Naples Volunteers Serve in Jesus' Name During Hurricane Irma Response

November 2, 2017 • United States

Samaritan's Purse volunteers help Florida homeowners move forward on the road to recovery.

Kenneth and Dawn Vaughn had to flee their home in order to escape Hurricane Irma.

Kenneth and Dawn Vaughn had to flee from their home in order to escape Hurricane Irma.

When the water topped the sandbag wall barricading their Naples, Florida, home, Kenneth and Dawn Vaughn rushed to leave. The water continued to pour in as they stumbled in the two feet of water that had already pooled inside their house.

They waded through waist-high water with kids and dogs and trudged to higher ground at their neighbors’ house where they watched Hurricane Irma unleash its fury.

“I just hope God lets us make it through safely,” Dawn remembers thinking.

After the storm cleared they walked back to find the mess left by the powerful storm. This was Kenneth’s childhood home, the structure that had seen him through many hurricanes since 1967.

“But it was never this bad,” he said. “Hurricanes are a freight train on a derailed track, and they go wherever they want. I knew that, but they never hit Naples. Never. And I never expected it to dump that much rain that quickly.”

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A Storm-weary Family Receives Help

The chaos left behind by Irma became a crisis as they tried to salvage their belongings and prevent mold. After a week of working themselves and their 17-year-old son to the bone, they’d had enough.

Site team leader Tracey McGillis hugs Dawn's mother. Tracey came from Canada to help Florida homeowners.

Site team leader Tracey McGillis hugs Dawn’s mother. Tracey came from Canada to help Florida homeowners.

“I could see it in my boy’s eyes,” Kenneth said. “He was done.”

That’s when they heard about Samaritan’s Purse from a friend.

The day the Vaughns called Samaritan’s Purse, an army of volunteers showed up from the surrounding area and from as far away as Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Soon our volunteers had removed ruined belongings, flooring, cabinets, and dry wall—salvaging what they could along the way. And they had successfully helped the storm-weary family get back on their feet.

“I appreciate you guys more than you know. Every day it gets better,” Dawn said.

“Samaritan’s Purse is an awesome organization. They are totally awesome,” Kenneth said. “It’s encouraging to know that there’s people out there still willing to help.”

Haitian-born volunteer Betty Louis, a member of First Baptist Church Naples, was among those working at the Vaughns. The storm had flooded the hotel where she worked and had knocked down trees at her house. As she awaited our chainsaw teams to clear her yard, she joined our mud-out efforts.

Haitian-born volunteer Betty Louis

Haitian-born volunteer Betty Louis helped worked on the Vaughns’ home.

“My family went to a shelter because we had a tree behind the house and we were scared it would fall,” she said. “I can’t go to work and I can’t go home, so I decided to come help. I love Jesus and Jesus loves me, too. A lot.”

As the mud-out team began to wrap up the day’s work, they gathered with the Vaughns to pray and to present a Bible signed by all the volunteers at their home.

“We are with you. His love flows through us to you,” said Site Team Leader Tracey McGillis from Calgary. “There’s peace found in Him, and it’s eternal peace. It’s forever peace.”


Updated Nov. 4: Our Naples relief base has closed. More than 880 volunteers helped 440 homeowners in the Naples area and 92 people came to faith in Jesus Christ.

Our volunteers in Key West will continue working through mid-November.

Also in response to Hurricane Irma, we completed work from bases in Fort Myers and Apopka.

We are thankful for the partnership of Samaritan’s Purse Canada, one of our international affiliates, as they sent staff and disaster relief units to help in Florida.

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Hurricane Relief Samaritan's Purse
Hurricane Relief Samaritan's Purse responds to the urgent needs of families devastated by the wind, rain, and storm surge of catastrophic hurricanes. Whether in the United States or abroad, we come alongside hurting people to bring emergency relief and practical help in the Name of Jesus Christ.

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