PRAIRIE VILLAGE, Kan. -- Hurricane Dorian's trek through the Bahamas hit close to home for one metro family.
Courtney Mitchell and her family from Johnson County are working to rally support for people who call the Bahamian land Elbow Cay their native home, and they're urging other Americans to help. The Mitchells have traveled to Elbow Cay on many occasions, and they've befriended scores of people who hail from there.
When Hurricane Dorian hit that small island on Sunday morning, it left a trail of destruction, but miraculously spared all 330 people who stayed to brave the storm. The island's listed population is roughly 450, according to census data from 2010.
"It's just mind boggling," Mitchell said. "We started getting reports on Sunday morning that we're losing the roofs on homes. The windows and doors were caving in. During the eye of the storm, they had a 20-minute reprieve, and they ran, and fled and took cover."
Mitchell said she wants to organize a fundraising drive to assist people living on Elbow Cay. She said she and her family plan to collect items, and deliver them from south Florida to the Bahamas using a boat.
David Cooper, Mitchell's father, said the family in Johnson County is receiving devastating photos from their friends who grew up on Elbow Cay, and to compare the before and after is a sobering sight.
"It's just devastating," Cooper said. "Houses that were erect and standing are now just on their sides. Literally taken off their foundation."
Mitchell and Cooper said their own home in the Bahamas is fine, undamaged by the storm, but this fundraising effort isn't about their needs. Mitchell said her concern is that destruction in the Bahamas will fall out of common conversation before those residents get the help they need. Mitchell said, as it stands, Elbow Cay has no drinking water and no electricity.
"These people were scared to death. It hit at 220 miles per hour, and category five, which this island has never seen," Mitchell added. "They're trying to feed their kids and raise their family. They need help just like we've needed help when we've had our own disasters in Kansas City."
Mitchell and Cooper helped organized this online fundraiser, from which all proceeds will go toward helping the people of Elbow Cay. Mitchell warns potential donors to be wary of fraudulent fundraisers that supposedly benefit the Bahamas. She suggests that if a fundraiser seems questionable, do an online search, and see what others are saying before you give.