Disaster Relief - 013310 International Crisis Response

Volunteers rush to aid Florida homeowners in Irma’s wake

UPDATE: Samaritan’s Purse has now deployed to hard-hit Key West. 

The large poinciana tree that Hurricane Irma toppled onto Marta Moriarty’s front yard in Naples, Florida, had long been a problem. Her husband Tom had waged a long struggle against its unruly growth before he lost his personal fight with cancer just over a year ago.

The large tree was one of many sprawled across Marta’s property when she returned to her neighborhood after the hurricane. “This is just overwhelming. Every time I saw this tree I felt so small. It would have taken me a year to do this,” she said.

Marta was truly thankful that tree became one of the first trees Samaritan’s Purse Disaster Relief teams cut up and moved during our Irma response.

Our teams are on the ground in and around Naples and Fort Myers operating from two Samaritan’s Purse-Canada disaster relief units. Billy Graham Rapid Response Team chaplains are joining volunteer crews to provide spiritual comfort and prayer and to clearly communicate the Gospel of Jesus Christ to many hurting people. While waters recede, our volunteers are tarping damaged roofs and clearing trees and debris from yards.

Our bases are First Baptist Church, Naples, and McGregor Baptist Church in Fort Myers.

Help Arrives in Time of Need

Marta said she and her 14-year-old daughter Kasey cleaned up as much as they could but that the large fallen trees seemed impossible.

“The [poincianas] are beautiful but this one my husband tried to get rid of,” Marta said. “Then he got sick and didn’t pay attention to it. My daughter said ‘how could you let the tree get so big?’ But I didn’t even notice that my tree was that big and I didn’t even notice that my hedge had grown to fifteen feet.

Within a matter of hours volunteers had used chainsaws to cut up several trees in her yard and had moved the pieces to the road. Volunteer Site Team Leader Tommy Smith skillfully carved a cross into the troublesome poinciana tree’s remaining stump.

“I’m just a tired logger from Virginia, and I’m ready to go wherever God calls me,” Tommy said. “I’m here to bless and that’s the blessing. The only reason I do it is to bring Him glory and to plant seeds and water them and who knows what the Lord Jesus is going to do with that. I trust him in that.”

“Thank you is not enough.”-Marta Moriarty

Marta called the volunteer team “angels.”

“It’s just overwhelming that they would leave their own families to do this for somebody else,” she said. “‘Thank you’ is such a small word. Thank you is not enough.”

Bringing in the Heavy Equipment

Neighborhoods, like Bonita Springs in Naples, are still under water from the flooding of nearby rivers. Damaged roofs, flooded homes, and tree-covered yards are a common sight now.

As needs continue to emerge from this region, local businesses have partnered with Samaritan’s Purse to help remove trees too large for our volunteer teams.

“We had all this equipment that was just going to sit around in a community where there were still a lot of people who still had a lot of need. It just kind of weighed on me that all this equipment could be helping people,” said Brandon Duke, President of Juniper Landscaping.

The company donated heavy equipment and manpower to help us remove downed trees and debris from neighborhoods.

“We partnered with a couple of churches and with Samaritan’s Purse and we put an announcement on Facebook and here we are,” Duke said. “We grew up here and we’re going to do what we can to help our community.”

Volunteers Working Hard

Frank Whitney was helping in Lehigh, Florida, where Renee Glaser’s yard and roof were littered with palm trees and oak limbs. An 80-year-old retired engineering professor, Whitney has weathered every Florida hurricane since 1971.

He says he’s also been supporting Samaritan’s Purse since its beginning, and this was his first time serving with us.

“I’m out here to help others and to help give them hope,” Whitney said. “I’ll still be doing this until I’m 106 if I can.”

Kaitlyn Zartmann, 16, was at the same house with her grandmother Jody, hauling freshly cut limbs from an oak tree.

“When we come out here to help them it shows them that they are not stuck—that there’s still someone here to help you. So, it just feels good to come out and show somebody you don’t have to do it by yourself,” Kaitlyn said. “We are here and God’s here to help you.”

Millions are still without power in many parts of southern Florida. Samaritan’s Purse is also assessing needs and opportunities in the Keys. Multiple airlifts by our DC-8 plane have carried food, blankets, shelter materials, hygiene kits, and water purification units for thousands of families in Caribbean communities devastated by Irma.

Please pray for the many hurting people who need physical relief, and ask that they also experience the hope and true healing found only in Jesus Christ. Please continue to lift up our teams in Florida, Texas, and Caribbean as they respond to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

Disaster Relief - 013310 International Crisis Response

Samaritan's Purse responds to humanitarian crises with physical aid and a message of spiritual hope for victims of natural disasters, famine, poverty, and war. Your gift will allow us to share Jesus' love through clean water, food, shelter, medical supplies, personnel, and other aid.