FORT MYERS, Fla. — Along the west coast of Florida, hundreds of helping hands with the American Red Cross are assisting families impacted by Hurricane Ian.
Tiffany Gonzalez, communications manager for the South Florida region has been on the front lines of relief efforts since Friday.
“It is devastating and heartbreaking to see what people are going through,” Gonzalez said during a zoom interview with WPTV.
Gonzalez is just one of more than 500 volunteers who have been deployed to the epicenter of Hurricane Ian’s devastation in Lee County.
“It is insane the amount of damage that this storm has done. Hurricane Ian has pretty much just wiped out Ft. Myers,” Gonzalez said.
It's her first disaster deployment since working with the national nonprofit for more than a year. She’s currently stationed at the Estero Recreational Center near Ft. Myers, one of three American Red Cross shelters.
“We’re seeing a lot of homes washed away, a lot of homes not even there anymore, and we’re really just seeing an influx of people coming into our shelter needing a place to stay because their homes have been totally destroyed,” Gonzalez explained.
The shelter is currently serving about 115 victims, providing everything from food, water, showers and hope.
“It’s really a mix of emotions here, people who are just so grateful to be alive and be safe because they experience something so traumatic and there’s people who are somber, they just lost everything. They’re going through all the emotions,” said Gonzalez
As for what's next, plans are underway to assist victims with finding temporary housing. In the meantime, the need for extra hands and monetary donations still looms.
“These people have lost everything they only walked in with the clothes that they have on their back,” Gonzalez said.
To get involved visit https://www.redcross.org/volunteer/become-a-volunteer.html
A $10 automatic donation can be sent by texting the word Ian to 90999.