Hurricane Ian plowed into the Ft. Myers, FL area at the end of September, the deadliest Hurricane to hit Florida since 1935. On making landfall, a significant fraction of the damage done by Ian was a 10-15 foot storm surge that submerged coastal houses, washed cars clean away, uprooted trees and washed out roadways.
On returning to the area, residents found near-complete destruction in many areas, with houses severely damaged or destroyed, belongings washed away or distributed across the entire neighborhood, with virtually no way to even get to your house unless you happen to own a D9 bulldozer or a hovercraft.
But this is where Kirstie and the volunteers that she and her team rallied to the cause come in, and where her boundless capacity for selfless volunteerism inspires me in ways I still struggle for English words to describe.
Here’s CBS Miami to give you a bit of an introduction:
Kirstie and her team were already organizing for this, more than a week before Ian made landfall. It was apparent that it was aiming for central Florida, given that she’s already been boots on the ground in over a dozen other disaster clean-up efforts, she was flat-out arranging supply lines, lining up volunteers, boarding up windows, and otherwise preparing for the hit of the storm, and for what comes after.
And since then – and for essentially the last month straight, she has been on the ground in Ft. Myers and the surrounding area, mucking out peoples’ back yards, chainsawing trees that had plowed into houses, clearing streets, bringing supplies and food, and most importantly, beating the drum to get volunteers down there to help out.
She’s had whole classrooms full of students there mucking out yards and cleaning up debris.
There’s so much that could be said about the heroism that so many have shown down there. But if there’s a thread that ties them together, it’s that feeling of personal responsibility that drives that manifestation of volunteerism that is so prevalent among Scientologists I know.
See, when some people see a disaster, there’s a tendency to run away from the confusion because it’s terrible and tough to confront. Folks like Kirstie, on the other hand, have already decided that handling that confusion is their job, and provide a real-life demonstration of the motto espoused by all Volunteer Ministers: SOMETHING CAN BE DONE ABOUT IT.
Kirstie has now been on the ground doing response & clean-up in the aftermath of over 20 different disasters. Since the last time I wrote about her work with the Volunteer Ministers corps, she’s additionally spent weeks dealing with the hellish aftermath of Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas, was covered in soot dealing with the destruction from of the eruption of the La Soufrière volcano in St. Vincent, among others.
All this while also being a mom to two amazing kids who (unsurprisingly) have also picked up that volunteering spirit.
Her kids accompanied her to Ft. Myers last week to help pitch in. As this was their first time in a proper disaster area, her boy whispered in her ear an hour or so after getting there:
“I understand what you do better mommy and I see why you do it, these people needs loooots of help.”
So often in this spectator age of internet doomscrolling and political mudslinging, one can lose sight of those folks who are getting busy, getting effective, and are out there pitching.
Like Fred Rogers famously said:
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
There is still a lot of work to be done in Ft. Myers, so if you’d like to volunteer your time in any way, please contact the Volunteer Ministers coordinator at (727) 467-6965.