Five months after Ian, progress is being made in Harlem Heights

Reporter: Emma Heaton
Published: Updated:

Tuesday marks five months since Hurricane Ian hit Southwest Florida with full force, changing lives in the community forever.

The storm surge caused waters to rise and swallow thousands of homes.

The high winds caused some of the most devastating damage we’ve ever seen.

Parts of homes thrown around like rag dolls leaving islands like Sanibel in shambles.

Harlem Heights was devastated by Ian. Not the community is making slow progress toward rebuilding. (CREDIT: WINK News)

At the same time, people who live in places like Harlem Heights saw their homes torn to shreds.

Five months later, their homes are still a mess.

But even in a time when many did not know where to look, they found comfort in landmarks.

After Ian did its worst, the Sanibel Lighthouse was still standing, and on Tuesday morning, the light from the tower shined brightly once more.

In Harlem Heights, after a lot of work and an equal amount of patience, progress is finally being made, and one group is stepping up in a big way.

An organization has helped Angelo Rivera put a roof on his home. (CREDIT: WINK News)

“Even my grandkids said, grandpa, are we going to die in the storm? (I) said no, we got you,” said Angelo Rivera. “Don’t worry we’ll take care of you. Your father got you. Your uncle Gotcha. We’re gonna walk out the door.”

Rivera is one of Ian’s survivors.

After Ian, there was fear and sadness, he said.

Twelve days after the storm, Harlem Heights was in absolute devastation.

“If you take a shot of the family that standing over here with her. They need help they need to get out of here,” Barbara Vasquez said in October of 2022.

Five months later, the devastation persists, but it’s a tough bunch who told WINK News giving up or getting out is not an option.

Harlem Heights was devastated by Ian. Not the community is making slow progress toward rebuilding. (CREDIT: WINK News)

Volunteer-based organizations like Rebuilding Together have laid down roots in Harlem Heights.

They’re there to help rebuild homes and lives.

At a news conference on Tuesday, the Hope Depot Foundation and TD Bank announced a $300,000 donation that will go straight toward relief efforts for people like Angelo, who lost it all.

“We are just so committed to this neighborhood. We’re going to be here long term,” said Brandy Canada, of Rebuild Together.

So far, Rebuild Together has helped 30 homeowners replace the roofs on their holds.

Rivera’s was one of them.

“They came here in the right time to help,” Rivera said. “God bless.”

How to help:

If you are interested in volunteering in Harlem Heights, you can go to, or you can visit the Harlem Heights Foundation and ask to be placed on a team.

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