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Irma Damaged Immokalee Home

“A 77-year-old Army Veteran and his wife sought out much needed help to restore their home to a safe place to live and help care for their grandchildren. The hurricane damage was so extensive, the couple resorted to stuffing shopping bags into gaping structural holes to keep out wildlife.” Aileen Castro, Disaster Case Manager for The Salvation Army

Recvocering from Hurricane Irma

Rebuilding Lives

By Lisa Loren

On September 10, 2017, Hurricane Irma devastated the home of Elizabeth and Earl.

With great trepidation, the couple chose to evacuate prior to the hurricane’s landfall. When they returned, their home was severely damaged. Hurricane force winds had destroyed their roof which allowed torrential rains to pour into the home. Water gushed down through the ceilings and down the walls. The influx of water decimated cabinets, appliances, and floors. Everything from top to bottom would have to be removed and replaced.

Hurricane Irma had not left one piece of their home or lives untouched. Fortunately, they were referred to Disaster Case Manager, Aileen Castro, for help. Note, The Salvation Army of Collier County began training long-term Disaster Case Managers in October of 2017 to help local victims navigate the complex process of recovery and provide emotional spiritual care along the way.

During Aileen’s initial interview she learned the couple did not have homeowners’ insurance and received a small amount of financial assistance from FEMA to make repairs. To save money they had ripped out as much of the water-soaked drywall themselves. But, even with help from FEMA, the couple was not able to cover all materials and labor they would need.

Aileen also learned that Earl is a disabled Army Veteran who has many health issues and the couple cares for 3 young grandchildren during the week while their mom works as an elementary school teaching assistant for Collier County. With black mold and exposed wall studs, safety was a daily source of anxiety. Elizabeth and Earl had their hands full.

This couple definitely needed help transitioning from disaster victims to disaster survivors.

The Salvation Army partnered with Team Rubicon and Paradise Coast Builders to bring hope back into the couple’s lives and begin the process of restoring their house to a safe and comfortable home again.

The first order of business was replacing the roof to prevent any further damage. Paradise Coast Builders, under the ownership and exceptional craftsmanship of Gene and Rosalie Silguero, quickly dried in and reroofed this home. Earl and Elizabeth were beside themselves as their hope was renewed.

Then Team Rubicon set to work under the leadership of the Cohort 8 Clay Hunt Fellows and their awesome team of volunteers. Eliot Tucker led the build team. They ripped up floors, shredded the bathroom, and annihilated the kitchen in very short order. Then the real fun began as piece by piece and board by board, this shell of a building began to be reshaped into a home.

Click for PDF flyer: Before, during, and after pictorial.

Team Rubicon volunteers honored their amazing code of service with a lot of sweat and hard work over the course of 2 months. Exciting changes could be seen on a daily basis! Floors were rebuilt, walls were replaced, kitchen and bathroom fixtures and cabinets were installed. Always working side by side, Team Rubicon ordered gravel while The Salvation Army ordered sod.

Everyone excitedly planned the reveal.

March 5th has approached with an air of excited anticipation: to have the honor of helping a family in need regain their peace, hope, joy, and safety in the form of this restructured home that was destroyed by Hurricane Irma almost 1 ½ years ago has been an incredible journey.

Team Rubicon with their Cohort 8 Clay Hunt Fellows and dedicated volunteer team, The Salvation Army Disaster Team and Paradise Coast Builders have been blessed to be involved in changing the lives of this family. By joining forces, these devoted individuals have put boots on the ground and invested materials, labor and heart to restore hope and rebuild the home of this lovely couple.

Facebook photo album: Before, during and after rebuild.

Contributing writer Lisa Loren, Disaster Case Manager for The Salvation Army

Welcome Home – Disaster Case Manager Speech

What the press is saying:

2019 – Naples Daily News Cover Story March 6 “Coming home: Veteran volunteers help rebuild Immokalee couple’s house damaged by Irma” by Alexi Cardona

Media inquiries contact Martin de St. Pierre at martin.destpierre@uss.salvationarmy.org or (239) 210-4013.

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