John O. Agwunobi, M.D., M.B.A., M.P.H., and Elder Affairs Secretary Terry
White had the opportunity to visit Okeechobee and Glades counties -- areas
that have been impacted by Hurricanes Charley, Frances and Jeanne within
"These beautiful rural counties have been ravaged by this year's storms.
Small, humble communities have exhibited great resilience in the face of
giant challenges," Agwunobi said. "The state and federal government will
do everything they can to help these friends, families and neighbors as
they rebuild in the heart of our state."
Terry White, Secretary of Elder Affairs, reassured storm victims: "Elders
living in communities impacted by this hurricane season have some of the
greatest challenges and will be rebuilding for some time. Elder Affairs is
working to address the needs of Florida's revered elder population so that
these communities can begin to heal."
Agwunobi and White first toured an Okeechobee special needs shelter at the
Okeechobee County Health Department building. Meeting with County Health
Department Administrator Mike Hill, Environmental Health Director Ed Trent,
Nursing Director Connie Thacker along with other health department staff
and shelter volunteers to reassure health workers and residents of
continuing support from the state and its partners during the hurricane
relief effort. They also visited with clients of the special needs shelter.
A young man named Tyler led Agwunobi's tour of the shelter. Tyler
volunteers at the shelter assisting the staff with delivering meals,
bringing in water to flush the toilets, cleaning and helping to tuck the
clients into bed each night.
Agwunobi and White then visited the Buckhead Ridge in Glades County, of
which 80 percent of homes sustained major damage. They met with Emergency
Management Director Ken Howard, Glades County Health Department Director
Dr. Martha Valiant and Nursing Director Patricia Dobbins, emergency medical
services personnel, Red Cross volunteers, and residents to assess the
impact of the storm and the community's anticipated needs during recovery.
While visiting residents of Buckhead Ridge, White was able to work with
AARP to secure four generators for homebound elders with health conditions
that depend on electricity.
Agwunobi, a pediatrician by training, met 1-month old Jacob William Dixon,
who was born just after Hurricane Frances. Jacob's grandmother, Carolyn
Conrad, who delivered him, was rocking Jacob as his mother caught some
much-needed sleep while her newborn napped.