Mexico Beach sends helping hands to SWFL communities hit hard by Ian

Reporter: Gail Levy Writer: Matthew Seaver
Published: Updated:

Something simple goes a long way in the hands of people working to recover and rebuild. The people on Mexico Beach felt hopeless after Hurricane Michael came to their shores, but a “special delivery” helped keep their spirits high.

Support can come in many forms outside of money and the workforce. It can also come from the mindset of knowing what we’re going through. More than four years after Hurricane Michael, Mexico Beach is visibly about halfway recovered.

Emotionally, they’re almost at the finish line, thanks to a helping hand that went a long way to healing a broken heart.

“I guess I don’t want to talk about this anymore,” said Mexico Beach Mayor Al Cathey, tearing up as she spoke.

Cathey didn’t want to talk about the damage Michael did to his town anymore. He didn’t want to remember walking down the broken streets. “I thought, ‘my God, how can three hours of anything do this kind of damage,'”

He did want to talk about how sometimes, after the worst damage, comes the best signs of support.

“It was roughly two weeks give or take a few days, and [a] package showed up on my steps,” said Cathey.

The package came with an unexpected return address.

“I said, ‘New York, postmarked New York,’ and I said, ‘hey, this somebody’s left something here by mistake,” Cathey said.

Mexico Beach’s helping hands sent from New York. (Credit: WINK News)

It was no mistake. It was these helping hands sent to heal a broken heart.

“The note is labeled loving hands, and they said they just want us to know in Mexico Beach that people in New York are reaching out to you with their hands and hope. You feel the love.”

The note came from a Christian arts organization. Even in New York, they knew about the devastation in little Mexico Beach.

“We all just cried. We all just said, ‘you gotta be kidding. I mean, New York?'” Cathey said.

That act of kindness struck a chord with Cathey. “It’s inspirational. And then when Ian hit, I told the ladies over here, the clerk and Julie, I said, ‘somebody that knows, where would you buy a piece of cloth?’ So they went, got two pieces, and I said, ‘let’s do this.'”

Helping hands from Mexico Beach. (Credit: Shared with WINK News)

Those two pieces of cloth were filled up with the hands of the people in Mexico Beach. Once there was no more room, they were shipped to Fort Myers Beach and Sanibel in a brown box.

“A few weeks ago, we got a very significant tapestry that was sent to us through the mail from Mexico Beach,” said Sanibel Mayor Holly Smith.

At one of Sanibels first council meetings back on the island, Mayor Smith shared that hand of support. “They are a testament of what can be done and what will be done, and we know with our community that we will shine that way as well.”

Helping hands from Mexico Beach sent to Sanibel. (Credit: Shared with WINK News)

“For them to send that tapestry was such an emotional moment when I opened that up and when our council members stood side by side in our council meeting and said thank you, for them to reach out and say we were you, we’re here for you, that’s the message that we know we’re going to carry forward as well,” said Smith.

“It just made us feel good doing it. It made us feel good when we sent it. And it made those folks feel good. We don’t have supplies or extra people or money, but we could do that,” said Cathey.

Mayor Cathey never knew who the artist was until one day, in his little fishing village, he saw a man getting out of what he called a ‘hippie van.’

Sure enough, this man was painting another piece of cloth similar to the one Mayor Cathey got, so he went up to the man and told him how he has one just like it. The man said, “I know, I made it.”

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