West Palm Beach, Fla., was fortunate to be outside Hurricane Ian’s path this fall, but the community still felt its impact. American Legion Post 199 suffered roof damage as a result of a collateral tornado.
“Roofers came in and put some sealant on top,” said Post 199 Commander William Miller. “The community has helped us out but it’s that national fund that helped us stay afloat.”
The American Legion National Emergency Fund grant was one of about 75 issued so far to American Legion Family members and posts in Florida that have been impacted by the 2022 hurricane season.
As the frequent host of food drives and complimentary meals for area residents in need, Post 199’s leaders spread its services across the state to assist Floridians whose areas were decimated by Hurricane Ian.
“We put together a team to carry supplies over to Fort Myers and Fort Myers Beach,” said Arthur Freemon, the disaster preparedness chief for the post. He added that he pays special attention to Harlem Heights, a minority community that lacks some of the resources of neighboring towns.
“I use my personal pickup truck and stack that truck all the way to that top light with all types of boxes, food items, some clothing, we had personal hygiene items, and assorted goods... We took it over and those people were so glad to see us, they were so glad to know that somebody cared about them,” Freemon said.
St. James City, located on Florida’s west coast, suffered the full wrath of Ian. Scott Huizenga, a member of Sons of The American Legion Squadron 136, described the massive damage the storm did to his home.
“The grant we got from The American Legion helped replace our roof and a lot of the other stuff inside,” Huizenga said, pointing out that the strong winds tore apart his carport. “When the carport left it pulled about 70 to 80 percent of our rubber roof off which let the water in the house.”
While the NEF assistance will not come close to covering all of Huizenga’s losses from the hurricane, his wife Deborah’s Auxiliary membership qualified the couple for an additional grant from that organization.
“I am very thankful for the money from the Auxiliary, which I will use to buy new appliances,” she added.
No district in the Department of Florida was hit harder by Hurricane Ian than District 13 commanded by Bud Boyer, whose area includes Charlotte, Collier and Lee counties. Boyer is a member of Punta Gorda Post 103, which has served as a forward operating base for the nonprofit emergency volunteers of Team Rubicon.
Boyer, who has a law enforcement background, marveled at the national response by Legion Family members and other volunteers. “It been happening ever since the hurricane,” he said. “People helping people. They don’t care if you’re a veteran or not. They come to help.”