Lee County family finds solace in faith for post-Ian Christmas without home

Reporter: Michelle Alvarez Writer: Joey Pellegrino

A Lee County family of five living in a shed after Hurricane Ian won’t be spending the holidays at home, because that home is uninhabitable. But they haven’t lost their Christmas spirit.

It’s been almost three months since Ian ravaged Southwest Florida, and many communities are still trying to rebuild, including the Unique Circle neighborhood near San Carlos Park. But many families wish for nothing more than to be able to spend Christmas at home.

WINK News met Maria Negrete one month after Ian. She lost almost everything after the storm except her faith. Her family sees reminders of Ian everywhere in Unique Circle.

When Negrete first heard the storm was coming our way, she prayed.

“Everything looked normal, but we didn’t know what was coming,” Negrete said. “I trust in God and have a lot of faith, and I always had a lot of faith that nothing was going to happen.”

Still, her family decided to leave. They packed up some things and left the rest behind, praying Ian would change its course.

“When we were in the church, we received a video from a friend where there was a lot of water,” Negrete said. “And I thought, ‘This can’t be true.'”

The day after the storm, Maria Negrete returned to her home not knowing what she would find.

“Since my trailer is up high, I was hoping the water wouldn’t go up,” Negrete said. “Everything outside was gone, but I had hope that the water was not going to go inside.”

She had no such luck.

“Everything… everything is gone,” Negrete said. “But, when I stepped inside, I said, ‘God, thank you, because you left me on my feet.'”

Maria Negrete, her husband and their three children now live in a shed outside their home while they rebuild. Even though they lost almost everything, they still have their faith and their love for each other.

“There was nothing we could do,” Negrete said. “We hugged each other, and I said, ‘God, you allowed it to be this way, so let your will be done… and I know what is coming will be better.'”

The Negrete family plans to spend Christmas in a manner as close to ordinary as possible, given the circumstances.

“Whatever we’re able to do… a normal dinner, if you can even say that,” Negrete said. “But the most important thing is spending it with family, because you also can’t lose the Christmas spirit, not because of this. I think we will celebrate for my children. We do it for them and will try to make it a beautiful day for them.”

Copyright ©2023 Fort Myers Broadcasting. All rights reserved.

This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without prior written consent.