Guatemala Maya Center helping struggling families recover from Irma

Efforts being made to get FEMA help in Lake Worth

LAKE WORTH, Fla. - Cleanup from Hurricane Irma is hard enough for everyone. But what about communities that were already vulnerable before the storm?

RELATED: GALLERY - Irma strikes FloridaLatest on Irma | Updated closures 

An organization in Lake Worth is stepping up to help families in need recover.

The Holiday 2 Mobile Home Park is filled with many struggling and immigrant families from Central America and the Caribbean.

The power came back on Wednesday afternoon, but you can still see a lot of debris piled up outside.

Luckily, the Guatemala Maya Center is gathering donations and helping families.

“We’re working with families to report this damage to FEMA," said center director Tim Gamwell. "And we’ve been in contact with our city commissioners and county commissioners to see what they can do to help.”

The center is helping families like Eloida and her grandchildren, who are now sleeping on the floor after the winds punched holes in her roof.

“It affected us. The roof broke and damaged our beds. Because of the hurricane we also lost power and we had to suffer through the storm," she said.

The Guatemalan native is one of several families whose mattresses, furniture and other belongings were ruined from rain water pouring into the home when Irma's hurricane force winds ripped away holes into the roofs of their mobile homes.

“I want to go back to my country. But my children are not there. They are here," Eloida said.

Gamwell walked us through the damage at the park. The mobile homes didn't stand a chance with hurricane force winds.

“This one here had significant damage to the tar paper on the roof," he said, pointing at a home with the insulation exposed all over the rooftop. “If there’s another rainstorm, even if it’s not a hurricane, they’re going to get significant damage," he said.

One woman showed us the ceiling inside her home. She's worried her roof is going to cave in and added that she can’t live in these conditions with her children.

“Being not evicted but kicked out because your house is condemned is almost a death sentence," said Gamwell.

He added said these were families that were struggling even before the storm.

“Some of the residents here are struggling to find work. They’ve been out of work since Irma hit. In other cases, there are other families who are waiting surgeries or are on disability — just struggling to make ends meet," he said.

Gamwell says while these immigrant families normally fear dealing with officials. He's hopeful FEMA and the county can step in to help.

“A lot of the families we work with with actually are undocumented. There are a lot of residents, a lot of families are scared to put their information out there," he said. “so we try to help them go through the process and get them the help they need. And that's why the Guatemala Maya Center is here, to help the families that are on the margins of society."

The center is asking for any donations of food, water, diapers, clean bedding, mattresses and even home depot gift cards -- some of these families want to rebuild their homes themselves. 

You can drop donations off at the following address:

Guatemala Maya Center
430 North G Street
Lake Worth, FL

The center plans to make another visit to Holiday 2 Mobile Home Park on Thursday to distribute water, food and other supplies to families.

Print this article Back to Top