Volunteer Florida is the state’s lead agency for mobilizing volunteers and coordinating donations before, during and after disasters, including managing the Florida Disaster Fund. The Florida Disaster Fund is Florida’s official private fund established to assist Florida’s communities during times of emergency or disaster that is managed by our direct support organization, the Volunteer Florida Foundation. Funds collected through the Florida Disaster Fund are granted to nonprofit service organizations that serve individuals within their communities with disaster response and recovery.

One of these service organizations is Samuel’s House, Inc. Samuel’s House was awarded a Florida Disaster Fund grant in June 2020 to support their long-term recovery efforts in Monroe County, as a result of Hurricane Irma in 2017. With funding from the Florida Disaster Fund, Samuel’s House has been able to help residents who are still living in the shadow of the storm and are struggling as a result.

Vanessa was one of those residents helped by Samuel’s House and her story is like many others who have experienced devastation and have received help through one of Florida’s incredible service organizations. Here’s her story:

“As a single, middle-aged female, professional mariner and commercial fisherman, I first became embedded in this beautiful island community 30 years ago.

I work on the water, in the water, and around the water providing for myself and trying to always assist those around me and those who have embraced me in this beautiful community. “One Human Family” is what Key West is known for and it truly is.

 I’ve lived on a boat since before moving to Key West. In September 2017, my unthinkable happened. My boat, 51-foot, 29-ton well-built fiberglass beauty that has withstood 26 hurricanes with me around the world, finally succumbed to the worst slap she’d ever had. She was hit by a tornado in the marina. It took me investing every penny I earned and every bit of my time off of work to get her back up and running and I’m still not there yet, as I still have two major projects to do in repairing decks and the chain plate.

I applied for federal assistance to get a little bit of help to cover my rent and utilities and some expensive life dependent medications, to no avail. So, I fished for most of my food and took on five jobs just to get by.

When I learned of the Volunteer Florida Foundation Florida Disaster Fund grant awarded to Samuel’s House, I immediately applied and was approved!

I want to thank all involved with this incredible gift of assistance. Thanks to these grant funds that assisted me with medical expenses and rental assistance, I am able to simply pay my rent and utilities this month, get my new prescriptions and take a breath for just a moment.  

I will be forever indebted to Samuel’s House and the Volunteer Florida Foundation Florida Disaster Fund for allowing me to maintain my home in Key West and my health. I feel like someone threw me a life ring, if only for a short period of time, it was long enough to take a breath. From the bottom of my big boots, I can’t thank you enough.”

To learn more about the Florida Disaster Fund, please click here.