CCA Families Take an Impact, Then Make an Impact in the wake of Hurricane Irma
By the CCA Journalism Class
22-Oct-2017 — North Fort Myers, Fla. — When Hurricane Irma struck Southwest Florida on Sept. 10, some Classical Christian Academy families evacuated, while others chose to stay in their homes or at nearby facilities. Seventeen days after the storm, on Sept. 27, CCA high schoolers went to a local nonprofit, ECHO Global Farm, to help clean up the devastation that Irma had inflicted.
Reflecting on the experience, CCA student Jusolyn F. said it wasn’t easy, but she was thankful to have lived through a hurricane. When the monster, Category 4 hurricane slammed through Southwest Florida, thousands decided to evacuate, but Jusolyn’s family stayed.
“We were going to evacuate, but by the time we thought about it, it was already too late. So we just huddled up inside our shuttered home and prayed we would be safe,” she said. “In all honesty, it was super scary.”
After Irma, her family was without power for five days. “It was not a fun experience,” she said. “No electricity, no AC, no water to flush toilets or take showers. However, I think I can thank God for that experience. I never realized how much I took those things for granted.”
Thankfully, a friend helped her family by making hot meals, offering hot showers and even letting her family sleep in their air conditioning when it got too hot at home. The whole experience brought Jusolyn closer to the Lord.
“I have learned to thank God more frequently for what He has provided and really appreciate the small things,” she said.
After their power was restored, Jusolyn’s family helped another family from their church clean out their house, which had flooded. Although the devastation was heartbreaking, the way the community came together was amazing, she said.
After classes resumed at CCA, Jusolyn joined other high school students in helping clean up the grounds of a local nonprofit. On September 27, 30 high school students and seven chaperones from CCA went to ECHO Global Farm to help pick up debris, make repairs and tidy the landscape. CCA students have volunteered with ECHO for many years, but this year’s community service day was a bit different. Hurricane Irma had left her mark on ECHO, which has a mission to fight world hunger by helping small-scale farmers around the globe learn to increase crop productivity.
“When we arrived at ECHO, debris was scattered, and there were branches everywhere,” recalled 10th grader Hannah E. “The bamboo plants were tipped over, which I got to help stand back upright.”
Students helped carry debris out to the road, power-washed a pavilion, cleared fallen trees and much more. Hannah and Elizabeth D. helped re-screen the nursery while Riley S. helped out by replacing eight trees which had been uprooted by Irma.
“My favorite part was knowing that we were making a difference,” Riley said.
Andrew T., Levi G., Luke E. and Duran B. helped load fallen logs and sticks onto
a trailer to be hauled away. Andrew also enjoyed getting to know and learning from one of the ECHO interns. Chaperone and CCA Board President Mr. Mike Pcolar chose not to just supervise but to help clean up, too. He and his son cut up some fallen trees with a chainsaw to be carried to the road.
“My favorite part was seeing the students work together,” said Mrs. Laura Lott, CCA aide and organizer of the Community Service day.
Several CCA families also volunteered on their own, with their churches or as part of faith-based organizations to serve their Southwest Florida neighbors in need, post-Irma. Members of the Wright family helped hand out food and supplies in Bonita Springs. The Urbanek family donated water, canned goods and money to help hurricane victims, while the Gates family volunteered with We Care Ministries to help clean up a retirement community along the Imperial River. The O’Berski family opened their home to another family who was without power and invited friends to swim in their pool to cool off.
Student Jacob B. volunteered to clean up out the gutters at the home of an acquaintance. “I helped her because she was an elderly lady, and her house was starting to leak because her gutters couldn’t keep all of the water and debris from doing damage,” he said. Thankfully, his own home was fine because his father would have little time to deal with any damage since he is a first responder in Punta Gorda.
The Dillehay family rode out the storm safely in their church building with friends; however, they were without power at their home for 13 days! Another CCA family generously offered to let the Dillehays stay with them in their cool, air conditioned home.
Most CCA students and staff members said they were blessed to have sustained minimal damage to their own homes and were glad to help those who didn’t fare so well. Miranda W.’s family evacuated to Dallas, Texas, where her dad was already heading for a business trip. When they returned, they discovered the second story of their home had water damage from a roof leak. Miranda said she felt “lots of stress and uncertainty” throughout the experience but, in the end, learned to trust God.
“Irma opened our eyes a bit,” she said. “I was able to grow by trusting God and letting go of my worries.”
About Classical Christian Academy:
Classical Christian Academy is the premier hybrid school in Southwest Florida. CCA offers families an academically rigorous and Christ-centered K-12 education option that blend the best aspects of private and homeschooling. Classical Christian Academy is a registered 501c(3) organization. For more information, visit www.discovercca.org and like CCA on www.facebook.com/DiscoverCCA.