Twelve members of St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Mission youth group—Elena Orozco, Chris Andrade, Zayra Andrade, Tanya and Samantha Chavez, Andrea Lopez, Aaron Manzanares, Daniel Meza, Fernanda Murillo, Luz Perez, Bernice Luquin, Fernanda Ruiz-Yin—gave up their fall break to travel to Naples, Fla., to help with Hurricane Irma recovery efforts. Overseeing the group, and working with them were Kathy O’Brien, the mission’s youth director; Steve Miles, a parishioner; and Fr. Tom Charters, GHM, pastor of St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Mission in Erwin.
On the first day the group assisted at St. Peter the Apostle Parish in Naples. Catholic Charities was implementing help and recovery out of the parish. When the youth arrived, they went to work cleaning up the parish grounds. They spent five hours picking up bags of Styrofoam roofing insulation which lined the perimeter of the parish. The hurricane had blown the insulation from a trailer camp which had been greatly damaged. Later in the day, the group saw the trailer camp from which the insulation came.
On the second day the group went to Immokalee, an area bordering the Everglades. Immokalee is a huge area populated by Haitians and Hispanic migrants who work the agricultural fields. The poverty level of Immokalee is 43.9%. At Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church and Center, under the guidance of members and volunteers from the center and Catholic Charities, the group put together bags of groceries which they then distributed to the elderly living in apartment units in the area.
The group did more than merely hand the groceries to the elderly. They spent time visiting and talking with the people. The elderly shared their stories with the youth, and the youth shared with one another what they heard at the evening Mass.