South Seas Island Resort reopens ahead of schedule, reaches out to employees after Hurricane Irma
After the damage South Seas Island Resort endured after Hurricane Irma, the resort reopened to the public Sept. 20, six days ahead of schedule. Bob Walter, regional managing director of South Seas Island Resort, said they were able to open earlier thanks to the ongoing effort of their employees.
“Our engineering crew and our grounds and landscape crew were our first responders. In four days, they put the resort back together again. If you pulled in our front gate after four days, you’d really question if a hurricane went through. It was just incredible the amount of work and team spirit they had,” Walter said.
Walter and his crew began making careful preparations on Tuesday prior to the hurricane making landfall.
“We knew how big it was – it was going to impact us one way or another. We were on the side of safety. We started canceling reservations for that weekend before any evacuation orders were even announced,” Walter said.
The resort did sustain some damage following the storm. Walter said they lost a couple of 75-year-old banyan trees and a few rooms on the north end of the resort were damaged due to the north east winds.
“Everything on our north end either had a limited amount of damage or no damage. We have about 20 guest rooms on that end that got the worst of it. They’ll probably be out of order for an extended period of time,” Walter said.
King’s Crown, which is the resort’s catering space, also received damage.
“It’s right on Pine Island Sound so when the storm came across the water, it took some wind and water damage. We’ll be out of order there probably for an extended period because we’re going to put it back right. We’re not going to rush and have it done and have issues down the road,” Walter said.
After employees helped the resort get back on its feet, Walter decided to return the favor: during the week of Sept. 18, Walter and his executive committee helped employees who were still struggling after Irma. The crew installed tarps on nine leaking roofs and delivered water, food and ice to locations in Lehigh Acres and Fort Myers for his employees.
“After going to (Lehigh Acres) a couple of times and doing some roofs, my appreciation for our team members grew even more because there’s tons of opportunities for employment between here and Lehigh Acres and for them to make that commitment daily to come out to us says a lot about their passion,” Walter said.
In addition to delivering supplies, Walter even went as far as renting out an apartment in Fort Myers for a period of time before the storm made landfall incase one of his employees needed a place to live.
“We ended up putting a team member whose house was completely destroyed in the storm in the apartment with her family until they can get back on their feet,” Walter said.
Walter also delivered a handful of generators to employees who were in need.
“We had a housekeeping manager who had no power. Everything was fine, he just wanted a generator. So, we ran one out to his house and got him fuel. He sent us a note that night that said ‘You’ve made my day, you guys are the greatest in the world. My daughter said to me tonight ‘I can finally read my books because I have light’,” Walter said. “If that doesn’t sum up what it’s all about, I don’t know what does.”
As of last week, Walter was still in the process of finding out who is in need of help.
“Once we find out who they are, we’re going to take care of them,” he said.