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Thousands get free water, ice and food in Southwest Florida

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Mike Walcher
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National Guard members give out water, ice and food to people in need after Hurricane Ian. This site at the the North Fort Myers Recreation Center is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, until further notice.

Thousands of people in need are getting water, ice and food at distribution points across the hurricane-ravaged areas of Southwest Florida.

Local governments and volunteer groups are distributing emergency supplies to people. In North Fort Myers members of the Florida National Guard operated a distribution site in a parking lot near the recreation center. Before it opened at 8 a.m., vehicles were lined up for about a miles waiting for supplies. Guard members places packets of bottled water, bags of ice and boxes of food in vehicles as they reached the distribution point.

Donald Charles of North Fort Myers fought back tears as he inched along in the line of vehicles.

"I can't take it anymore," he said. "I've got stage four cancer and the generator quit, and I can't keep our medicine cold."

He explained that his wife also has cancer, and damage from the hurricane is sapping his spirits.

"This is the first time in my life I mentally broke down. I've been a strong man in my life. But all this...I can't think anymore."<br/>
Donald Charles, North Fort Myers

Loammi Epps waited in her car. She said the storm caused the ceiling in her trailer to cave in on her and her cat, Scooby.

"The roof came down and I remember seeing only the eyes of my cat," Epps said. "I knew I had to get my baby out of there."

She did so, escaping with bruises. Scooby was unhurt. Still Epps said that coping with the storm and the aftermath are tough.

"It definitely took a toll - spiritually, emotionally, physically," she said.

Sixty-seven-year-old David Martinez got water and food a couple of miles away at a site in a parking lot, set up by volunteers.

"This is what we need: People get together and work hand-in-hand," Martinez said as he surveyed the stacks of bottled water and other items to be given away.

He said Ian demolished his trailer, and now he's living in his car, which does not run. Martinez maintains a strong will to survive.

"You can't just sit around," he said. "You've just got to get up and go. Things will work out with God's grace. I believe that."

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.

Forty-one-year veteran of television news in markets around the country, including more than 18 years as an anchor and reporter at WINK-TV in southwest Florida.