A few days after hurricane Ian destroyed Ft. Myers Beach I went on Facebook, found a bunch of Methodist Church pages in that area and left this message:
“I’m a member of Harvester Methodist in Land O Lakes, I have tools and a chainsaw, and I’d like to come down there and volunteer, please call me if you need help.”
This past Monday I got a call from Pastor Tim Carson, at Estero United Methodist church.
“We could use your help down here, do you have a place to stay?”
I replied “I can sleep on the floor of the church.”
Pastor Tim said “No need, I have a spare bedroom in my home, when can you get down here?”
“I’ll be there by tomorrow.”
Pastor Tim replied “Great, I’ll text you my address.”
This was my 2nd attempt to help down there, and I did NOT want to take up space at a hotel, especially when so many folks lost their homes.
Tuesday morning I loaded up my Volt and started South.
On the way I stopped at Tampa Bay Solar’s warehouse for the weekly sales meeting.
Took this pic of some of the cool dudes on our sales team:
On the three hour drive south to Ft. Myers I saw tons of relief equipment on trailers along rte 75, these are industrial size portable power generators:
I’m amazed at how rapidly Americans will mobilize in a disaster, especially here in Florida where deadly hurricanes are becoming more frequent…. this is the speed of business.
When I got there Pastor Tim sent me to a devasted neighborhood right off rte 41.
They had a 6 foot storm surge wash over this community, almost everything was ruined.
Volunteers from the church were helping people clean out their homes. It was a mess.
Chaos and trash, everywhere. These homes were flooded, many of these folks did not have flood insurance, so this storm will financially wipe out many folks in that area.
For most of Tuesday Pastor Tim sent me to homes that needed trees taken down, I ran my electric chainsaw until the battery died.
I finally met Tim Carson Tuesday night, his dog Riley liked me. That’s Tim in the background:
Pastor Mike Briggs from the Tavares Methodist church was also staying at Tim’s home.
I was up at 6AM, church members made eggs and bacon and we distributed free food in the community that was flooded out.
Estero Methodist has a wonderful volunteer team. This church gets it done, for sure.
While we were handing out breakfast I met a retired firefighter, and he told me he was removing all the flooded out drywall from his home. I offered to help, so most of my Wednesday morning was spent doing this. It was a mess.
Around noon on Wednesday the firefighter had several family members arrive to help out, so I moved on to my next assignment, a huge tree down in the backyard of a church member.
See the chainsaw in the pic? I placed it there to show the sheer scale of this tree.
I worked on that darn tree until the battery died on my chainsaw that night… I stopped at Lowes and bought 2 more batteries, and a 4mm file to sharpen the chainsaw chain.
Each battery is $150, but totally worth it.
With the extra chainsaw batteries I was fully provisioned for the next day….
That night I was asleep by 9PM.
Woke up in the middle of the night to find a guest in my bed…. Riley the dog! She’s a sweetheart.
Thursday morning I went back to the same tree and worked on it most of the day.
I drove home tired and sweaty, but glad that my work at Tampa Bay Solar gives me the freedom and income to volunteer.
I have too many selfish motives in doing stuff like this; it makes me happy at a profound level… these trips are a mix of adventure, hard work and they give me new material to write about.
In the last 20 years I’ve been a volunteer firefighter, put in water filters in Honduras, went to Ukraine this past April… and now I’ve got a hurricane story as well. Can we live our lives as an expression of love towards others? I guess that’s the ideal, I fall short of that on a daily basis.
At the end of your life… all you really have is your story.
Who did you love? Who did you help?
You meet some amazing people when you put yourself out there, I’m really grateful to meet Tim Martin and all the lovely folks at his church.
Methodists are good people.
My body and hands are sore from three days on a chainsaw, I’m sunburned a bit, but I’m glad I drove down.
October 8, 2022