By Dana Simmons, American Red Cross
When Hurricane Ian made landfall in Florida, San Diego County resident, Joy Barber, knew that she needed to do something to help those in need. She turned on her sewing machine, put her boots on and got to work.
“I went to Fort Myers in February of 2022 for my own pleasure, and I loved the area, beachy feel, tight community and sunrises that I saw,” said Joy. “I was volunteering at the food bank in Poway when Hurricane Ian hit, and I wore my Fort Myers t-shirt hoping my positive energy would avert the craziness of it. Afterward, I was so devastated, I wanted to do something.”
Joy decided to make a quilt and donate the proceeds to those affected by the hurricane. After learning more about the logistics of selling her quilt, she put her project on hold. “Instead, I decided I needed to be feet on the ground and do something tangible to help the people of Fort Myers,” said Joy. “That's when I signed up with the Red Cross, fast-tracked my training in three and a half weeks and deployed for two weeks.”
Six weeks after Hurricane Ian made landfall and three and half weeks after Joy signed up to be a Red Cross volunteer, she was on her way to Florida to help with damage assessment. When she arrived, she checked in and met her team. "I was on a team of eight people with four people from Indiana which is where I was born. Three individuals were located 30 minutes from where I grew up so immediately, we had a great bond," said Joy. "The following day we started doing damage assessment south of Fort Myers."
During damage assessment, volunteers go door-to-door and document the extent of damage to property evaluating each as having minor damage, major damage or destroyed. The information collected during these assessments guides the Red Cross, government agencies and other nonprofits as they begin issuing assistance to those impacted. “I was really humbled and honored to be there,” said Joy. “Not one person was unkind. Everyone was so happy to see us and so many people had tears and everybody wanted a hug. It was very uplifting.”
During Joy’s deployment, Hurricane Nicole made landfall and she was relocated to complete damage assessment north of Daytona Beach. “Seeing pictures was not anything like seeing the devastation in person,” said Joy. "It broke your heart, but to be able to give them a resource and just tell them to call 1-800-RED-CROSS and they can direct you to help. That was a good thing to be able to do that."
While Joy was deployed, she decided that she was going to finish the quilt she was working on and donate it to the Red Cross South Florida Region. “It makes your heart feel good. You at least do something. I was so torn up about the devastation I knew that I had to do something,” said Joy. When Joy returned home, she finished her quilt, named it Fort Myers Sunrise, and sent it to the South Florida Region.
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