Marathon, Florida — Michelle Coldiron and her daughter, Mallory, were just getting their home-based business established when their office, along with both of their homes, were devastated by the floodwaters of Hurricane Irma in Marathon, Florida.
Their houses, along with many others in the Florida Keys, were built in the ’70s in a declared “under flood” zone, meaning that they are ineligible for flood insurance. While living so close to sea level does carry inherent risks, the Coldiron family has called the small island home for nearly twenty years without incident.
Michelle, who serves as Vice Mayor of Marathon, and her family now face the overwhelming task of starting over, rebuilding from nothing, and moving forward. Through this time of devastating loss, she has looked to the helpers as one positive element, “For every wave of destruction from Irma, I have received a wave of humility and a wave of hope as I see strangers helping strangers.”
She and Mallory received aid at both of their homes, their backyard office and the Catholic church that Michelle attends by Mormon Helping Hands, the humanitarian disaster relief branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Known by their signature bright yellow shirts, Mormon Helping Hands provides volunteer labor to help victims in their homes after floods, storms and other natural disasters. Thousands of volunteers from across the state of Florida traveled to the Keys to provide ongoing relief efforts, free to any and all affected residents.
For Michelle, the Helping Hands not only provided clean-up assistance, they were a sign of hope. “[Mormon Helping Hands] was an amazing boost of morale to our community. [They] brought hope to every street in our town,” she said over a phone interview, and went on to describe the impact that the yellow-clad volunteers had on the rest of the community. “[They] are leading by example, all these yellow shirts came in to help and inspired neighbors to reach out and help their neighbors.”
As for the town, Marathon is working tirelessly to rebuild and recover their losses. While many remain without power and debris lines the streets, many businesses have started to reopen and houses are being repaired. Michelle says that in the recovery process, everyday gets a little bit easier, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”
Those seeking to request help from Mormon Helping Hands should call 1-800-451-1954.
For more info about Mormon Helping Hands see http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/helping-hands
To volunteer visit http://www.justserve.org/irma