NAPLES – An Immokalee couple displaced by Hurricane Irma has a new, safe home for the holidays thanks to a collaboration of nonprofit, faith-based and government organizations.
Johnny and Virginia Herrera’s 924-square-foot home, built in 1946, was no match for the powerful Category 4 hurricane as its foundation crumbled, walls collapsed and roof buckled. High winds, heavy rains and flooding rendered their home uninhabitable.
The Herreras had no homeowner’s insurance, but FEMA covered costs for temporary housing. With pets, however, their housing options were limited, and once FEMA assistance ran out, the couple had no choice but to move back into the remnants of their former home despite unsteady floors, compromised walls, a leaky roof and mold.
“They had no other options,” said Dawn Montecalvo, chair of the Immokalee Unmet Needs Coalition and president of Guadalupe Center. “We couldn’t sit back and let a family live in those conditions, so as a community, we stepped forward to help.”
The Immokalee Unmet Needs Coalition – a collaboration of nonprofit, faith-based, local, state and national organizations founded in late 2017 – spearheaded a project to rebuild the Herrera’s home from the ground up. On Dec. 17, project partners dedicated the Herrera’s new home, a 3-bedroom, 2-bath home spanning approximately 1,100 square feet. The celebration came just a week before Christmas.
When asked how he felt at his home’s dedication, Johnny Herrera responded, “It feels so good and I don’t even know what to say. It feels so good to finally be in our home! I have no words and am so grateful for the home. It is like an early Christmas present!”
In addition to the Immokalee Unmet Needs Coalition, project partners included the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, Habitat for Humanity of Collier County, The Salvation Army, United Way of Collier County, Guadalupe Center, Redlands Christian Migrant Association, Rural Neighborhoods, American Red Cross and Immokalee Community Redevelopment Agency.
The Herrera’s home is the fifth residence rebuilt by the Immokalee Unmet Needs Coalition and its generous team of partner agencies.
“This project wasn’t just about building a new house; it was about repairing broken lives,” said Lisa Loren, coordinator for the Immokalee Unmet Needs Coalition. “Johnny and Virginia are not hurricane victims. They’re hurricane survivors. So many individuals and organizations stepped forward to make sure they could celebrate the holidays from the comfort of a safe, secure home, and that truly is a blessing.”
About Immokalee Unmet Needs Coalition
The Immokalee Unmet Needs Coalition formed in September 2017 to enhance communication and coordination among agencies serving those hardest hit by Hurricane Irma. The collaboration of nonprofit, faith-based, local, state and national organizations has a mission of identifying Immokalee residents and businesses with unresolved needs following the devastating hurricane.
About Guadalupe Center
Guadalupe Center is a purpose-driven, nonprofit organization with proven results in creating endless possibilities for the students of Immokalee through education and fostering personal and academic success that leads to economic independence. With a focus on breaking the cycle of poverty through education, Guadalupe Center is proud of the children’s accomplishments: 95% meet or exceed kindergarten readiness measures, 100% of Tutor Corps high school seniors graduate high school and are accepted into college, and more than 92% graduate with a post-secondary degree.