Destin steps up to help Louisiana flood victims

Annie Blanks
The Destin Log
Rhiannon Reynolds, general manager at the Hampton Inn on Okaloosa Island, reacts in her office on Thursday to the pile of linens and soaps collected by area hotels that will be given to flood victims in Louisiana.

In the wake of historic flooding in Louisiana that has left tens of thousands of people homeless or displaced, Destin residents are stepping up to help those affected.

Brian and Heidi LoCicero, Destin residents originally from Baton Rouge, began organizing efforts to send supplies to Louisiana as soon as they heard about the scope of the disaster.

“We couldn’t just sit around and do nothing,” Heidi said. “We have friends and family there, and visitors from Louisiana that come here (to Destin) are affected, too.”

Heidi owns Frillseeker’s Gifts located in the shopping plaza next to the Destin Wal-Mart. She and her husband, a Realtor with Keller Williams Realty in Destin, have been collecting supplies at the gift shop and sending them to Louisiana.

“We’re collecting anything, really,” Brian said. “Home Depot gift cards, Ace Hardware gift cards, cleaning supplies. That’s a big thing, cleaning supplies. Imagine trying to clean your house after a flood like this and not having anything to clean with.”

The LoCiceros are also collecting things like diapers, dog food and bedding.

Other businesses are stepping up as well. Destiny Worship Center in Miramar Beach, McGuire’s and Winn-Dixie in Destin and Helen Back on Okaloosa Island have all sent food and supplies to those affected in Louisiana.

“We are encouraging all our customers across the Southeast to rise up and support the great states and communities of Louisiana and Mississippi,” said Ian McLeod, president and CEO of Winn-Dixie parent company Southeastern Grocers. “We will continue to work tirelessly on the ground and with the American Red Cross to direct all available resources to help the people affected by the flooding.”

The grocery store is matching all customers’ in-store and online donations through Aug. 23.

Rhiannon Reynolds, manager of the Hampton Inn on Okaloosa Island, reached out to several hotels in the area and asked them to collect linens, soaps and other toiletries to be sent to Baton Rouge. Thursday afternoon, 654-LIMO donated a bus and driver to drive all of the supplies Reynolds had gathered to waiting families in Louisiana.

Kathi Ivey, of Baton Rouge, was one of those who received help from Northwest Florida.

“I’m overwhelmed with joy, appreciation and gratitude,” she said over the phone from her sister’s house in Baton Rouge. “Everyone wants to know, ‘What can we do to help.’ ”

The Hampton Inn on Okaloosa Island is still accepting supplies to be transported to Louisiana. Among the most needed items, according to Ivey, are work gloves, storage containers, baby supplies, food and clothing.