After reviewing the predictions of Hurricane Irma and weighing our options, we decided to stay in Virginia, but we wanted to do something to help our friends and neighbors. We decided to help rebuild wherever the need was the greatest and started a GoFundMe to purchase building supplies using 1k of our own money plus generous donations from friends and family.
The storm hit Sunday, September 10th. As we watched the damage unfold, I felt a clear and compelling urge to go and we prepared to leave Virginia. We found out that Jacksonville was facing 100 year floods, and that many gas stations ran out as Floridians fled the oncoming storm.
We drove through the storm, now downgraded to tropical strength, as we planned our next steps. On the drive we realized that, while our rebuilding skills were good, our ability to pivot to the next most important thing was even greater. Right now, the immediate need was gas and propane for cooking. So we posted on a Facebook group, asking for those who were elderly, disabled, or truly in need to contact us.
Our first message came from an elderly lady whose husband has Parkinson's. Their generator was almost out of gas, and we got there after she poured the last half gallon she was able to siphon. My husband could see the bottom of the tank as he poured 5 more in. We took their empty, pulled the husband's wheelchair from the grass he was stuck in, and left them with a full 5 gallon can. We mentioned them to the electrical workers on our way out, and thanked them for making the power restoration a priority.
Then we went to a place we didn't know existed, in the middle of the state. The road there was busy, narrow and surrounded by swamps. We stopped when we saw a car on the side of the road, and asked if they needed anything. The man said thanks, but an ambulance is on it's way, unless of course, we happened to have any extra gas. I jumped out of the truck and ran to him while my husband grabbed the can. He had COPD and was struggling to breathe, so I gave him my asthma inhaler. A few puffs later, after a few kind words and a listening ear, the ambulance showed up, and they told us to get our boat out of the road. We moved on to the next stop. Hours later, we arrived in Pompano Beach, to a friend's house that had power, and a comfortable bed, knowing we had been following the right path all day long.
Our effort provided value to every person we helped. We were valuable because we made a difference for these people, by following a shared purpose of recovery from Hurricane Irma. But we had no idea what was next.
See Post 3 for more details.