LIVERPOOL, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — It’s been six months since Hurricane Ian wiped out parts of southwest Florida, and those areas still recovering. Volunteers in Central New York are heading there on Sunday to lend a helping hand to those affected by the deadly storm.
A group of nearly 12 volunteers from Operation Northern Comfort will be heading to Fort Myers, Florida on Sunday. They’ll spend a week working every day to help those impacted by Ian get back to normal.
“It’s very satisfying knowing that we can help people,” said Thomas Ogden, a volunteer at Operation Northern Comfort.
Volunteers are picking up where they left off in Fort Myers.
“We’re really excited because our group that went in January worked in a home and now in March we’re going back to that same home and we’re going to be able to see what progress was made,” said Laurel Flanagan, CEO of Operation Northern Comfort.
In January they spent the week working on two projects, including a person’s home, flooded by the storm, with water reaching almost 10 feet high. The second project was a mobile home, also having water damage. This week, they’ll be heading back to that mobile home, and the church hosting the group which also has some damage.
“We’re being hosted in another church and this church actually has some damage. They’ve been very, very good at hosting relief groups over the past six months. They’ve had water damage and sheetrock damage up to about 18 inches in their flooring,” said Ogden.
Ogden added, “What a lot of people don’t realize is the recovery process from a disaster such as a hurricane takes a very, very long time.”
But that’s not stopping Operation Northern Comfort, an organization formed in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina. Since then, they’ve had thousands of volunteers travel to different states to help those in need.
“They all say the same thing they go down there thinking that they’re going to be helping and just feel so good about the helping they’re doing and they all say they get more out of what they did than what they put into it,” said Flanagan.
Operation Northern Comfort plans to head back to Florida in the fall to continue its recovery efforts. They also plan on heading to Watertown and Buffalo this summer to help those impacted by the deadly blizzard that happened in December of 2022.
Operation Northern Comfort is supported by volunteers and monetary contributions. Every year the organization holds its annual Crawfish Festival. This year the festival will be held on Saturday, May 6th. Last year, they raised $40,000. A majority of that money went towards their efforts right here in Central New York as well as their trip to Fort Myers. They’re hoping to raise even more money this year at the festival and are always accepting donations.
Click here to learn how you can donate and learn more about Operation Northern Comfort.