When Jodie Von Gal and Andy Block returned home to Flagler Beach late Sept. 12 after evacuating, they found a thick coat of dark mud covering their wood floors. Hurricane Irma had flooded their home after heavy rainfall and winds caused the Intracoastal Waterway to overflow — leaving behind 18 inches of water that created the mud-coating.
The couple had lined some of their home’s entrance ways with sandbags before driving about 600 miles to Mississippi to avoid Hurricane Irma’s wrath. But it wasn’t enough.
“We were just so grateful that the house was still here,” Von Gal said. “We’re in OK shape. We have flood insurance; we have hurricane insurance. So, we’re very good in that department.”
The two have lived on Ocean Palm Drive since 2010, and after Hurricane Matthew spared their home in Oct. 2016, they thought Irma might follow suit.
The pair woke up at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday to start scrubbing away at the mud. Soon after, they were met by volunteers — some strangers and some friends — who got to work mopping up the residue.
“At first, it’s a little overwhelming for you because I don’t have enough mops, and I don’t have enough brooms, and so you just go like, ‘Uh, can I get you something to drink?’ Von Gal said. “You don’t know what to do. I started putting on my hostess hat and started acting like a hostess.”
Cari Dolney, a fifth-grade teacher at Old Kings Elementary School, and her 8-year-old daughter, Sophia Dolney, were among the volunteers who didn’t know the homeowners. Dolney and other fifth-grade teachers at Old Kings collected supplies beforehand to help the cleanup efforts as well.
“I saw the post on Facebook where Colleen Conklin (a Flagler School Board member) had posted that community members needed help,” Dolney said. “We were just very grateful that we didn’t get any damage, so as community members, we should go out there and support our community whatever way we could.”
After the mother-daughter pair spent about three hours helping clean Von Gal’s home and several others, Sophia voiced how thankful she was to be able to help others during the drive home.
“Just hearing that made me happy,” said Dolney, a Palm Coast resident. “I think the kids understand, and I think it’s great. Kids need to be thankful and grateful for what they have. Let’s take them out there and teach them the importance of helping other people.”
Von Gal said the volunteers made a huge difference in the cleanup process at her home. Still, she expects it’ll take about a week to finish cleaning up the entire mess.