BRADENTON, Fla. — People have called April Cutler an “angel,” an “inspiration,” and an “awesome person,” but the mother of three says she is just trying to “pay it forward” by making meals for people who are without power after Hurricane Irma.

Cutler, who lives in Bradenton, has made hundreds of meals from baked chicken, baked beans and mac and cheese to spaghetti for the past three days. It’s all free and available for pickup, although she said if someone cannot come and get it she will find a way to have it delivered.

“I wouldn’t say it was inspired. I just wanted to pay it forward,” Cutler said. “We were lucky. We just had minor damage to our roof.”

Others weren’t so fortunate.

According to Florida Power and Light, about 66,000 customers in Sarasota County and about 42,000 in Manatee County were without power Thursday. Those numbers are diminishing by the hour, and FPL sent a text message to customers recently saying that all power on the West Coast of Florida would be restored by Sept. 22.

That’s not soon enough to save people’s refrigerated food.

Cutler said that they were fortunate to only lose power for 15 hours and had a freezer with $1,000 worth of meat. She told her husband she wanted to help families who lost their power and food.

“I grew up poor. I didn’t have a lot of food,” Cutler said. “I was one of those kids who if we didn’t go to school, we didn’t eat. My kids didn’t grow up like that. I made sure we had a stocked freezer and a stocked pantry.”

She posted her offer to people in a Facebook group called “Hurricane Irma: (Manatee & Sarasota)” and on the first night she fed 20 families about 40 plates.

With the help of her children, a 15-year-old daughter, an 11-year-old son, and a 6-year-old daughter who help pour sauces, and donations of supplies and money to buy more food, she has been able to continue her sort of meals on wheels.

“I’ve been home with my three kids cooking nonstop,” Cutler said. “It’s gotten more organized and easier.”

Cutler said she will continue helping people as long as there is a need.

“As long as I have supplies I will cook for them,” she said. “As long as people contact me saying they need food. Even if their power comes back on they have probably lost food. As long as I have supplies I will cook for them.”


Information from: Sarasota (Fla.) Herald-Tribune, http://www.heraldtribune.com