to fill a 12 foot trailer (which was loaned to us by Class X member Daniel Albritton).  Erin Boyd Wilder (Class VII)  collected a truckload herself and drove it down to Gainesville from Tallahassee in an afternoon.  In addition, many University of Florida Department of Agricultural Education and Communication faculty, staff and students donated food, water, and supplies.  Janice Shephard helped organize items in boxes to evenly distribute to the farms.  Richard Schwab (Class VI) brought a full truckload of ice and water to Dr. Carter to deliver to the dairies.  Maria and Fred Fanizzi (Class VIII) donated enough food from Quail Creek Plantation that both dairies (all the workers and their families) had a hot meal on Saturday.  We had so many people respond to the call for donations that Dr. Carter spent Friday running all over meeting people to collect what they had!

Dr. Carter and Val McKee drove the truck down on Saturday to make the deliveries to the dairies.  Maria Fanizzi and Maria and Fred’s son, Joe, drove to the farms to deliver the hot food from Quail Creek Plantation and help unload the trailer and truck. the Stacy Wood (Class VI) and Tony Lopez (Class VIII) and Tony’s daughter, Layla, also came to help distribute the load to the farms. 

Thank you to each and every hand that played a part in helping our fellow alumni members!!!

The Wedgworth Leadership Institute is a leadership program for individuals in Florida agriculture and natural resources; but it’s more than that.  We are a family.  When we have family in need, we rally around them. 
We will continue to do more as the need will continue in the weeks and months to come.

Know of other fellow alumni members who are “showing up” and serving in the wake of Hurricane Irma?
Send Val McKee ( ) names, stories, and photos if you have them so that we can thank them!