Matlacha and Pine Island staying positive for Thanksgiving, despite the damage

Published: November 24, 2022 3:52 PM EST
Updated: November 24, 2022 5:11 PM EST

It’s a hard reality for many families this Thanksgiving as they try to recover from Hurricane Ian. Communities on Matlacha and Pine Island still look rough, and some people don’t even have homes.

One man who’s working on the island says he hopes people find the light in all the darkness.

When you drive onto Matlacha and make your way down Pine Island into Bokeelia, you can still see the damage.

“You’re gonna see it for the next five to ten years, and it’s keeping those memories alive of what it used to be,” said Mark Pena.

Mark Pena. (Credit: WINK News)

WINK News first met Pena last year. Days after Hurricane Ian, WINK News ran into him in Matlacha, picking up donations, distributing them to people who lost everything, and doing what he could to help the people on the island bounce back all while his family was also trying to survive.

Two months later, he knows this Thanksgiving is different.

“I’m blessed to still have my family. At the end of the day, I can replace my house, my business, my material things. I still have my two beautiful grandkids, my wife and my daughter,” said Pena.

He’s thankful for the little things we sometimes take for granted, like AC, running water, or a roof over his head.

As for his grandkids, “I like mac and cheese.”

Thankful for the good stuff.

“I just wanted to give back to my community, and it’s not just me. It’s not just one person, it’s an island together that brought us back,” Pena said.

Mark told me during those difficult times, he met people he will never forget. People he built relationships with and all that everyone did to help this community is something he will always be thankful for.