Science and TechNatural Disasters


Volunteers From Across The U.S. Help Floridians Recover After Ian

Two weeks after Hurricane Ian made landfall in Florida, thousands of volunteers from all over the country are on the ground trying to help.
Posted at 7:50 AM, Oct 14, 2022

Playing with her 6-year-old son Derrek is how Emily Montgomery tries to forget, at least for a minute, the new but harsh reality of her life.

"We're worried about, 'Are we going to be able to get another place? Housing?'" said Montgomery. "We never anticipated being in this shelter. But it's a challenge with four kids."

Montgomery and her family are staying at a shelter managed by the American Red Cross. 

"At least the shelter, there's always an ear to cry on," she continued. "They're really good about that. They've taken good care of the kids."

The family recently moved back to Lee County, Florida, and while looking for a place to live, they were staying at a hotel.

That hotel was battered by Hurricane Ian.

"This is not my first hurricane," Montgomery said. "My husband is like me. We've been through all of the hurricanes, and this is the worst we've ever been through."

The Montgomery family rode out the storm in their hotel room.

NEWSY'S AXEL TURCIOS: How are you and your family doing right now? 

EMILY MONTGOMERY: Stressed. And coming out of shock. It's started to set in — the new normal of you can't go back to what we love down in Fort Myers Beach. It's not there. ... I lost peoplethat I knew in Fort Myers Beach that didn't make it through the storm. 

The shelter where the Montgomery family is staying is one of three centers the American Red Cross still has open.

Tiffany Gonzalez, with the American Red Cross, says the organization's goal is to provide a safe space to sleep, food to eat, and medical and mental health services.

"The individuals that we have here have come from all over the Fort Myers region. And these are people who have lost it all," she said. "We are not planning on closing anytime soon. We are here as long as they need us as the Red Cross. But, we do have our caseworkers coming in and they will start helping create a transition plan for these residents that are here."

Volunteers have fanned out throughout the devastated areas. People from numerous states have left their lives behind to come to Florida and help those who most need it, including cleaning efforts and repairs at shelters. 

Meanwhile, temporary repairs to the Sanibel Island causeway are allowing trucks and first responders to finally access the island, giving utility workers the chance to restore power

A community bound by tragedy, working together as one.

"We're Fort Myers Beach strong. We're southwest Florida strong. We will come back," Montgomery said.

The American Red Cross told Newsy it needs more volunteers. Anyone who wishes to volunteer on the ground or make a donation can do so by signing up at