I am writing this email in real time on the ground from the hurricane-ravaged regions of North Florida where we are fully engaged in an emergency get out the vote (GOTV) campaign called “Operation Panhandle Vote”
We have set up our headquarters in Panama City, Bay County where the devastation was the worst and it is more serious than I could have ever imagined.
As you read this, I am leading a group of about 65 of our volunteers and other modestly paid workers who have come from all across Florida to be part of this effort. We are walking through damaged neighborhoods, offering people voting information, poll location flyers, voter guides, snacks, water, a prayer and a ride to the polls. See photos below.
In some areas over 50% of the residential, commercial and government buildings have been completely destroyed. The power is just now being turned on for some households after weeks without it in the rural areas. Please consider giving to this emergency get out the vote effort HERE.
The devastation is so bad, that two of our older volunteers told me yesterday that it was simply more than they expected or could handle and had to head back home. They were just exhausted and overwhelmed by it. It truly is a major disaster area.
One pastor who is a very good friend of ours from one of the largest churches in the area said,
“John, we can’t even take any more voter guides for other churches from you right now. We are feeding 8,000 people a day, most of our buildings have been damaged and we can barely keep up with just surviving…”
Another pastor described people in his church spending most of their days just digging personal belongings from their wrecked homes and guarding their property from looters. After learning they did not have insurance for wind damage, many families have no way to think about rebuilding from the rubble of their properties.
I have been in active communication with the Supervisors of Elections in Bay and surrounding counties. Pursuant to the Governor’s Emergency Executive Order on Hurricane Michael, the SEO has designated voting/polling places available and open, six major Mega Polling sites. This morning we are also moving into and canvassing Calhoun, Gadsden, and Franklin counties.
It is somewhat challenging approaching people in the midst of this kind of suffering and reminding them to vote but this area is critical to every statewide election in Florida and it has been hit hard. The people here were so glad to be reminded of the election as it has just been completely off the radar for thousands of voters here. These votes could make the difference in this very close election.
This project was certainly not in our annual operating budget, but the votes of these good people are just as important as yours or mine, so we are doing everything in our power to help them make their vote count! If you can make a contribution to this effort we would be grateful. Online gifts can be made HERE.
Many workers on our team were able to volunteer and even pay their own expenses. Other volunteers needed to be reimbursed for expenses and some needed to be paid. It was very challenging to find lodging for everyone to stay at the same place. There are maybe upwards of 25,000 people here servicing the area either as law enforcement, roofers, tree cutters, utility workers, lineman, carpenters, and restoration experts. But through some local connections, we found one hotel where we blocked 20 rooms for 6 days for most of our team to stay (2-3 to a room) until after the election on Tuesday.
To help support OPERATION PANHANDLE VOTE with our team getting out the vote, giving out information and offering a ride to the polls, YOU MAY DONATE to Florida Family Action SECURELY ONLINE HERE. (Gifts to Florida Family Action are not tax deductible.)
I realize not everyone is in a position to give a gift financially.
Can I ask you, if you can’t give, can you please pray for these people, for these families, churches and local businesses? And then pray for our team on the ground here getting out the vote.
Please join me and my family, and put them on your daily prayer list.
Just image if you lost everything, or nearly everything, except your family and loved ones. It is going to be a long road back and rebuilding will take time.
I am very firm in the fact that God is sovereign and we can trust in him and rest in his plan even when it makes no sense to us. But on this side of history, I just want to wake up on Wednesday morning November 7, 2018, and know we did everything we could to be faithful to help people honor God with their vote.
Thanks for considering this special strategic plea for help.