CHARLOTTE COUNTY, Fla. - Many families are spending their vacation time relaxing and enjoying the Thanksgiving holiday. But a few weeks ago, two Charlotte County deputies dedicated their vacation time to helping the victims of Hurricane Sandy. They'd experienced the same thing with Charley eight years ago.
"When Hurricane Charley hit, I lost every single thing I had," DFC Mark DeHart said. "I lost the house I was living in, most of my possessions."
DeHart and DFC Blake Beyer saw volunteers come from all around the country help their community rebuild. Eight years later, when Sandy hit the northeast, they wanted to return the favor. "It was an easy answer to say yes to do it," Beyer said.
They rode up to Beach Haven, NJ to assist local officers. "We helped get their house in order," Beyer said, "helped get their life back on track, so they could go work, we could help with their house. When they went to work, we gutted the house."
"We saved what possessions they had that were still salvageable," DeHart said.
They did all of this, not on county time, but with their own vacation time. It was anything but a vacation. They slept in bunk beds, had no water, no heat and occasional electricity.
"There was sand, it looked like snow drifts, five to six feet stacked on the side of the roads," Beyer said. "People without water, without power, and it's cold, you know. We have a hurricane here, it's usually warm. It's the opposite there. They're without power. It's cold. They're freezing."
The work was exhausting, but the experience was unforgettable. "We got into this line of work to help people," DeHart said.
It was just their way of saying "thank you"
"Seeing everyone come together was the biggest thing and knowing they were appreciative and we could repay our help that we had eight years ago," Beyer said.