Emotions ran high on Friday as Florida’s first lady Casey DeSantis was in Fort Myers helping those who lost everything during Hurricane Ian.
Christopher Moore spends each day helping others.
“We are not accustomed to taking, asking for help,” Moore said.
When Ian left Cape Coral in shambles, the fire battalion chief and his crews never stopped working, sleeping on cots helping families, putting out fires, and rescuing animals.
“I worked, I believe, almost seven days straight to allow other personnel to, after two or three days to get home to their families, check on their children, their wife,” Moore said.
But back at home, Moore’s reality was just as bad.
“I may be displaced for a year or two years,” he said. “I recall trying to fix some of my work boots. I kind of shocked at how the floodwaters affected things. I was trying to glue shoes back together, they didn’t work.”
He needed help himself.
“It’s very emotional for me,” Moore said. “We’re supposed to be the strong, strong individuals. We’re supposed to be there with all the answers, and we are used to making things better for other people. And for us, it, I’m gonna say, was somewhat easier to continue working helping other people than to face reality and deal with my own loss.”
Now, Moore has new clothes, new shoes, and a car that works again.
On Friday morning, he stood on stage with DeSantis in Lee County and thanked her for helping him with a donation through the Florida Disaster Fund.
Moore told his story, as did a teacher, a foster mom, and volunteers.
DeSantis presented a $427,500 check to Adventist Community Services.
They will use the money to continue filling a warehouse with even more supplies for people in need.
The last few months have been anything but normal For Jenn Downes and her family. Ian destroyed their North Fort Myers home and everything they owned. They moved in with family and haven’t been home since.
“We pretty much put our house at the curb. And then, you know, its time had passed a little bit. And my 7-year-old had mentioned, you know, where are we going to have thanksgiving? How is Santa going to know where we are for Christmas,” said Downes.
When Downes realized she might not be able to give her children any presents, her heart broke.
“That was hard. Because they had just been all of their toys’ sticker sheets, it was hard. You know, it’s one thing to give gifts. But it’s one thing for a kid to expect, you know, the joy of Christmas from Santa and not knowing if that was going to happen after they had just lost everything,” Downes said.
Downes and her family did have Christmas, and there were plenty of laughs and smiles. How? “The funding from the Florida Disaster Fund trickled down through Better Together, who we foster through, and then they were able to bless us with money that we were able to give our kids a really good Christmas.”
Friday morning, Downes stood on stage with First Lady Casey DeSantis and, with tears in her eyes, thanked her for the work she had done to raise money for the hurricane victims.
DeSantis announced awards of more than $2.1 million through the Florida Disaster Fund to organizations that are helping impacted Floridians recover from the hurricane.
Congressman Byron Donalds talked about that need for help on Friday.
Donalds said he is proud of the Florida Disaster Fund and the fast response the state has taken to getting people help.
He thinks FEMA needs to take a page out of Florida’s book. He said he is concerned about their lack of urgency and the regulations that prevent people from getting help, especially trailers.
“But now’s the time for us to push back on FEMA. You got to cut the red tape and get and ignore the regulation because the regulation is basically put out there as a basis of, ‘OK, here’s what we’re going to do what we’re not going to do,’ but regulation should not stop you from meeting the needs of people. They are the federal emergency management agency; that is their job,” Donalds said.
The congressman said he has been in contact with the chairman of the homeland security committee to talk about the issue and push FEMA to make changes.
WINK News reached out to FEMA for a response but didn’t hear back.