PBS and NPR for Southwest Florida
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

For some federal workers, helping SWFL recover is more than just a job

Kim Davis, an employee with the US Army Corps of Engineers, helps a Charlotte County resident with roof damage thru Operation Blue Roof.
Kim Davis, an employee with the US Army Corps of Engineers, helps a Charlotte County resident with roof damage thru Operation Blue Roof.

In the 6 weeks since Hurricane Ian hit our community, there has been an outpouring of aid. FEMA and its federal partners have provided the state and Florida households with about $2.2 billion in aid. More than 2,400 federal personnel are in Florida to help deliver that aid and help in the recovery. For the people who do this work, conditions aren't always easy.

Just ask Kim Davis who is helping homeowners with damaged roofs. Some days have been painfully long driving from a Tampa hotel to then start her 12-hour day crisscrossing Charlotte County neighborhoods. But she does it with a smile.

“I volunteer to come here to do this because I like helping people,” said Davis

She had spent the days prior to Hurricane Ian preparing her own home in Panama City. When the storm changed course, she felt she had to go.

“It really is heartbreaking to see especially the retirees who worked all these years to have peace. They are thrown back into this whirlwind,” said Davis.

Davis spends a good part of her days in a rental car searching for the next house on her list. She has names of homeowners who signed up for the Army Corps of Engineers’ Operation Blue Roof. The free program sends out crews to cover damaged roofs with a tarp to temporarily protect it.

Davis says she’s seen so much gratitude for her team’s work. She recalls a woman who was brought to tears when she drove up to her home to do an assessment. “She hugged me and she started to cry,” Davis says. “All I can do is hug her. Like, ‘I'm here. This is what we’re going to do. And we're going to make sure you're taken care of.’”

Davis is a program analyst for the Army Corps of Engineers. She's usually managing budgets in her office. Now she's inspecting roofs, figuring out how big and bad roof damage is so that crews can get the okay to start the work. Davis took a crash course in roofing for a previous storm.

This grandmother-to-be says her faith inspires her work.

“I'm humbled to do this,” said Davis.

She says she recently had a someone at the grocery store called her an angel after recognizing who she worked for by her uniform.

“It made me tear up and it's making me tear up now, just thinking about it because I'm just like, ‘I'm just a regular person. And I see a need. I'm here,’” said Davis.

Davis has been giving back for a long time. When she graduated from high school in 1989 she entered the Navy. When she retired, she felt she could continue to serve by joining the Corps.

“Coming from the military. You're trained every day that it’s not about you. It's about the mission. It's about what you can do. It’s a bigger picture. And I see the bigger picture. It's not about me, it's about making this community somewhat back to what it was--making the people happy. It makes me feel good,” said Davis.

WGCU is your trusted source for news and information in Southwest Florida. We are a nonprofit public service, and your support is more critical than ever. Keep public media strong and donate now. Thank you.