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students working inside a home

Several Otsego students spent part of their holiday break giving back to residents in Florida who continue to clean up and rebuild from Hurricane Ian. It was an unforgettable experience for these students and volunteers. 

“I think it's important to remember we're all humans living completely different lives, but everyone has the ability to change someone else's,” says junior Nyla Reed. “I thought of the people dealing with this tragedy and how they just needed somebody to help them, and I realized I was somebody.”

Ten students were a part of this mission trip through St. Margaret’s church; they connected with Disaster Relief in Fort Myers to work for three full days on four homes. They helped with demolition inside homes with walls, ceilings, flooring and whatever needed to be done. “The work we all did every day, no one complained, everyone just said ‘what has to be done and let's get it done’,” said Joy Livingston, the group’s leader and OHS Office Aide. “These teens and adults truly made a difference.” 

Those they helped were extremely thankful and shared that they felt like others have forgotten about them. The damage they saw was astounding and they were surprised at how much clean up had yet to be done and the conditions in which people were living. “One lady was still staying and sleeping in her home with no water or electricity. When we pulled the flooring out, the insulation was drenched in water right under where the woman had been sleeping on the floor,” explains Livingston. 

Senior Natalie Perez has been a part of several mission trips, but never one like this. One trailer they were helping to demo had severe water damage. “The mold within the walls was like nothing any of us have ever seen before, and being able to remove that for (the homeowner) and his dog Suzie to breathe comfortably and safely in their own home was a great feeling,” she says.

Despite the damage, the students noticed residents staying positive. “A takeaway I had from the trip is how to always keep a good attitude,” says sophomore Gabe James. “Most of the people we helped were destroying and demolishing their houses from damage but they didn’t seem all too upset. The people seemed more happy that they were able to get help and be able to get into rebuilding mode faster than what they would alone.”

“Even though we were only able to help a small fraction of people with the countless amounts of damage done, just knowing we made a positive difference in those lives gives me hope for the future of rebuilding Florida,” Nyla says. “Imagine if everyone else did the same, how many more lives would be changed then?”

The group plans to return this summer. 

students working inside a home
kids at a damaged site near the beach
Students standing by storm damaged home
students standing near demo items they cleared
students working inside a home
the entire group at the beach
students working inside a home
damage that remains, a boat lies on a pile of debris
damaged building

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