Safe And Sound: A Hurricane Irma Disaster Recovery Story
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Ms. Lori Gerrard thought she had nowhere to turn after Hurricane Irma left her home battered and unsafe. But a timely connection with Endeavors turned her home — and her life — around.
A Historic Disaster
In 2017, Hurricane Irma made history as the most powerful Atlantic hurricane on record, topping the charts with 185 mph winds for 37 hours. Coastal storm surges hit 20 feet above the normal tide levels, and 6.5 million Floridians were ordered to evacuate. In the end, Irma left Florida with over $50 billion in damages.
Fortunately, Endeavors Florida set up headquarters in Orlando through a grant program and deployed a team of Disaster Case Managers to assist individuals and families impacted by Irma. Our team partnered with other organizations to help locals rebuild their homes, lives, and dignity. By the time our grant timeline ended, our team had assisted nearly 2,000 individuals and provided outreach and information to 37,000 more.
A Neighbor In Need
One of the thousands impacted by Irma was Ms. Lori Gerrard of Bradford County in Northeast Florida. Hurricane Irma left substantial damage to Ms. Gerrard’s home, causing her roof to leak so much that her home became a maze of pots and buckets positioned on the floors to catch the incoming water. “I’d gone almost two years with my house leaking all over and didn’t know what to do,” she recalls.
Having lost her husband, a Vietnam Veteran, to cancer in 2007, Ms. Gerrard lived on an extremely fixed income and couldn’t afford any repairs beyond band-aiding the roof with tarps that the wind just kept blowing away. Rodents, bugs, and snakes would sneak through the holes in her roof to seek refuge from the outside. It was a living nightmare.
Fortunately, Ms. Gerrard discovered Endeavors from a letter our team had sent out to the community earlier in the year. The letter explained our services and invited anyone in need to contact our office.
By the time Ms. Gerrard reached out, our program was wrapping up its grant work and was preparing to demobilize. But one thing Endeavors employees pride themselves on is a commitment to helping those in need. So, instead of telling Ms. Gerrard, we couldn’t help her, we became determined to find a way.
As a client, Ms. Gerrard found Endeavors’ disaster recovery process very smooth, and her stress levels immediately decreased. “It was very easy,” Ms. Gerrard says of the Disaster Case Management process, which began with a home visit by an Endeavors DCM. Ms. Gerrard recalls, “I showed her the hurricane damage and the bit FEMA had been able to do. She worked with me and got all my info, took pictures, talked me through the next steps, and a few weeks later, she gave me a call and said some people would come out to start the estimation process.”
Because the DCM program was demobilizing while Endeavors was working on Ms. Gerrard’s case, resources were extremely thin. Not only that, but Ms. Gerrard’s home was a six-hour round trip from the Endeavors Florida headquarters. But the team wasn’t about to let distance get in the way of helping someone in need, recalls Emergency Services Program Manager Jorge Morales-Lopez. “Client recovery is always the top priority for the team,” he says, even if it takes six hours in a car.”
A Home (And A Life) Restored
Despite the case’s challenges, DCM assigned to Ms. Gerrard worked ceaselessly to find a partner organization to assist with the roof repair, and our team was thrilled when The Salvation Army was able to help! The Salvation Army and Endeavors Florida had worked side-by-side many times during Hurricane Irma recovery, and together we processed 157 cases, totaling $1.4 million in-home repairs.
Over the next few months, our team coordinated with estimators, contractors, and other nonprofits. Before Christmas of 2019, Ms. Gerrard had a brand new roof! A few months after that, she had brand new ceiling tiles, and today her house is 100% leak-free. She can sleep soundly, knowing that she is safe from water, wind, and pests.
“I’m just tickled pink,” Ms. Gerrard tells us from her home, several months after the repairs were completed. “I’m so so grateful. I was giving up, and Endeavors helped me when nobody else would.”
Though Endeavors is no longer offering disaster case management for Hurricane Irma, our team continues to maintain a presence in Orlando, providing referrals to those still feeling the impacts of the hurricane. We encourage any Floridians in need of recovery assistance to contact our office at 336-285-2894 or [email protected], where our team will be happy to connect you with recovery resources.
Endeavors is a longstanding national non-profit that provides an array of programs and services in support of children, families, Veterans, natural disaster victims, and those struggling with mental illness and other disabilities. Endeavors serves vulnerable people in crisis through innovative personalized services and Emergency Services/Disaster Response. For more information on our Disaster Case Management services, please visit www.endeavors.org.