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Cleaning Up after Hurricane Ian

February 15, 2023
World Renew Disaster Response Services volunteers pray with Tracy outside her Florida home.
World Renew Disaster Response Services volunteers pray with Tracy outside her Florida home.
Photo: World Renew

Tracy* has experienced several hurricanes while living in Florida. She is used to boarding up windows, anchoring yard objects, and taking outdoor furniture indoors when a storm is expected. She keeps flashlights and batteries on hand for power outages, and she is careful to securely lock windows and doors. But these measures weren’t enough to prepare for the brunt of Hurricane Ian when it hit her community in late Sept. 2022.

With sustained winds of 150 mph, Ian came ashore on Sept. 23 and took more than 140 lives. The storm left behind $40 billion in damage, making it the deadliest and most damaging hurricane to hit Florida since 1935.

Tracy was living in Volusia County as her mother’s caregiver, and their home was flooded with more than two feet of water. Furniture, carpets, drywall, and other possessions were all destroyed. Already busy with her mother’s ongoing care, Tracy felt overwhelmed and unsure where to begin with recovering from the devastating effects of Hurricane Ian.

While media reports focused on hard-hit communities such as Fort Myers and Naples, Tracy and others in Volusia County were also in need. Because the county is on Florida’s eastern coast rather than on the Gulf side, she and other residents felt underresourced and overlooked.

So World Renew’s Disaster Response Services, in partnership with the Florida United Methodist Conference (FLUMC) Disaster Response, sent volunteers to Volusia County to help people such as Tracy.

The volunteers spent two weeks helping homeowners clear their homes and yards of debris and fallen trees, tarping roofs and then preparing for another tempest, Tropical Storm Nicole.

After checking to see if Tracy needed help, the World Renew volunteers cleared the entire house of ruined possessions. They filled two dumpsters with debris, and Tracy experienced relief in the progress toward restoring her home. They also helped Tracy plan next steps for her long-term recovery.

“I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the volunteers’ help after the hurricane! I could never have done this on my own. Thank you from the bottom of my heart,” she exclaimed.

In the six months since Hurricane Ian, World Renew has provided similar clean-up and debris-removal services in Volusia County in the cities of New Smyrna Beach, Daytona, Port Orange, and Deland.

“World Renew DRS has regional managers in Florida who have contacts with many government and nonprofit disaster response organizations throughout the state,” said Bob Laarman, director of World Renew’s Disaster Response Services. “They are working now and will continue to use these connections to establish clean-up, needs assessment, and rebuild responses to those who have been affected. The process can be long – months or years for some – but World Renew is committed to be the hands and feet of Christ to those in need for the long run.”

*last name withheld to protect privacy