The Washington Post / Contributor/ Getty Images
(NEW YORK) — Five days since Hurricane Ian made landfall as a Category 4 storm, hundreds of families are trying to pick up the pieces as the recovery process continues.
In the close-knit community of Harlem Heights in Fort Myers, Florida, Ian decimated the area, leaving some homes and buildings submerged in several feet of water. Among them is the Gladiolus Food Pantry, which provides about 250 low-income families with food and household goods like diapers and toothpaste on a weekly basis.
After the hurricane, Gladiolus Food Pantry was flooded and the essential supplies inside the building were all destroyed.
“I mean, when the storm came, we lost power. We don’t have any water. I mean, my food is spoiling in the refrigerator,” Keyondra Smith, a local resident, said.
Neighbors and community members have since teamed up to pitch in at Gladiolus, handing out food and water to anyone who needs them.
“People have worked their whole lives to get a tiny little sliver of something and it’s gone,” Jessica Woods said. “So that’s what hurts, I think, the most.”
Woods called her friends following Ian’s aftermath and they’re now volunteering to support their community in this crucial time of need.
“When everybody has cleared this tent, that’s when we’ll be done,” Woods said. “Our community is really hurting.”
Floyd Simmons, who has lived in Harlem Heights for the past 44 years, says his home is a “disaster” but he’s thankful for the volunteers in his community who are jumping in to help.
“It’s a beautiful thing,” Simmons said. “That’s showing love.”
Gladiolus’ director, Miriam Ortiz, said despite the storm’s immense impact, the food pantry will continue to operate. The pantry is currently accepting donations of food, water and other staples like blankets, as well as welcoming volunteers who can lend a helping hand.
For individuals looking to help, food-based organizations such as Feeding Tampa Bay and World Central Kitchen are helping local communities impacted by Hurricane Ian. Other groups are offering support beyond food needs, such as debris cleanup, financial assistance and more. These organizations include CDP Atlantic Hurricane Season Recovery Fund, Florida Disaster Fund, Good360 and Team Rubicon.
Click HERE for more information on organizations helping people impacted by Hurricane Ian.
Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.