“There is always a little bit of heaven in a disaster area,” quoth Hugh Romney, aka Wavy Gravy, to the crowd at Woodstock in 1969.
There was little about Hurricane Irma that felt like heaven, but there were certainly some moments of sunshine amidst the gloom. Here are a few.
Paying it forward
Jeanine Colavecchi and her family planned to sit out Irma at their home in Parrish. Then they got nervous about the storm’s track and lit out for Jacksonville. They got there and couldn’t find a hotel room. They posted a plea on an Irma-related Facebook page, and a complete stranger offered them room at a house she owned in Jacksonville where her son was staying. They were nervous about accepting, but it turned out to be a wonderful relief.
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When Colavecchi returned home, she found her power on and her house intact. She decided she had to keep the good vibes going. She used the same Facebook page to connect with a home health care nurse named Natasha Allan who was in need of ice for an elderly patient. She brought ice to Allan. Allan just happened to have a small farm, so she gave Colavecchi some fresh eggs.
Colavecchi then went to Sam’s Club on Thursday and bought a whole lot of food. She offered, through Facebook, to cook a meal (meatloaf, mashed potatoes, corn and a dinner roll) and posted on Facebook that she would deliver a hot meal to anyone in the area who was without power. She delivered 25 meals on Friday, and figured she’ll deliver more on Saturday.
“People are saying, ‘Give it to my neighbor. They have kids and they need it more than I do,’” Colavecchi said. “Humanity has been restored.”
Anyone who is without power and would like one of Colavecchi’s home-cooked meals can send her a message through her post on the Hurricane Irma (Manatee & Sarasota) page on Facebook.
Humanity has been restored.
Teamwork leads to quick cleanup
After Jay Gosnell, a Manatee County firefighter who lives in the Warner’s Bayou neighborhood of Bradenton, got off duty after the storm, he got his chainsaw and went around to all his neighbors’ houses and asked if they needed anything cut. He knew some of the neighbors, but not all of them. There were trees down and others were badly damaged around the neighborhood. He cut trees and branches into manageable pieces and stacked them.
That left a lot of wood lying around the neighborhood. E.T. MacKenzie Co., a Bradenton construction company, took care of that. The company sent a crew, working on company time, to neighborhoods around the Bradenton area to clean up stuff. Ian Schneider, works for MacKenzie company and lives in Warner’s Bayou, helped the crew working in his area. “It’s a pretty great company to work for, when they do stuff like this,” Schneider said.
Besides getting the branches and other detritus off the streets and lawns quickly, the firefighter and the executive helped bring the neighborhood closer. “Our neighborhood got cleaned up so fast,” said resident Toni Jefferies. “We all got to know each other a lot better because of the storm.”
The neighborhood was in pristine condition even while most residents were still without electricity. “We’ve got no power, but we look good,” Schneider quipped.
A lot of Manatee County residents took refuge from Irma in public school buildings. It couldn’t have been a pleasant experience for any of them, but it was made a little warmer by messages that some students and teachers left for the temporary residents.
“Welcome to our room! We are glad you are safe! #FloridaStrong” reads a sign posted in a class at Miller Elementary School, and signed by students.
We all got to know each other a lot better because storm.
Some evacuees left messages for the students and teachers whose rooms they were using during the storm.
“Dear Mr. Ross and class of 2018,” read one note on a whiteboard at Lakewood Ranch High School. “Thank you for letting us take refuge from Hurricane Irma. We are very grateful to have been able to stay for the night and hope we left it somewhat how we found it. Let us know, if there is anything we can help you with.”
“Thank you Ms. Mason,” read another note. “All 15 of us are so thankful of you and your class to weather the storm!! We survived Irma.” It is signed by a group of people, including “Sophia H., age 8” and decorated with a multi-colored flower with the word “thank you” written in the center.
Local community theaters were both the givers and receivers of Irma-related aid and comfort.
Manatee Performing Arts Center became a home-away-from-home for staff members and volunteers, about two dozen of them, who used the center’s showers and WiFi while their home power was out. They recharged their cell phones and just enjoyed the air-conditioning.
The Players Centre for Performing Arts in Sarasota suffered some interior and exterior damage during the storm. Unfortunately, the floor surface of the mainstage was flooded. Players officials and supporters spread a plea for help through social media. About 15 to 20 people showed up on Tuesday, and a similar number on Wednesday, to pull up the damaged floor, cut wood for the new floor and replace it. Among the volunteers were performers who had worked at the theater, former students from the center, and staffers from the Venice Theatre who brought their own volunteers along. The new floor looks even better than the old one, according to Players production manager Alyssa Goudy.
Lots of people who lost power but wanted a hot meal after several days of dining on Irma snacks stopped by Southern Steer Butcher in Sarasota, where they were treated to beef dinners.
Southern Steer went out of its way to serve meals to first responders and electrical workers, but they were feeding anyone from the community who was in need. Managing partner Shay Black said he gave away 40-50 pounds of beef on Wednesday and a similar amount on Thursday. He was hoping to give away about 100 pounds on Friday.
“We’re still without power, so we thought that rather than just standing around doing nothing we would do something for the community,” Black said.