Southwest Florida beaches are still recovering after Hurricane Ian, especially on the barrier islands.
On Sunday, Keep Lee County Beautiful is teaming up with Tunaskin and other local organizations for a beach cleanup on Fort Myers Beach. More than 300 people pre-registered to help, selling the event out.
Mike Judd and his wife saw the damage Ian left behind for the first time this week.
“I came across the bridge for the first time two days ago. We rode out the storm at our place, and I still get a little choked up.. even today, thinking about coming across the beach and seeing how devastated it is. Very sad,” Judd said.
Tunaskin is an aquatic apparel store based out of Fort Myers Beach and has worked alongside Keep Lee County Beautiful before.
Ben Duval is an events coordinator for Tunaskin, he spoke with WINK News about the event.
“We are part of the community. We try and do a lot of community outreach with all of our retail locations, specifically here in Fort Myers Beach, because this is where we started. This is where a lot of our employees live, this is where they have their families, and the feel of this community is just amazing and they are always willing to come out and support and help people out and this is just one example of it,” Duval said.
Pre-registered participants will receive a Tunaskin Performance event shirt, and clean-up supplies will be provided.
Mid-Island Watersports will also supply multiple support staff and vehicles with front-end loaders and flat-bed trailers to make recovery and trash pickup easier.
Volunteers met at Santini Plaza Sunday morning to check in, pick up supplies, and start cleaning up the south Fort Myers Beach area across from the plaza.
Linda Ennen was contributing and doing her part as one of the volunteers because of what the area means to her.
“Just to reconnect with our beach, you know, because that’s where we normally take our daily walks and go down to see the sunset. And you feel like it’s just a part of you, you know, it’s in your heart and that’s why we’re here. We want to bring her back to her beautiful glory,” Ennen said.
Tisha Bayne, the communications coordinator with Keep Lee County Beautiful, said they’re a volunteer-based organization that’s been around for more than 30 years. She said this might be many people’s first time seeing Fort Myers Beach in person since the storm.
“I think all of us have seen it on the news and, you know, on social media, so it is very different when you are actually down there, and you see it. So that is emotional, for sure. I think it was when we were doing this cleanup in this critical wildlife area. Which you know, that is emotional too because we want to be able to clean the area and get rid of all this trash and debris to help protect the wildlife, protect the environment, protect the mangroves,” said Bayne.
Bayne said volunteers with Keep Lee County Beautiful had done so many cleanups in the past that it’s hard to see the areas they’ve been cleaning for 30 years and what they look like now. She said a lot of work is ahead of them, but everyone is coming together.
“We’re just one piece of all these different organizations that are trying to clean it up. So, then we can welcome people back to the beach, the water is getting better, you know, the beach is getting better. I know it will. Eventually, all the beaches will be open officially to the public. And that’s what we want. I mean, I think that’s what all the residents and visitors want,” Bayne said.
Click here if you are interested in volunteering.