Acts of Good

How One Community Banded Together After Disaster

When the first responders left and the news crews packed up after Hurricane Ian, a group of volunteers vowed to stay for the long-haul.

We all know what happens after a natural disaster. There’s intense media coverage, search and rescue efforts, and first responders on the scene. But when the disaster relief teams move on to the next emergency, and the news camera crews pack up and go home, it’s the tireless actions of volunteers who come together to help support the community they love.

More than six months after Hurricane Ian made landfall in Florida, the city of Fort Myers is still in dire need of help to meet residents’ basic needs. “It was chaos,” says volunteer Irina Mirabales. A professor from West Palm Beach, Mirabales initially came to Fort Myers to assist with beach cleanup, but she decided to permanently relocate when she realized how much assistance this community still needed. Through her work, she connected with Charity Miller, a Fort Myers resident and fellow volunteer. The pair began working with the nonprofit disaster relief and humanitarian aid organization Matthew 25: Ministries, whose mission is the same as both Mirabales’ and Miller’s: to support the people of Fort Myers for as long as it takes to rebuild their lives.

None of the acts of good done by these selfless volunteers would be possible without supplies and donations. P&G, the maker of brands like Charmin, Dawn, and Pantene, has played an integral role in immediate disaster relief with programs like Tide Loads of Hope, which brings mobile laundry trucks to disaster areas so residents can clean their clothing free of charge. In Fort Myers, P&G didn’t pack up and leave after the initial disaster efforts — they’ve committed to ongoing support for the community by donating personal care kits and truckloads of cleaning products like Bounty paper towels, Mr. Clean, and Microban to area residents in need for distribution by Matthew 25: Ministries volunteers. After a hurricane, access to proper cleaning products is crucial. “You don’t think about everything you’ll need for cleanup in the later stages after a natural disaster,” explains Miller. “So getting these products from P&G has been a huge blessing.”

While the work of volunteers like Miller and Mirabales is often labor-intensive and emotionally exhausting, to them, the benefits far outweigh the costs. “We do this work voluntarily and for no income because we get to play a role in helping something come back to life,” explains Mirabales. “This has been the most important work I’ve ever done, and the reward has been far greater than any paycheck I could have gotten.”

Love Acts of Good? Nominate someone who you think deserves to be recognized for their efforts to better their community for the 2023 awards.