A man lost his home during Hurricane Ian, but he’s not letting it derail his life. Instead, Phil DeRitis devoted nearly 650 hours of volunteer service to help our area rebuild through AmeriCorps.
Monday, DeRitis was honored with an award signed by President Biden.
DeRitis told WINK News he was stunned to find out the President appreciated his efforts.
But after the surprise, Deritis said all he wanted to do was go back inside the house he was helping to clean up to continue fighting for Southwest Florida with his own two hands.
“I kind of lost everything at the trailer park,” DeRitis said.
“Hits a little harder because I grew up in here, you know, I lived on Fort Myers Beach for about 10, 12 years,” DeRitis said.
Living in Southwest Florida for 10 or 12 years makes DeRitis a die-hard local.
“I called my pastor, Pastor Steve Rhodes. And he basically said, you know, I got God plays for you sleep three meals a day if you want to volunteer. And so here I am for almost four months later,” DeRitis said.
With so much stripped from DeRitis from the storm, his heart remained steadfast and strong as ever.
“Faith. You know, it’s to me, it’s just about doing the right thing. You know, general care and concern, you know, for your neighbor,” DeRitis said.
And so, for those neighbors, DeRitis got to work. Helping clean up Southwest Florida with his own two hands. The non-profit government agency he volunteered for, AmeriCorps, noticed the 650 hours he had worked since Ian hit.
AmeriCorps noticed his efforts leading to Michael Smith, the CEO of AmeriCorps, making sure President Biden noticed.
“Neighbors, helping neighbors, people coming from other communities to make a difference,” Smith said.
“Phil … Ian took your home away. But you turned that around and gave hope to others,” Smith said.
That’s why DeRitis was honored with AmeriCorps’ top prize, signed by President Biden.
“So, I am so proud to present to you the President’s Volunteer Service Award,” Smith said.
Grateful for the prize and humbled to be honored, DeRitis refuses to let the prize distract him from helping his neighbors.
“Well, I was in there working until Natasha pulled me on said she wanted to talk to me, so I’m going right back in. You know, like I said, it’s not done. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done,” DeRitis said.
Click here to find out ways you can help AmeriCorps.