My 82-year old neighbor left homeless by Hurricane Irma.

6 responses.

My wife and I have a house on No Name Key in the Florida Keys. We live in a very small neighborhood of about eight houses, surrounded by acres of state and federal wildlife preserve land.

No Name Key is at MM 32, directly east of Big Pine Key. You might recognize that name. It was Ground Zero when Hurricane Irma made landfall and destroyed our community. No Name Key used to be a paradise. Now it looks like war zone. The extent of the destruction is hard to believe.

Help Bob Eaken Rebuild

Our good neighbor Bob Eaken lived at the end of our island. His home was perched on an incredible expanse of open bay and a view of the water and the small islands that dot the horizon. But that was before Hurricane Irma blew off Bob’s roof and his entire top floor. The possessions that Bob accumulated over 82 years are now spread in a giant debris field that fans out over a half mile into the “protected” mangroves behind what’s left of his house. Bob has nowhere to sleep, nowhere to live, and doesn’t even have a stairway to get up to the first floor that’s precariously perched on concrete stilts 12 feet above the wreckage-strewn ground.

Let’s Help Bob Eaken Rebuild

Imagine an 82-year old man climbing a ladder to even get into what little remains of his home. Funny thing is Bob knows all about ladders — he’s a retired firefighter who dedicated his life to saving others in danger.

Luckily Bob evacuated to Miami to weather the storm with us. When we were permitted back on the island and returned with him last Sunday, we gathered up his entire life (or what’s left of it) into five soggy garbage bags.

Why Bob’s story is so interesting is that he single handedly built our “Island’s End” community over 30 years ago. Bob was a Ft. Lauderdale firefighter at the time and would drive down on weekends to carve his dream out of the mangroves. Bob dredged the canal, cleared the roads, and built four or five of the houses in the neighborhood. Up until this disaster, Bob was still hoping on and off his boat, scampering up and down his stairs (now gone), and doing maintenance on his own house as well as all of his neighbors’ homes. You and I should be lucky enough to be in the shape Bob’s in when we’re his age.

Now Bob is hoping for some FEMA money and a trailer so he has a place to live while he tries to rebuild his home from the sad and soggy wreck it is post-Irma. But I’m convinced that Bob is the kind of guy that everyone will want to help. Besides FEMA, firefighter organizations, and a generous public would want to help Bob too if they just knew his story. I’m also convinced that Bob’s story is a great tale of American ingenuity, a can-do attitude, and the indomitable spirit that can inspire so many of us. Telling Bob’s story and rebuilding his house will go a long way to help ease some of the pain people are feeling.

Estimates are that it will take between $100,000 and $200,000 to rebuild Bob’s home. We already have a contractor who is working at below cost and scores of neighbors who are providing the labor to clear the wreckage from Bob’s life. Now we need money for supplies, heavy equipment, and skilled craftspeople. Our plan is to have use the funds you donate to reimburse the tradespeople and to pay for the materials we purchase to repair Bob’s home.

We’ve set up a Go Fund Me. At the time this article was published, we’ve raised $7,200 to help Bob. But we need more. If you’d like to help, please direct your browser HERE to see the site and donate. You can also help by sharing this story everywhere you can. Text and email it to your friends, post it on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or anywhere else people can find it. Let your friends and family know that if they want to help a real person instead of simply donating to a nameless, faceless charity, this is a great opportunity to make a real difference.

Bob’s story really illustrates the damage the storm did to our lives and our psyches. I believe your generoisty will go a long way to helping a very deserving neighbor rebuild his home AND his life.

I hope you do, too.

Thank you.

  6 Responses

  1. on September 28, 2017

    Bruce,

    My heart goes out to Bob and to all of you who have been devastated Irma. But I have to ask whether we building in such a vulnerable place is the best use of resources for Bob or for any of you. I’ve never been to the keys and I’m sure they are spectacular but I really have to wonder about the wisdom of investing there in the future. Given what we know about The climate and the probability of rising sea levels, doesn’t it make more sense to move to higher ground?

  2. jeff millman
    on September 28, 2017

    There are people I know in Puerto Rico who may or may not still be alive. If they survived, I will help them. Quietly. Without a GoFundMe page or any other tone deaf pleas to send money to people I don’t know, as if you’re bullshit little campaign should somehow prioritize your friend over other people whose lives have been destroyed. Do you know how far $100,000 would go in Puerto Rico? Fuck Bob. And fuck you for your crassness. Oh yeah, kindly unsubscribe me from your mailing list.

  3. Larry Johnson
    on September 28, 2017

    Bruce:

    First of all, I am sorry for your loss, and that of Bob’s.

    But seriously? After what has occurred to those of lesser privilege in Houston, Florida, and Puerto Rico, you seek contributions to rebuild Bob’s house in the Keys?

  4. on October 3, 2017

    Thanks for your heartfelt response, Jeff. Please allow me to respond to your comments one by one.
    1. I’m sorry for your friends’ troubles in Puerto Rico. Whether you choose to work quietly or scream it from the rooftops, I would suggest you send your money to http://WWW.AARPFOUNDATION.ORG/MARIA. This money will be matched 1:1, which is not the case for most other donations. Donations made in this way will carry no administrative costs because the AARP Foundation absorbs those and it will be distributed to vetted local charities that can best assess where the needs are most pressing. AARP will match any contributions received, up to a total of $250,000. This means we can, together, provide up to $500,000 for relief and recovery efforts.
    2. As you might know, there’s no comparing pain. Martyrdom does not increase or decrease based on how much you have lost versus what someone else has lost. You don’t win any awards simply because you hurt more than another does, nor is their pain diminished because yours is greater. Instead, people of conscience can agree that the world’s problems are many and we should all help in every way we can. I am capable of helping Bob and helping my friends (and people I don’t know) in Puerto Rico. It’s not either/or.
    3. Using undeserved profanity neither makes you stronger nor does it make your argument any louder. It does, however, reduce the effectiveness you seek when you accuse me of “crassness.” As someone much smarter and more eloquent than me once said, “Let ye who has not sinned cast the first stone.”
    4. I will “kindly unsubscribe” you from my list. The kindness, of course, is to me and my readers.

  5. on October 3, 2017

    If you want to help people in Puerto Rico, Larry, I would suggest you send your money to http://WWW.AARPFOUNDATION.ORG/MARIA. This money will be matched 1:1, which is not the case for most other donations. Donations made in this way will carry no administrative costs because the AARP Foundation absorbs those and it will be distributed to vetted local charities that can best assess where the needs are most pressing. AARP will match any contributions received, up to a total of $250,000. This means we can, together, provide up to $500,000 for relief and recovery efforts.
    I am capable of helping Bob and people in Puerto Rico. I’m sure you are too.

  6. on October 3, 2017

    Your argument makes good sense, Jim. The Keys are Bob’s home and I’m not about to tell an 82-yar old man where he should and should not live.

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