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Editorial: Volunteerism integral part of island community

By Staff | Jul 27, 2011

When longtime residents of Sanibel and Captiva recount tales of the disaster and devastation witnessed after Hurricane Charley back on Friday the 13th of 2004, you are certain to hear stories about the number of structures that were severely damaged, scores of fallen trees strewn across roadways and the hot summer days spent without electricity.

But one of the things that they talk about the most is the way the community pulled together in the aftermath of the most severe tropical storm to hit Southwest Florida since the 1920s. The way that neighbors helped neighbors collect and discard of debris. The number of volunteers that provided assistance to those who were unable to reach their loved ones, locate lost pets and get their lives back on track.

It will be a long time before anybody forgets what Charley brought to the islands, and with every passing summer, we are reminded — with every tropical storm warning and severe weather forecast — that Mother Nature giveth paradise, and she taketh paradise away.

Thus far this hurricane season, the region has yet to be threatened, and we are keeping our fingers crossed and saying a prayer that no such forecasts come our way. However, it is better to be safe than sorry.

At the beginning of June, the City of Sanibel put out a call for volunteers needed to join the city’s Structural Safety Inspection teams. Their purpose is to initially assess the overall property damage on the island prior to allowing residents to return followed by a completed written external damage report for each single or multi-family structure as to its condition for occupancy.

And now that hurricane season is approaching the midway point, the traditional “peak period” for tropical storm activity, we have reached the most critical time for volunteers to sign up to become members of Sanibel’s SSI squad.

We would urge all qualified individuals, those who have a general knowledge of building construction or technical expertise in skills including carpentry, masonry, electricity and plumbing, to consider signing up. The deadline for registration is this Friday, June 29. Call 472-4555 for more details.

While this is technically a “voluntary” position, qualified personnel are compensated quite well. Upon completion of training and certification, SSI members are reimbursed $25 per hour for their time (not to exceed eight hours). Upon activation in the event of a disaster, the rate of pay is increased to $50 per hour.

Providing an invaluable service for your community… and getting paid to do it? Sounds like a “win-win” to us.

— Reporter editorial