Many of you have heard of the Hurricane Ian hardships in Naples and all of Southwest Florida. Thank you so much for your calls, knowing that my daughter Catherine lives there. Many of you have asked how you can contribute to helping Catherine get back on her feet.
I so appreciate you! A very special one of you gave me the idea to start this opportunity for her.
The picture of the heart in the header is reminiscent of Catherine's love for "found hearts" as a symbol of God's love. She retrieved this heart from the wreckage. If you click on the right arrow in the headline photo, you can witness the flood waters and the demoralizing piles of trash, once her home.
Many of her local friends willingly helped clear her ruined furnishings from the flooded house. It took them nearly a week to sort what could be salvaged and to move the rest to the curb, creating one big trash pile. (So grateful!) The mold and mildew were already beginning to take over. Heart-wrenching but necessary; she couldn't have done it without them.
Her friends Michelle and Ryan not only generously helped her through that process but also offered their home as a place to sleep and recover. Their teenage daughter, Ivy, gave up her room for many days. Our profound thanks for being there for her when I could not.
Here is a snapshot description of Catherine in case you haven't met her personally:
Catherine is my empathetic, thoughtful, creative, and generous daughter. She makes herself available whenever someone needs help, and frequently surprises others with encouraging cards and gifts. To her, it is essential that each person (and pet) in her life feels loved and appreciated.
Catherine is a special education teacher at Herbert Cambridge Elementary School in Naples. She has been teaching in the Collier County Schools for eleven years. She loves her "kiddos" and embraces her calling in life as a teacher.
One of my fond memories of her as a little girl was her "reading" to her "students" (students = her carefully assembled outfits on the floor of her room). She never wanted dolls, just books, and outfits. :-) It was her passion, even at that young age.
Another of her passions is creating a calm and comforting environment. Catherine is stellar at organizing and enjoys "fluffing" her space for every season. Her delightful blog, https://www.helloplottwist.com, highlights tips for organization and affordable ways to freshen a room. Her creativity shines there. When you click on the link, you'll see she is a planner and does her best to prepare for "plot twists." But no one could prepare for this one.
Catherine, of course, had renter's insurance. Renter's insurance, of course, has many exclusions, storm surge being one of them. So, essentially, she lost all but a few pieces that she was able to elevate above the three-foot high-water mark.
Pictures on the wall made it, a few kitchen items (no appliances), and her car (parked elsewhere on the third floor of a covered garage) made it through. Not a single mattress, bed frame, cabinet, table, chair, or couch made it----- all fabric or wood items were unrecoverable. Lamps did not make it.
The storm ruined books, artwork, family photos and mementos, linens, medicines, electrical items, printers, office supplies, toiletries- anything and everything you would store in a lower cabinet in a kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, dining room, living room, closet, or garage. All the beautifully organized spaces were filled with mud and salt water, all destroyed.
It is unknown if or when she will be able to return to her former home. The landlord is far away and has not initiated any property restoration. The landlord also refuses to comply with the lease terms regarding the property's habitability to refund October's rent and security deposit, even though the property is clearly uninhabitable. Such circumstances make it difficult to move forward to get started in another place, even if she could find one.
The housing market in Naples was previously very challenging for a teacher's salary. Now with so much property damage throughout Collier County and so many displaced from their homes, all available properties, even hotels, are occupied.
It is my hope that somehow (before Christmas 2022), the "perfect" place will find her: a safe, affordable, pet-friendly home in Naples that is a reasonable commute to work. (She recently rescued a shy little dog named Sparkles because her current lease allows pets. Many places in Naples do not.)
Catherine has so many things for which she is thankful. She and Sparkles are safe. Her car is safe and operational. They have a place to sleep temporarily due to the generosity of family and friends. Also, her school is on higher ground and escaped the storm surge, so her teaching position is intact.
She has been steady and courageous through this disaster. Now, as the shock wears off and the reality sets in, I hope we can give her a boost as she moves forward to rebuild her life.