Rachel Saunders Plakon, who serves on the Florida Commission on the Status of Women, led a relief effort this week to Bonifay, a small town in Florida’s Panhandle which flooded in the aftermath of Hurricane Sally. The area was still recovering from the effects of Hurricane Michael 2 years ago.
A Bonifay native, Plakon spent the first 18 years of her life there, though she now resides in Lake Mary. When Hurricane Sally brought devastating floods to Bonifay last week, she contacted a county commissioner and local emergency management after seeing photos of the flooding on social media. Many residents had been affected, and local businesses began calling on state officials and anyone for help.
Plakon then reached out to Harvest Time International, a Sanford-based nonprofit humanitarian organization, which agreed to be the collection center of supplies such as food, clothing, household essentials and toys to children and families affected in Bonifay and throughout Holmes County.
“Some people told me that no one in Central Florida would want to help a small town they probably have never heard of, but I disagreed,” Plakon stated. On Friday of last week, she made a rallying call on Facebook for donation items.
Within 24 hours, Harvest Time and residents across Central Florida had gathered enough relief supplies to fill a 26 ft box truck. The non-profit had also raised $800, and Plakon’s family donated the truck rental in support of the Bonifay relief effort.
“Residents throughout Central Florida, particularly Seminole County, are some of the most generous people in the world. Over 40 people came together in about 58 hours and made this all happen.” Plakon stated.
Plakon may have inherited a certain level of “grit” from her small town. She was determined to drive the 26 ft truck, which towers some semis, the entire 8-hour trip. Considering her 5’4″ petite frame, some found the irony humorous online.
When Plakon finally arrived in Bonifay, residents affected by the flood were already present to receive relief at the First Baptist Church, which became the distribution center for the items. In a town with population of around only 2,700 people, word had spread that “Rachel with the truck” was coming.
Holmes County Commissioner Clint Erikson has called the donations “a great gift.” Plakon has continued to receive a generous outpouring of gratitude from both Bonifay and Central Florida residents. This week, several bins of new toys and blankets were donated by non-profit “Kids Beating Cancer.” “It’s such a blessing that folks across Central Florida rallied for a town that many tend to forget at a time like this. My heart is so full to be able to give back to a place that gave so much to me.”
Rachel Saunders Plakon also serves on the Florida Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission, appointed by Governor DeSantis. She is the wife of State Representative Scott Plakon, who stated regarding her relief efforts, “I am so proud of Rachel. She is always looking to help others.”