By Captain Tawny Cowen-Zanders, Public Information Officer – Naples Incident Command.
The Salvation Army Working to Shine Light in the Community (Collier County, Florida)
Clervania Lahens wasn’t expecting much for her birthday gift – perhaps some dark chocolate or a lovely bouquet of wildflowers. She would have even settled for a few moments of peace and quiet, especially since she shares her home with her husband and two sets of twins ages 3 and 15, as well as her other children ages 5, 11, 17, and 20. Never in her wildest dreams would she have believed her birthday gift would be more precious than gold – her life.
“Hurricane Irma came on my birthday. What a wild, wild day,” shared Clervania. “Celebrating another year takes on a whole new meaning when you think it may be your last. My birthday gift became the safety of my family, as well as our home.”
Clervania’s family, as well as her home, survived relatively intact; however, like most of Collier County, she still does not have power and she cannot drink the water due to a water boil alert. She is not able to refrigerate nutritious food and rationing the water is laborious; however, she finds the darkness to be the most difficult challenge.
“You don’t realize how dark it can get until there is no electricity anywhere,” marveled Clervania. “I know this will sound strange but the absence of light is almost suffocating. The children are frightened and, truthfully, I am, as well. Candles cast eerie shadows.”
She is grateful for the presence of The Salvation Army. “I smile when I see your feeding vehicle because you are a light that pierces the darkness. Your hot food, cold water, and welcoming arms light up our community. Thank you.”
Clervania can be assured The Salvation Army will continue to shine a light into her community, long after the last light comes back on in the community. This is our sacred promise to Clervania, her family, and her community.
Captain Cowen-Zanders is the administrator of The Salvation Army’s Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center, Philadelphia, PA.