Register for donations decision leaves many angry

An initial post on Facebook led hundreds of local residents to believe that the Guadalupe Catholic Church would be handing out supplies earlier than planned. As the times varied, the earliest tip given said that supplies would be handed out last Thursday at 8am.

Thousands of water bottles sit on shipping pallets while hundreds of Immokalee residents wait in line for food and water last Thursday just outside the Guadalupe Catholic Church. (Submitted photo/Travis Anderson)

However, many local residents showed up only to learn that the distribution of supplies would not start until 11am.

One volunteer helping with the setup was just as confused and stated that she was told that the distribution would start at 8am as well.

Peggy Rodriguez, Program Director with Guadalupe Social Services, said that the plan was to have residents line up, register, and then receive food and water at 11am.

Edgar Mosquera, Sr., CEO of Executive Protection Investigative Consultants, was on-site providing armed security for the distribution of water and food when he learned of the registration requirement.

As the line grew longer and temperatures rose, the heat started getting to many of the younger and elderly attendees. With thousands of bottles of water just feet away from those in need, Mosquera took it upon himself to get the process started. Mosquera opened cases of water and began handing out individual bottles of water and even formed a separate line to help give the water to those who needed it most.

Rodriguez approached Mosquera where the two exchanged words about process. Eventually, Mosquera was allowed to continue handing out individual bottles of water, but the separate water line was shut down and those individuals had to rejoin the main distribution line.

Even though the distribution started before 11am, several people in attendance were upset about the requirement to register and questioned why they should have to register to receive basic necessities from donations meant for areas impacted by Hurricane Irma.

Maria Cardenas, who said she worked at Guadalupe Social Services, posted on Facebook saying “We just don’t need incorrect information going around” referring to the question of whether or not those in need following Hurricane Irma would have to register for basic necessities. Her statement alludes that there was not a requirement to register.

On Friday, Director Rodriguez released a statement online contradicting Cardenas saying in part that “It is great that the community is coming together to help others in need but we are a social service organization & we were initially taking down information when our operation started on Tuesday (Thursday) & we had a better handle on things. As we saw the crowds get bigger we decided not to do that but at least keep track of the number of individuals we were serving. These numbers will help us receive funds in the future when everyone else has moved on and our residents still need our help. GSS has been serving the community for 35 years and we will continue to be here much longer.”

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