Ian ... and the road to recovery
I scrolled through my phone looking for the name and house number.
“What’s the name again?” Joe asked as he scanned the landscape ahead of us, passing a boat tossed from the canal now ‘parked’ on the street like a discarded toy.
“Jeff, number 14026.”
“That’s it.” He slowed the truck, assessing the best place to park.
I opened the truck door to the wail of sirens nearly drowned out by the sharp chop of helicopter blades overhead. A light breeze, which normally delivered sweet salty air, was now laced with sewage and mold.
I raised my hand to shield my face from the sun as I took in my surroundings, looking for Jeff. He sat in a lawn chair next to a flooded-out Prius, watching me carefully. As I stepped towards him, I extended my hand.
“Jeff? I’m Lisa. We’re with Valerie’s House, and we’re here to help.”
He rose from the chair and held my hand for a moment longer than a traditional handshake should last. Truthfully, maybe it was me that I held on a moment longer. I wanted my condolences to be shown to this man I did not know.
Jeff’s dad John joined us moments later to share what help was needed. Their home had taken on three feet of water during the storm surge. The herculean task of removing the soaked contents was already underway, although there was much more work to be done.
John walked us through the house, reminding us to watch our step. The floors were littered with water, sludge, and muddy silt, which made for a slippery slope—literally. During the tour John shared that Jeff needed to be careful per his heart condition—not too much heavy lifting.
John first assigned us to the lower cabinets of the built ins in the family room. Joe started on the left side, I on the right, where decades of family photo albums lived. As I pulled out the first album water splashed over my blue jeans, the albums shedding their own tears of lost memories.
The loss in their home was devastating. Even for the contents that didn’t take on water the mold had already taken over.
As with all Valerie’s House families, Ian was not Jeff and John’s first ‘life storm’. Seven years ago, Jeff lost his wife Ansley, his children lost their mom, and John lost his beloved daughter-in-law.
While we took a lunch break, I asked Jeff how he was holding up. He looked at his feet and kicked a few stray Legos on the driveway, shrugged, and then held his head high.
“I got Ansley’s ashes. We’ve got her and each other. We’ll be ok.”
I thought to myself, and I was having a hissy fit over a fabric back order last week?
Joe walked down the driveway holding two vacuum sealed bags. “Jeff? These look special…and I think they’re ok.”
Joe held in his hands two custom photo pillows, one each for Finn and Kinzley. The pillows were beyond special. They showcased their mom full of life, full of smiles, and full of memoires of happy times. Finn was seven and Kinzley was two when Ansley passed away. What a wonderful way for these children to keep her memory alive. What an amazing ‘save’.
Jeff and John’s story is just one story of loss from Ian’s fury. During the week after Ian’s catastrophic landfall Joe and I worked side by side with Angela Melvin, founder of Valerie’s House, helping families where we could. The loss was overwhelming.
In 2015 Joe and I made the bold decision to open our second location in Naples, Florida. It was a gutsy move, as LDD was a complete unknown in the area. Still, it didn’t take long for us to settle in and for Southwest Florida to become our second home. The community welcomed us with open arms.
Southwest Florida will rebuild. Those that live there are tough, resilient, and some of the kindest and most loving people I’ve ever known. Southwest Florida is very much like my Mayberry, and my America, where politics, race, religion, and status fall to the wayside, and we are all one.
LDD Interiors has chosen Valerie’s House to share with you. It is our hope that if you choose to help, you will do so through this fund. ALL dollars go directly to the families in need.
I’d be remiss not to thank my clients and vendors for your patience as Joe and I shut down for ten days to roll up our sleeves and help where we could, and of course our amazing Design Divas who kept the studios running seamlessly in our absence.
Thank you for your support.