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Stuart Locals Launch Hooks4Hope To Combat The Toxic Algae Crisis

Sandy beaches and pristine waters are what put Florida on the map as one of the best vacation destinations and places to live year-round. Unfortunately, that could all be changing right before our eyes.

Many of Florida’s waterways are currently facing an onslaught of toxic algae caused by discharge flowing in from Lake Okeechobee. As the algae blooms, it’s not only threatening the local way of life, but has the potential to permanently damage Florida’s water-based ecosystem. 

Two Stuart locals are taking action to halt—and hopefully reverse—the damage that the unwelcome invader is causing. 

Anthony Centrone, 19, and Chase Lurgio, 20, are among the many residents who are fed up with the toxic algae that is destroying the waterways, specifically the St. Lucie River. Together they have created Hooks4Hope.

Through Hooks4Hope, Centrone and Lurgio sell handmade bracelets made by friend and fellow Stuart local Kristian Deane. The $20 bracelets, in a variety of colors, feature bronze fish hooks sporting the word “HOPE,” a nod to the local nautical culture.

The company also offers family packs of bracelets for $60, which include all four colors currently available.

“We just wanted to be able to make a change and we figured this would be the best way,” Centrone says. “When people ask where you got your bracelet, you can explain the reason behind it. It’s a really great way to show support and spread awareness.”

Hooks4Hope has only been in business since June, but is already making an impact. Sales from the bracelets are donated to the Florida Oceanographic Society, an organization researching what’s happening in the waterways, and helping to clean up the river and improve its current condition.

So, what’s exactly going on in the St. Lucie River and surrounding waterways? Due to the high population of people around Lake Okeechobee, discharges from the freshwater lake must be made every few weeks to avoid overflow into the surrounding populated areas. Unfortunately, a common form of blue-green algae found in the lake also flows into the surrounding rivers and estuaries, which becomes toxic to the environment, wildlife and people as it blooms during the warm weather season. 

Hooks4Hope founders Chase Lurgio and Anthony Centrone

“Every year in the summertime, the algae in the lake blooms and then when it gets in our canals, which contain stagnant water, it’s a perfect place for it to grow. The heat mixes with the stagnant water and it blooms,” Lurgio says. 

“It’s a perfect breeding ground for the algae,” Centrone adds.

As government officials work on figuring out solutions, Centrone and Lurgio intend to do everything they can to help save the river, and hope others will do the same. 

“Until the government finds a better solution to the problem, at least we know that we are doing everything we can to stop the rivers from being destroyed,” Lurgio says. “Take action and be aware of what’s going on. Don’t be blind to it. Protesting is only going to do so much. It’s going to take us coming together as a community to solve the problem.”

For more information on Hooks4Hope, and to purchase a bracelet, visit hooks4hope.com or follow the company on Instagram (@hooks4hope). 

Photos courtesy of Hooks4Hope

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