Thousands crowd first SWFL Food for Florida disaster assistance site

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SOUTH FORT MYERS, Fla. Mark Sturgeon was one of the first to evacuate Fort Myers Beach ahead of Hurricane Irma.

Sturgeon says when he returned, his home was unlivable.

“My whole life is in a 5-by-5 storage right now,” he said.

Sturgeon stood in line for about 45 minutes Thursday at the first post-Irma Food for Florida disaster assistance site in Southwest Florida.

MORE: First Food for Florida disaster assistance site opens in SWFL

“They gave me two months worth of food stamps, which will definitely help things out a lot,” he said.

The relief site is set up for Lee and Collier county residents from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Oct. 31 at the Lee County Port Authority overflow parking lot at Southwest Florida International Airport via Chamberlain and Daniels parkways.

Organizers are sorting applicants by day according to the first letter of their last name.

Lines were shorter Friday than they were Thursday, when those in dire need of help waited for hours in line, and traffic backed up for about a mile.

The wait was worth it for some.

“It’s extremely needed. I have a little one, he has asthma and we’ve been bouncing from houses to houses to get through this so its been hard,” registered recipient Elizabeth Disla.

Crews recommend pre-registering online before showing up at the site.

“That allows them to have expedited process once they’re in line, but also it allows them to get their benefits in two to three days,” Department of Children and Families spokesperson Natalie Harrell said.

The process begins with registration and then an in-person interview where staff members will ask recipients questions specific to their application and situation, Harrell said. Those who qualify will receive an EBT card.

“Household of one would receive about $300, households of four would receive over $1,000,” Harrell said.

Hendry and Glades county residents can get help from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Oct. 28 through Oct. 30. on Forrey Drive in LaBelle.

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