FORT MYERS BEACH
Trying to make a difference for people who lost everything in Hurricane Ian. That was the goal of the Fort Myers Beach Woman’s Club Saturday during a mini version of its annual Christmas tree festival.
Half of the 150 trees up for auction at the event will be donated to families who lost everything during Ian.
The proceeds will go to the 33931 Fund, which has raised more than $700,000 from the women’s club and community foundation.
The Woman’s Club of Fort Myers Beach is still able to host the Christmas tree festival despite Ian destroying their building.
Several people came to support them, including the mayor, local workers, and teachers.
Organizer Dawn Thomas says she is pleasantly surprised and thankful for the turnout.
“We lost our home, and we’re sad, but at the same time, we want to keep growing and be resilient and see our home back to what it used to be because we chose this island because we love it. And this is just a small little way we can give back and let everybody feel a little bit of normal,” said Thomas.
“The fact that they can still do it, in spite of everything we’ve been through, is wonderful. It’s marvelous. So I think that just shows the fortitude of the people on the beach, the strength of the people on the beach,” said Joy Rockwell.
Everyone WINK News spoke to called the event a major success and were thankful it was able to happen at all.
“It’s kind of bittersweet, but you know, the storm has really brought us a little bit closer because we’ve always been really close to our communities. We’re very close. But yes, we’re a little extra tighter now. Because we’ve all been here for each other,” said Hinckley.
“I’m thrilled with the success. I’m not going to lie. I kept saying ‘how many people are we going to have’ and I did panic, thinking we weren’t going to have enough people show up,” said Thomas.
They almost didn’t have the festival. Many of the non-profit organizations that typically donate were unable to after Ian, but they had enough trees donated from all over to still want to put it on.
“It is a little choked up. But we have an amazing community, and we are so fortunate. If you just look at this turnout, it’s proof positive that Fort Myers Beach is present. They want to be here. They love our town,” said Megan Allers.
“So it’s not exactly what we had hoped for. But it’s, it’s, you know, you make do with what you got, and next year, hopefully, we’ll be back bigger and stronger than this,” said Dan Allers.
“It’s like way better be feels like more home because everything that happened, we couldn’t really get together until everything was fixed up, and now like everyone’s together, so it feels really nice,” said a kid who was at the event.
“It gives me goosebumps just thinking about it. Just because it is extra special. You know, like think, as a community, we’ve all gone through so much together. And so to see us come together and not give up on Christmas, you know, feels really nice to see that, you know, we’re all still hopeful,” Hinkley said.
The people who bought the trees auctioned off will choose to whom the tree is donated.