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St. Pete insurer makes a six-figure pledge to support hurricane recovery in the Bahamas

Margie Manning

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Ella Jet will be one of the performers at the Benefit for the Bahamas concert on Oct. 6 at Jannus Live.

Deep personal connections to the Bahamas led Bankers Financial Corp. to take on the role of lead corporate sponsor at a benefit concert this weekend in St. Petersburg to help the islands recover from Hurricane Dorian.

The St. Petersburg-based holding company, the parent of an insurance business and other operations, will match up to the first $100,000 in donations raised at the Benefit the Bahamas concert on Sunday at Jannus Live.

The donations will benefit Sol Relief, a nonprofit that provides humanitarian aid and disaster relief using small aircraft. Sol Relief has flown over 80 flights and collected over 400,000 pounds in supply donations to support the Bahamas since the hurricane.

Bankers Financial was tracking the storm closely before it hit one month ago, and when it made landfall in the Bahamas, the company was devastated, said John Strong, chairman and CEO.

John Strong, chairman and CEO, Bankers Financial

“So many of us at Bankers really have a strong passion for the Bahamas and the Bahamian people. Bob Menke [Bankers founder] has been taking his family to the Bahamas probably every summer since 1965. Several of us vacation there regularly. My daughter got married in Hope Town by Vernon Malone, who runs the general store there, and Vernon’s daughter and son are the people helping handle disaster recovery for the Hope Town area,” Strong said.

The company wanted to help. It had the chance, following a meeting between Strong and Jen Lockwood, co-founder and president of Sol Relief.

“Jen came into our office and share with us an immediate need,” Strong said. “She said, ‘All this heavy equipment [needed for debris removal and cleanup] has been donated, and it’s all sitting in Florida, and we cannot begin any relief without that equipment there. We’ve got barges but we don’t have the funding to move the barges.’ We looked at each other and said, that’s it. We’re going to take that.”

After funding the barge shipments, Bankers wanted to do more. Supporting the concert gave the company the opportunity to maximize its help, Strong said.

“I think it will be a strong testament to St. Petersburg and the Tampa Bay area what we can all do when we all work together,” Strong said.

The concert will feature seven local bands: Ella Jet and Future Soul, Four Star Riot, The Headtones, The Inhalers, Ricky Wilcox and The Moonsnakes, St Pete Sons and The Wrenchers.

The event came together quickly, said Travis Parker, the organizer. On Sept. 5, his wife phoned him at work to say that that someone should put on a benefit concert. “I hung up the phone and about two minutes later, I said I guess that’s me,” Parker said. “What was amazing was how quick everyone was to respond. Everyone in the community that we reached out to understands the importance of this event and raising the money to take care of the folks in the Bahamas.”

The free Benefit the Bahamas concert is scheduled to kick off at 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 6 at Jannus Live in downtown St. Pete. Donations can be made online here.

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