Up until four weeks ago, the thought of hurricane season was somewhat out-of-sight and out-of-mind. Seeing that we had not had an active hurricane this year, and nothing to really speak of over the past several years, many of us had become rather complacent with this yearly, normally unpredictable, but always potentially dangerous weather season.

As the weather forecasters consistently projected Hurricane Ian to have an impact on Central Florida, the Osceola Council on Aging (OCOA) had to make quick decisions as to the need for emergency sheltering.

As a part of our mission and commitment to the Osceola community, and in anticipation of the disastrous storm, OCOA activated our emergency special needs shelter on Sept. 27, in advance of the storm. During that timeframe, we safely sheltered more than 100 special needs residents by providing them food, shelter, and assistance. With that, we would like to personally thank the Florida Department of Health and the Office of Emergency Management teams for their support with our emergency needs shelter and support of our special needs clients. Without their team of workers and diligent support staff, we could not have managed.

Sadly, due to the massive amount of area flooding, which left many of our residents with immeasurable damage and no home to return to after the storm, the Osceola County Office of Emergency Management, along with their partners, made the decision to consolidate all county-wide shelter services and relocate OCOA special needs residents to Osceola Heritage Park the Sunday after the storm. As of last week, shelter operations at both OHP and the Civic Center had concluded operations. Presently, the former American Classical Charter Academy is hosting a shelter for both the general population and special needs individuals at 2395 Hickory Tree Road, in St. Cloud.

Unfortunately, our OCOA offices were also affected by the storm with minimal flooding, but with our diligent employees and volunteers, we were able to return to normal business hours as of Oct. 3. Since that timeframe, the OCOA has been supporting our clients through “Recovery, Help, and Feed.” With this initiative, we checked with and ensured all clients were accounted for.

We are continuing to support those individuals with minor home repairs while providing nonperishable food along with Meals on Wheels services.

For those who did not weather the storm as well but were able to still reside in their homes, we have compiled a list of potential ‘to do’ items, and/or resources: If your home suffered damage, contact your home/renter’s insurance company. You will need to take pictures of the damage for assessment purposes.

If FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) is needed, act as quickly as possible to submit claims. FEMA can be reached at 1-800-6213362 or DisasterAssistance. gov. FEMA Assistance may include temporary housing assistance, basic home repairs and other uninsured disaster-related needs. To apply for disaster assistance, go to disasterassistance.gov.

For additional post-hurricane resources, go to www.osceola.org/go/ hurricane.

Navigating post-hurricane damage and recovery is more difficult for some than others. As we know, the storm affected both Orange and Osceola County worse than many of our neighboring counties. If you would like to make a monetary donation to help the many Osceola County residents in need, please go to osceolagenerations.org/donate. Additionally, we are requesting additional tarps to protect damaged structures, along with water and non-perishable food items. All donations can be brought to the OCOA Kissimmee campus, 700 Generation Point, in Kissimmee.

We ask that you consider donating to our Disaster Relief Fund at donorbox.org/osceolacouncil-on-aging-disasterrelief. Your support will allow us to keep Osceola residents safe, fed, and healthy.

In the meantime, Hurricane Season IS NOT OVER until Nov. 30. So, keep your eye on the weather and keep your fingers crossed that we do not have another hurricane this season, nor any to speak of for years to come.

To see more guest columns by Wendy, go to https://osceolagenerations.org/councils-corner/

Published Wednesday, October 19th, 2022