Fort Myers, Fla. – This week, the Local 10 community relations team headed to southwest Florida with Steven Gurowitz, renowned designer and owner of Interiors by Steven G.
Gurowitz, his associates, along with a plethora of clients and partners collected disaster relief supplies for one week and packed three, 30-foot trucks for the journey to Fort Myers.
“So, we’re on the roll,” said Gurowitz as he left his Pompano Beach showroom.
This is not his first humanitarian mission. Local 10 and Gurowitz have worked together to help storm victims as far back as Katrina, and then in 2017, when Hurricane Irma devastated the Florida Keys.
None of it prepared Gurowitz for what he saw in the west coast.
“We have done so many hurricane reliefs,” said Gurowitz. “This is the worst I’ve ever seen.”
Our first stop was Island Carts FMB, a once operational and thriving golf cart rental business that suffered a total loss after the storm. Co-owner Tim Ryan turned the still-standing warehouse into a distribution center, calling it FMB Strong.
“It took 3 to 4 days to get it ready, donations started coming in and it’s really taken a life of its own,” said Ryan.
One full truck of everything from sleeping bags and pet food to cleaning supplies and personal hygiene kits was unloaded there.
“We have the space to provide all sorts of different goods for people who need it in our community,” said Megan Allers, who co-owns Island Carts FMB and lives on the property in a trailer after Ian rendered her home uninhabitable.
Our second stop was a short distance away. It’s another community in dire need of help called Harlem Heights comprised of hardworking, low-income families who lost all of their belongings to flood waters unleashed by Hurricane Ian.
Their place of refuge is The Heights Foundation, which serves as a school, afterschool program and now a one-stop center for hurricane relief items.
“We went from doing our normal operations from supporting our children and being a resource for the community, but just doing that a whole different way,” said Kathryn Kelly, founder, president and CEO of The Heights Foundation.
We unloaded more essential donations there and had an opportunity to speak to some of the volunteers, including Karen Jahuey, who rode out the storm with her parents and two younger siblings.
The family home was completely flooded, and they’re now living with friends. But the Category 4 storm took much more from them.
“My father lost his job and my parents don’t have a job currently,” said Jahuey.
Jahuey, who’s a college student aspiring to be an elementary school teacher, came to The Heights Foundation for food and a job. Fortunately, she found both.
“Are you the only one in your family who’s working now?” Local 10 asked. “Now currently, yes,” responded Jahuey.
The team from Interiors by Steven G. provided her with a handful of gift cards to buy additional food items for her family. She was extremely grateful.
The journey brought together people from opposite ends of the state. It demonstrated that where people are hurting there are people who bring hope and healing, no matter the distance.
“The amount of devastation here pulls at your heartstrings,” said a visibly shaken Gurowitz. “What the people are doing here is amazing, but there’s not a dent. They need so much more, and we’re coming back.”
If you’d like to find out more and help FMB Strong and The Heights Foundation serve their communities, call them directly or visit their respective online pages below.
The Heights Foundation – Building strong, self-sufficient families in Harlem Heights in Fort Myers, Florida