After Hurricane Ian, Florida Chapter Members Volunteer to Provide Assistance, Necessities

Mar 20, 2023

By Alison Laurio 

Eighty-eight years ago what was called “The Great Labor Day Hurricane of 1935” hit Florida on August 29. With winds of up to 185 mph, its pressure was the most intense of any Atlantic hurricane to make landfall on record. The Lauderdale Daily News on Sept. 3, 1935, wrote the category 5 storm killed 408 people, and those “caught in the open were blasted by sand with such force that it stripped away their clothing.” 

In September 2022, Hurricane Ian was the deadliest hurricane to strike the state of Florida since the 1935 Labor Day hurricane. Ian caused damage from Cuba north through Florida, through the Southeast and up the coast to make what USA Today called “a devastating landfall” in eastern Canada. 

Dawn Brown, MSW, executive director of NASW-Florida, said when the state issued its first early warning, she began sending emails and postings to alert all members and keep them informed, something she continued throughout the storm. 

“There was an email sent to all members along with a social media post on Facebook that alerted members, future members and the community that our chapter office would remain open as long as it was safe and we had power,” she said. 

Brown said throughout the process she also asked for guidance from her chapter executive colleagues and board members, as well as the NASW national office. 

“We held an emergency board meeting to discuss the impact of Hurricane Ian and community resources along with needs that were identified,” she said. 

When asked if there were volunteers to help when individuals or a community needed it, “everyone wanted to help,” she said. 

The state was smart to quickly grant approval for out-of-state social workers, Brown said, and she assisted in helping them connect with groups like the American Red Cross and Volunteer Florida. The chapter also essentially partnered with colleagues and everyone would shop for donations, she said. “We collaborated to help communities in need.” 

Read the full story in NASW Social Work Advocates magazine.