On Sunday, Fort Myers Brewing Company hosted a celebration of beer and music to help out local musicians who lost everything during Hurricane Ian.
The brewery brought in several live acts for the day, and people swarmed in to donate and support. The musicians who perform at Fort Myers Brewing Company are staples in the community just as much as the brewery itself.
“Right after Ian, one of our longtime regular customers approached us about doing a benefit for musicians, and we knew that that would be really important,” said co-founder Jen Whyte. “All of these musicians, not only have they lost some of their homes and belongings, but they’ve also lost a lot of gigs.”
That long-time customer was Kelly Hettenbaugh.
“Just being able to support the artists as well as being a part of this scene, it just… it’s a small thing that I… you know, whatever I can do to help, and everybody has stepped up,” Hettenbaugh said. “It’s been amazing to see the support.”
“The hurricane was a life-changer for a lot of people, me included,” said local musician Gator Nate.
Nate has been playing at Fort Myers Brewing Company since it opened.
“Means everything if people like Fort Myers Brewing Company would want us out, I’ll be happy to help support.,” Nate said. “Not only the financial burden, but the emotional burden is starting to take its toll. And it’s really nice to have people come out here and smile and pat you on the back and tell you you’re doing a good job; that makes you feel good. Going through a lot, and it’s just really nice to have people out here.”
He lost everything, but his spirits remain high. Artists like Nate and the customers who came out to show support are grateful for this act of communal kindness.
“We’ve pretty much lost all of our belongings in the house,” Nate said. “But they’re all replaceable. Life is not replaceable. And we’re just very fortunate that we’re all safe.”
“It says, ‘We want you,’ you know; to me, it says that the community wants us to stay here,” said musician Claire Liparulo. “And they’re going to make room for us to be here in spite of the great losses that we’ve faced over the last few weeks.”
“To see people that are, like, actively giving back to the community and trying to take care of people that are going through something… it’s just impactful,” said patron Jobe.