Nikki D’Agostino, R2W Career Counselor & DVR Program Director

The American flag stands in the wake of Hurricane Ian, Forty Myers Beach, Florida, Oct. 2, 2022. U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Jesse Hanson

Hurricane Ian was a powerful Category 4 hurricane that made landfall on the Southwest coast of Florida on September 28, 2022. The storm brought catastrophic heavy rain and wind to the area, causing widespread damage and destruction. Roads were flooded, buildings were demolished, and the overall area is still in a very slow recovery period.

The immediate impacts of the storm were substantial damage to both residential and commercial properties. Infrastructure and utilities were critically damaged resulting in over a week without running water in the Englewood, FL area. Power was down for 2-3 weeks, and internet and cell phone services were down for over a month.

Due to the hurricane’s impact, many businesses were affected as well. Project: Return to Work Inc (R2W) was substantially impacted by the hurricane, resulting in considerable business and resource losses. As a non-profit relying on donations and government grants, the hurricane caused critical losses. State offices were shut down, customers lost their jobs, and other customers closed out / moved out of state altogether. Without internet and cell services, and the hurricane damage impact to staff, Return to Work’s Florida Ops was essentially dead in the water for over a month.

While R2W’s Florida Ops has resumed close to normal services, the damages are still being felt on a daily basis. The hurricane put us over a month behind in our services, paperwork, and availability. Staff are still recovering from substantial damage to their homes and offices. Customers whom we serve also lost their homes and belongings.

It is critical now in our time of need to recover, and thereby help others recover from the disastrous catastrophic damages caused by Hurricane Ian.