Field report: Day 12 without power

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As I sit down to write this email, it’s hard to know where to start. I’m tired and not even sure what day it is—the days are blending into each other. The aftermath of Hurricane Ian is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. In a matter of hours, life as Floridians knew it, our roads, bridges, cars, homes, boats, offices, they just… washed away.

Lives have been lost; thousands are still without power. This was a massive storm, and government has done a great job focusing its efforts on search-and-rescue, rebuilding bridges, and responding to immediate emergencies.

Even so, there are many vulnerable families who feel left behind. Our volunteers are working relentlessly to make sure that doesn’t happen. We are filling in the gap.

This week, we helped more than 1,000 people across Southwest Florida, including more than 200 families in North Fort Myers’ Suncoast Estates, one of the largest mobile home communities in the country. The storm left most homes destroyed or uninhabitable. These families work hard, and they barely made ends meet before the storm. The costs of starting over, alone without friends or family to help, are unthinkable.

But they won’t be alone any longer. Our volunteers are walking with these families every step of the way. Families like Jacqueline’s, who is living in a brutally storm-damaged mobile home with her daughter and three grandchildren, Kat, 5, Nellie, 4, and Chloe, 8 months. There are holes in the walls of the trailer with mold growing up them, no power, no AC, no cellphone service.

Jacqueline lives in a brutally storm-damaged mobile home with her daughter and three grandchildren, Kat, 5, Nellie, 4, and Chloe, 8 months.

On our first visit to their home, all three children looked like they had chickenpox, but the spots were from mosquitoes feasting on them at night. We brought apples and the children ate them up like candy. Many families haven’t eaten in days because they don’t have the means to travel to a disaster relief distribution center. They are stranded, forgotten.

Many told us Better Together was the first to drive down their streets offering help. “We’re here for you. What do you need?”

Even if Jacqueline’s family could somehow get to a relief distribution center, it wouldn’t have most of the things she needs right now. It doesn’t offer bug spray, or child care, or help with tarping up their home before the next rain.

That is what Better Together is offering families—solutions to their problems. We made it our mission to go door-to-door, contacting every household possible to learn what each individual family needs. We promised to come back, and we did.

We returned with mosquito netting, ointments, bug spray, cough syrup, thermometers, pull-ups, stuffed animals and dolls, sheets, toddler beds, first-aid kits, shoes, car seats, Pack ’n Plays, bicycles, food, water, clothing, and more.

Their gratitude brought us to tears. “You came back,” Jacqueline said. She couldn’t believe it.

Better Together staff and volunteers bring food, water and supplies to Jacqueline’s family and others in Suncoast Estates on Thursday, October 6.
Jacqueline’s grandchildren hug Better Together CEO Megan Rose as staff and volunteers bring food, water and supplies to Suncoast Estates on Thursday, October 6.

The Crocs fit perfectly. Elsa and Anna were hugged tightly. Mosquito bites were soothed with ointment and band-aids. Food, water and clothes were shared. Help for home repairs is on the way… As Rose left to help other families, Katherine and Nellie hugged her tightly. In hopeful voices they said, “thank you.”
– Kinfay Moroti

This is the power of connecting helpers to the hurting at the local and relational level. While a drive-by distribution center is helpful for some, I think we are really missing an opportunity to be more relational with our neighbors. The families we are meeting don’t only need supplies. They need hugs, and someone to listen and pray for them. They need someone to show up to their door and say, “We see you and we are here to help as best as we can.”

And we are not dropping off supplies and calling it a day. Our volunteers are staying in touch, earning the trust of families in areas of high need who were already hurting. We will continue to be there for them long after the hurricane recovery is over.

There are so many people doing God’s work right now. We have been helping to coordinate efforts between all the different players on the ground, from churches to state government, and their generosity and determination has made my heart sing. We are grateful for all our church partners, from North Carolina to Ocala, who have been collecting donated items and driving them down to us.

I’m also thankful for the Department of Children and Families Secretary, Shevaun Harris, who I called directly about the critical condition of Suncoast Estates. Within 24 hours, she showed up herself to the neighborhood with 10 pallets of formula, baby food, sippy cups, and diapers, and she walked the streets with us to meet and help families.

Florida Department of Children and Families Secretary Shevaun Harris visits Suncoast Estates with Better Together staff and volunteers Thursday, October 6.

This is what Better Together was made to do, and this is where we will be in the days and weeks to come—making sure no child, no family, no community is forgotten.

We are focusing on Suncoast Estates, Harlem Heights, Pine Island, and a few other neighborhoods that are not getting the help they desperately need. We are providing first responders with child care, “adopting” families with children who need help but won’t be asking for it, like the single mom who is working overtime as a nurse, has small children, a damaged home, and is barely keeping it together.

We’re also supporting our elderly neighbors who are lonely, scared, and overwhelmed—they need us as well. We are working to secure funds and help repair small churches, like Suncoast First Baptist Church, which has storm damage but no money to pay its bills. Amid their own struggles, this congregation has been generous in letting our team use their facility, and their hospitality has brought our programs to life in that community.

While we’re doubling down here in Southwest Florida, we are still serving families in Tampa and Jacksonville, and all our existing areas of operation. Our jobs ministry continues to grow, and we have job fairs coming up across the country, including a training of seven churches in Kansas City.

For all those who have donated time and treasure, from the bottom of our hearts, thank you. You make all of this possible. We couldn’t do this without your generous donations. We have set up a disaster relief fund to help as many people as we can, and 100% goes to meeting the needs of families in Southwest Florida.

If you want to help Suncoast Estates:
We’re looking for over 250 volunteers to help this community on Tuesday, Oct. 11. A donor from Tampa is bringing $20,000 in supplies. Other donations are pouring in from near and far. We need help knocking on doors and getting these supplies to residents.

Volunteers will work in two shifts, one from 9 a.m. to noon, another from 1 to 4 p.m. We will provide lunch. Meet us in the parking lot of Suncoast First Baptist Church, 2033 Laurel Lane, North Fort Myers, FL 33917. Bring your team, bring your kids, all are welcome.

If you want to attend or volunteer at a job fair:
Thousands of people lost jobs overnight after the hurricane. On Thursday, Oct. 13, there will be a Hurricane Relief Job Fair at Christ Community Church from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. If you are in need of work during this time, we would love for you to join us. To RSVP, text “JOBS” to 844-987-3949 or visit bettertogetherus.org/events/ian-jobfair. The event address is: 4050 Colonial Blvd., Fort Myers, FL 33966.

In all this heartbreak and devastation, we see the incredible compassion and love of so many people across Southwest Florida. In our darkest moments, we can find God’s light in all of us. We will get through this together.

In hope and gratitude,

Megan Rose

 

Posted Monday, October 10, 2022

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Cammara OvertonBetter Together Team

Cammara Overton
Collier County Family Care Coordniator

Cammara worked in the international nonprofit sector and served as a missionary overseas for 10 years before joining Better Together as the Collier County Family Care Coordinator. She earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work from Florida Gulf Coast University. She has a heart for building relationships and serving women, children and their families and sharing the hope and love of Jesus Christ with everyone she meets. Cammara is passionate about coming alongside those seeking life change and helping them achieve all that they desire to do for themselves and their families. Cammara is very excited to be a part of the Better Together family by providing recourses and extending love and compassion to families in crisis.

Cammara and her husband, Dan, enjoy spending time playing volleyball and hanging out with friends and their Italian pup, Harley. They both have a passion for serving the Lord and being the hands and feet of Jesus in their community.

Jennifer MoffittBetter Together Team

Jennifer Moffitt
Tampa Bay Region Home Study Specialist

Originally from Massachusetts, Jenn moved to Florida in 1993 to be closer to her parents, who had left the snow behind the year before. In 1996, she graduated from the University of South Florida with a bachelor’s degree in social work.

Jenn started her career working in private adoptions as a birth parent worker. After two years she was drawn to child welfare. For the next 19 years, she worked as a child protection investigator for the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office. In 2019 she began working for the Office of the State Attorney, 6th Judicial Circuit, as a child abuse specialist. She assisted prosecutors with interviewing child victims of abuse and neglect and served as a liaison with the Department of Children and Families and their local community providers.

Jenn and her husband, Shawn, were married on Christmas Day in 1999, and they have two boys, ages 12 and 20. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with family and friends, shopping, taking day trips, visiting the beach, and vacationing in the mountains of North Carolina.

Katie MalloyBetter Together Team

Katie Malloy
Northeast Region Home Study Specialist

Katie was born and raised in Jacksonville, Florida, and attended the University of Mississippi, where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Katie has been working with children and families in the foster care system in Duval County since 2015. Her passion is advocating for children in care and helping build strong and healthy families. During Katie’s childhood, her church community was a great support system for her and her family. She’s a firm believer that the more people who love a child, the better.

Ruth DavidsonBetter Together Team

Ruth Davidson
Southwest Florida Church Engagement Director

Ruth has a passion for serving others. She believes strongly in giving back to the community and paying it forward. She loves to share her personal story of how, with God’s help, she was able to overcome past hurdles. Growing up in rural Kentucky in a large family that faced many struggles, she knows firsthand how God’s love can heal and restore broken families. She has the gift of hospitality and enjoys communicating with others with the hope that she is never meeting strangers, only making friends.

Ruth comes to Better Together with over eight years of ministry experience. After moving to Fort Myers from Fort Lauderdale in 2016, she served as an outreach coordinator for a nonprofit faith-based recovery program for more than five years. She was also an administrative assistant to her directors, scheduling events and successfully developing and establishing relationships with several businesses and churches in Southwest Florida. She has a relaxed way of making others feel comfortable, possessing a servant’s heart and loves outreach and missions.

Ruth currently resides in Naples and enjoys traveling, dining out, cooking, entertaining and serving in her community. She has two grown children, Martin and Annie, and one grandson, Drew, who loves to visit with his Nana.

Amanda ColafrancescoBetter Together Team

Amanda Colafrancesco
Sarasota/Manatee Home Study Specialist

Amanda was born and raised in Rhode Island and moved to Florida in 2016. She earned her Bachelor of Arts and Master of Science degrees in administration of justice from Salve Regina University. Upon graduation, she began a career in child welfare, specifically toward a goal of preventing children from entering the foster care system. Amanda brings diverse experiences in serving children and families in their home environments to her work with Better Together as a home study specialist. She is also a certified child welfare protective investigator through the Florida Certification Board and has over six years of child welfare experience. In her spare time, Amanda enjoys visiting with family and friends.

Better Together Team

Yohana Resto
Southwest Florida Executive Director

Yohana brings to Better Together 15 years of experience working in child welfare. She has served in various roles, including case manager, clinical services specialist, relative search specialist, foster family recruiter, and most recently a role conducting comprehensive assessments for children in foster care or relative care. Yohana has a heart and passion for serving children and families, and she brings to the organization a wide breadth of knowledge and experience. A graduate of Southeastern University and Nova Southeastern University with a bachelor’s in psychology and Master of Science in counseling, Yohana has a caring and compassionate heart to support families in need.

Yohana loves spending time with her husband, Miguel, and their four children—Isabela, Natalia, Jaxon and Jayden. You can frequently find them at a soccer game, as their girls enjoy playing competitive travel soccer. Yohana credits her relationship with God and personal salvation as the motivating force behind her desire to continue to serve her community.

Dawson JordonBetter Together Team

Dawson Jordan
Creative Director

Dawson is an exciting addition to the Better Together Team. Since graduating college in 2015 from Florida Gulf Coast University with his bachelor’s degree in Business Management he has managed to create a successful career for himself as a self-employed freelance videographer/photographer. He has recently relocated back to his hometown in SWFL and is excited to join the team as the Creative Director to help us tell the Better Together story. Dawson is passionate about telling stories through a creative lens, especially when it comes to seeing families stay together and for individuals to thrive and become the best version of themselves. When Dawson is not in the office he likes to hang out with his friends, workout, and watch sports.