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HARLEM HEIGHTS| Residents get help to rebuild their home one year after Ian

Opal Harlem Heights
Posted at 4:33 PM, Oct 07, 2023

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Opal Stewart grew up in Harlem Heights, and in 1972, Opal and her husband built their home on Gladiolous Drive.

Opal lost her husband in January 2022, and that September, she lost her home to Hurricane Ian.

One year after the storm, she lives in a FEMA trailer on her front lawn.

Stewart said, “I was about to give up,” when she tried to rebuild her home.

However, the Harlem Heights Foundation, Inspiritus, The Home Depot Foundation, and Adventures in Mission stepped in to help her.

The organizations provided volunteers, time, and supplies like the floors, paint, cabinets, and doors to restore Stewart’s home.

“I’ve been so blessed, so overwhelmed with joy and they brought back joy,” Stewart said.

She added, at times, she’s speechless for the overwhelming support she’s received and feels deep gratitude for the help.

From the tragedy, Stewart found joy in a new friendship with Monica Lopez, a Community Coordinator with Adventures in Mission.

The group partners volunteers with neighbors in need of help and support after tragedy.

Lopez met Stewart a few weeks after Hurricane Ian and has helped Stewart on her journey to recovery.

“The relationship with Opal is built on something more than just a casual acquaintance or another way of meeting somebody…“the shared experience now is on the other side of recovery and that’s seeing them come back home,” Lopez said.

Stewart plans to return to her home before Christmas.