A Port in The Storm
In an emergency like Hurricane Irma, we expect law enforcement to respond en masse to our immediate needs, often forgetting that their families and homes are victims of the crisis as well. When two Fort Myers Beach businesses learned about the hardships endured by our local officers, they rallied into action, with the near-unanimous support of their beach clientele.
“An employee from the Lee County Sheriff’s Office who is related to me called and said they had friends in the department who needed help,” explained Trish Hickey of Century 21, “as families of officers were sleeping in the police station. I contacted Amy and Rick Loughrey from Distinctive Beach Rentals and the Greater Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce, where Jacki Liszak and Doug McElheny there put out an email blast. Not only did we end up placing over 32 families with 80 total family members, but the Lani Kai Island Resort opened rooms to out-of-state electrical workers who were sleeping in their trucks. We found rooms for 26 power company crewmembers from Northern Indiana and Kansas! We had a great response from the beach community!”
Trish said those families “are very grateful! I have texts and emails and Thank You notes telling me how much they appreciated our help. Of course, we thank the homeowners who donated their houses to those in need, as the outpouring was outstanding; without them we would not have been able to jump on this so quick, and it all just rolled from there. I can’t say enough about the individual beach homeowners – everyone really rallied around one-another.”
“We received a call from Trish,” related Amy Loughery of Distinctive Beach Rentals, “asking if we could help out those who were helping us out in recovering from the storm. I sent out a blanket email to our 285 owners, many who live out-of-town for the summer, telling them about our situation and if they might open any of their homes to these families. To my absolute amazement, I heard back from rough 150 clients in the first 30 minutes, telling me to do whatever was necessary!”
In those first few minutes, Amy relates, “I felt so truly blessed to live in and work in a community like Fort Myers Beach, with such a great group of homeowners who responded so quick and generously. By the time we were done, there were hardly any owners who did not give their permission. I am so grateful Trish contacted my husband Rick and I; in fact, we just placed another family on Monday, September 18, and are still here for any others in need.”
Amy explained that many of the officer’s families have pets, while most of her clients restrict these, “but in this case, they waived that clause, as many local folks in need have dogs and cats due to the mandatory evacuations. A few days ago, we had one family with a dog check out, and minutes later we put in another family with another dog in the same place, sort-of swapping them out!”
We All Have Big Shoulders!
As for how helping out others influenced her, Amy said: “Oh, it is absolutely wonderful and in a way ironic! Rick and I and Trish talked about this between ourselves already several times, because too often on this island we talk too much about who are our ‘citizens’: are they the locals or those born here or fulltime residents or just those who vote – who really has a voice on Fort Myers Beach? Our folks not only allowed us to use their homes, but they are not charging any of these families one single penny, including cleaning costs. We hear that these part-time residents and investors don’t count and that they should not have a voice in our community, yet when our backs are to the wall, these homeowners pull together as one because Fort Myers Beach is their home, too. Their response to this island-wide crisis speaks volumes about their value to our Town, every bit as much as anyone who lives here on a full-time basis.
“It turns out we all have big shoulders! I cannot tell you how proud I am of all of them, that they almost unanimously came out in our time of need and renewed my faith in people. I know we live in a crazy world where it seems we don’t care about each other like we did in the past, but then something like this happens and we rally around our neighbors.”
With Irma now almost two weeks in our collective rearview mirrors, Amy and Trish both said that they realize there are still those who need assistance, so please contact Trish directly at 239-826-0353 or Amy at 239-980-4666.
“If we can help, please call,” implored Amy.
“It is always a blessing to be able to be there for your community.”