How to help local Irma survivors rebuild this holiday season


TYBEE ISLAND, Ga. While many homes on Tybee Island are adorned with Christmas trees and twinkling lights, June Saunders home is instead compiled of holes in the ceiling, soggy linoleum flooring, and piles of plywood.

More than three months after Tropical Storm Irma wrecked parts of the Coastal Empire, neighbors are still rebuilding on Lewis Avenue.

Saunders has lived in her ranch-style home on Lewis Avenue for decades. Now she is cleaning up  again after her home was severely damage after Hurricane Matthew.

While some major improvement has happened, including new walls, she is still sleeping on a mattress on the floor with her dog while flooring and more walls continuing to be installed. She currently is having to take a shower at the nearby YMCA.

Despite the major setbacks, Saunders refuses to let Irma damage her faith or her Christmas spirit. One of her prize possession is a large plastic Nativity scene gifted to her by her late husband. The Nativity set was spared from damage during the storm and this December Saunter put it up for display once more, even as debris and what little possessions she has left are still scattered in boxes in her yard and inside her home.

Her act of resilience, she says, goes along with the rally cry of “Tybee Strong” a motto for perseverance used in the aftermath of Irma. The motto turned into movement where several locals gathered together to collect donations for islanders in need of assistance due to the storm.

“You can’t just sit down and say we’ll I’ll just die, you’re not gonna do that,” Saunders said. “You pick yourself up and you go on and you can tell that it’s going to be better and just walls I was so elevated to have walls.”

To learn more about Tybee Strong and how to donate, click here. Organizer Jeremy Altman says a specific item people can donate are Home Depot gift cards to help with rebuild projects. Click the link to get connected and donate.

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