Collier NAACP, St. Matthew’s House help clean up River Park community

Published: October 15, 2022 7:10 AM EDT

Everywhere you look inside Darice Pollard’s home, volunteers worked nonstop to help cleanup the damage left behind by Hurricane Ian.

Pollard’s 79-year-old grandmother Julie lived in the River Park home for close to 60 years.

“She basically lived most of her life in this house. Very attached, hard to let things go. I really had to get in her ear about how you have to let some of this stuff go. You can’t keep everything,” Pollard said.

Not everything survived but her paintings did. The house, meanwhile, had to be gutted because the water rushed in.

“A neighbor, a male, who lives on the street very generous kind man came in and told us to get out. He walked me and my grandma up to the gas station here at 7-Eleven,” Pollard said. “Had to walk through waist-deep water.”

Her family was not alone in River Park.

The Collier County NAACP has cleaned up close to 70 homes in the area.

They partnered with St. Matthew’s House to help clean up the neighborhood, even with volunteers coming in from St. Louis.

“I think the community at first felt neglected,” said Barbara Melvin, vice president of the NAACP Collier County. “I don’t think they feel that way now.”

Since the storm, St. Matthew’s House CEO Steve Brooder said he has seen compassion and generosity pour out from teams traveling to Southwest Florida to help.

“We’re part of it,” Brooder said. “We’re here.”

That support made Friday memorable for Pollard and her family.

“My grandmother would be very happy to see this. Today’s my birthday. I’m extremely happy to see this. This is a great birthday gift,” Pollard said.