It has been nearly two months since Hurricane Ian struck southwest Florida, killing at least 100 people. The Category 4 storm tore a trail of destruction across much of the state. For places like Pine Island, Sanibel Island, and Fort Myers, rebuilding will take many more months.
According to the American Red Cross, Ian “destroyed or caused major damage to more than 22,000 Florida homes.” Some of the elderly in the storm’s path have been “struggling” in the aftermath and may never rebuild their homes. Other residents are forced to “start from scratch.”
With the holiday season approaching, nonprofit organizations are trying to ensure Hurricane Ian’s victims –and the aid workers still on the ground – are not forgotten. Groups like Mercy Chefs, Operation BBQ Relief and the American Red Cross are planning special Thanksgiving meal distributions in the days leading up to the holiday.
Mercy Chefs founder and CEO, Gary LeBlanc, says returning to Fort Myers and nearby communities for the holiday is an important step in the recovery process.
“We’re honored to be able to return this Thanksgiving to serve holiday meals to a variety of groups and organizations through our various church partners. Each year, our holiday outreach allows us to revisit communities that have been impacted by disasters to show our support and our long-term commitment to community recovery,” LeBlanc writes. “The spirit of these individuals is remarkable.”
Mercy Chefs is planning special meals the weekend before Thanksgiving in Fort Myers, Pine Island and Cape Coral. Operation BBQ Relief is distributing around 1,000 family-style meals on Sanibel Island on November 21, the Monday before Thanksgiving.
In the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, The Red Cross says there was still over 400 people staying in Red Cross and their partner shelters. The organization plans to serve special meals to those still in their care.
“This meal is being generously provided by a local restaurant, and we are grateful to help provide this touch of home for those who are unable to return home or spend the day with family,” writes Stephanie Fox with the American Red Cross.
With more rebuilding and cleanup ahead, communities reeling from Hurricane Ian still need help. You can contribute to the ongoing effort here.