October 12, 2022

Sanibel Island: Causeway open to trucks now, residents on October 21

By Amy Bennett Williams

Vehicles are once again rolling across the Sanibel Causeway.

On Tuesday afternoon, more than 350 trucks and trailers bringing help to the Hurricane Ian-battered barrier island climbed the first span of the freshly patched three-mile connection to the mainland. Gov. Ron DeSantis promised everyone else will be able to do the same in READ MORE                     (Photo  by Martin Mulder

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Contractors with Private Barges Authorized to Transport Equipment to Sanibel Island

Beginning Monday, October 10, 2022, contractors who have barge access to Sanibel may bring equipment to the island to help their customers with mitigation efforts.  This includes removal of wet and damaged MORE

Housing Needed

The biggest need that was an issue even before Hurricane Ian is HOUSING. For the majority of non-profits on the islands of Sanibel and Captiva, their staffs are now without a home of their own due to the devastating impacts of Hurricane Ian. We put a call out to our “Ding” family asking for help, and a big thanks go to those who have opened their doors to our displaced staff, sent us contacts for possible housing or worked with us to charge affordable rates. 


Staff from “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society, Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF), Bailey Matthew’s National Shell Museum, Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW), Sanibel Community House, FISH, Sanibel School, CHR, Sanibel Library, and so many more are without homes and struggling to find affordable housing. There are also police and fire staff looking for housing in addition to island business owners and their employees.


These individuals, many with families, are the backbone of our islands and help make Sanibel and Captiva that “special” and “happy” place for all of us.  They are professional, hard working and caring adults who will be working to rebuild our islands. While we all want to get back to our “happy place” as soon as possible, it will take so much longer if these individuals and families are unable to find affordable housing.  Prices for rent still being charged are the traditional pre-hurricane seasonal rates and this is impossible for our employees to afford. 


The rebuilding of our islands will be a long and arduous journey for all of us, but without employees such as our non-profit staff and employees and owners of businesses, this recovery will take that much longer. 


Thank you to Janet L., MaryBeth G, Don G., Jim G, Robin T, Jim K , Susie H. and others who have helped or reached out with our housing crisis. But we need more people like them to help the DDWS and all the other nonprofit staffs, business owners and their employees find affordable housing. 


Do you own a home or condo in Lee or Collier County (Fort Myers, Cape Coral, North Ft. Myers, Lehigh Acres, Estero, Bonita Springs, Naples etc.) and be willing to stay up north this winter to donate the use of it or charge just your expenses to help these people live for the next 6 months at a minimum? We realize why people want to come to Florida in the winter and specifically Sanibel and Captiva, but this will take so much longer if people helping to rebuild the islands can’t find affordable housing for at least 6 months to a year. 


We understand there is already something underway to collect information from people as to what they may have available, size of their facility, if they accept families, pets, and other rules of their homes, but until then, if you have something available and are willing to let these non-profit employees and so many more pay an affordable rent, please send an EMAIL to DDWS Executive Director Birgie Miller and someone will get in touch with you to get the details. While you may not be doing the heavy lifting of rebuilding the islands of Sanibel and Captiva, opening your home or condo that was not damaged by the hurricane would be a HUGE help to the rebuilding process. Thank you for your consideration of support and thank you to those already helping in this area. Again, please contact Birgie if you are willing to help.  Please put HOUSING in the email title.

Photo by Libby Erickson. Help us find a nesting place for our non-profit staffs and their families..  

Hurricane Ian Resource Links

If you are a resident or business affected by Hurricane Ian, here is a printable pdf of resources. We are trying to keep it updated and hoping it helps. 

If you have links you have found helpful, please let us know and we will add them to the list. Thank you to Amanda, Mac and April for their help!

Here are a few new links:

Find more resource links HERE.

Refuge Wildlife Update

As it is commonly said, nature will overcome. The Refuge and Sanibel are perfect examples of that with wildlife moving right back in. USFWS staff are working hard on the islands at the Refuge and seeing familiar critters back on the island is helping boost motivation.  Most exciting was the sight of a healthy and active Gopher Tortoise below near the Perry Tract in Gulfside City Park!  Photo taken by one of the FWS law enforcement officers.  

Gladiolus Food Pantry

Gladiolus Food Pantry is the only year-round food pantry in the Harlem Heights area. They are providing hurricane relief food Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays 11 a.m. - 4 p.m. at 10511 Gladiolus Drive, Fort Myers, FL 33908.

According to CBS News correspondent, Manuel Bojorquez, the Gladiolus Food Pantry in Fort Myers was already helping 850 families per month before the storm. Now after the storm, the need is exponentially greater, as many people living in that area of Fort Myers worked on Sanibel Island and surrounding areas that were heavily impacted. There are other links to in our resource page to help those in need. 

Lee County Disaster Recovery Center

Lee County Disaster Recovery Center is open daily 9 a.m. - 6 p.m. at Lakes Regional Library at 15290 Bass Rd., Fort Myers, FL. 

Disaster Recovery Centers are  coordinated efforts between FEMA, the Florida Division of Emergency Management, and state agencies and partners to provide wrap-around resources and information about recovery programs and disaster assistance to Hurricane Ian survivors.

You can learn more and find more resource links here

Precautionary Swim Advisory & Water Run Off

Florida Department of Health in Lee County issued a county-wide precautionary swim advisory for all public beaches and swimming pools. Department of Health warns the public of the increase of waterborne illnesses due to impacted water quality after Hurricane Ian. Read MORE.

A new photo from NASA shows the excess water form the storm shedding into the Gulf of Mexico. Concern of what may be in the runoff is felt by many as nutrient runoff can lead to algal blooms like red tide. Read MORE.

Updated Damage Assessment Link

Lee County released an updated link to view damage assessments of properties in Lee County, including Sanibel and Captiva Islands. The assessments of structures were completed by Urban Search and Rescue Teams.  Please note that this can give misconceptions on the level of damage to the home. It does not take into consideration the interior damage and the continued deterioration from lack of electricity and the damage from heat, humidity and mold.  

Avoiding Post-Ian Scams

Naples Police Department offers a list of tips to avoid scams during recovery after Hurricane Ian. Below are red flags for a few scenarios. Other advice and tips can be found here.

Advanced Fee Construction

A contractor will require money up-front for supplies. Once you give them money, they disappear, along with your money.

Red flags to look for:

  • An unsolicited approach.
  • An out-of-state “contractor.”
  • No pickup/work truck.
  • No professional indicators such as shirt, business card, or vehicle signage; no references
  • A contractor going door to door is not typically legitimate.

Housing scams

Scam artists know that people are desperately looking for housing. They will create fake ads for housing to scam victims out of money.

Red flags to look for:

  • The rental company requests you wire money to them to hold the rental unit. Or they ask for another payment before a lease has even been signed or you have seen the location.
  • The landlord claims to be overseas and can only communicate via email or at pre-arranged times. Steer clear of these situations.

Fake Government Assistance

Many legitimate government programs help people following an incident like Hurricane Ian. The scammers will pretend to represent one of the many existing government programs.

Red flags to look for:

  • They will request money from you, such as an advanced fee or application fee.
  • They may ask you for sensitive information such as banking information. The scammers will then use your personal information to apply for benefits directed to them instead of you. Of course, any “advance fee” you give them will also disappear.

Thank You Congressman Byron Donalds

Special thank you to Congressman Donalds who tweeted his support of the J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge. He encouraged others to support by donating to the "Ding" Darling Wildlife Society through our website

Captains for Hire 

Boat transportation is needed to coordinate getting onto the island, as many residents have no way to access the island and do not have boats. Here is a list of captains we've compiled to act as a resource list. Please contact captains directly to arrange transportation and other details. NOTE:  The DDWS does not endorse any of these people and they are only being listed as a resource and reference.  

Captains for Clean Water Sanibel Operation Guides Directory also offers a list of captains and contacts which continues to be updated.  

Cars Still Needed

THANK YOU to Anne M and Lee T for the use of their cars for our "Ding" staff. They have been a real asset in allowing our team to help with the work of the DDWS and restoration at the refuge. Many other island non-profits are also needing the use of temporary cars. Do you have a car in Lee County you are not using and would be willing to let an employee of other non-profits on the island use? These professionals have no means of transportation and it has been difficult finding ways to carpool. Car rentals are difficult to find and navigating insurance a challenge  

Please contact Birgie Miller, Executive Director of the DDWS via email if you have a car available to use or sell.  Please put CAR in the email title.

Refuge Volunteers Needed

As Refuge staff is able to pivot focus from assisting the City with search and rescue and clean-up, they are now beginning the hard work of rebuilding the Refuge from the damages. The initial ask from the Refuge includes 3-4 volunteers to help on various projects each day. Boat transportation is included. It is hard and dirty work. If interested, please let us know by clicking HEREPlease put Volunteer in the email title


The J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge has been a part of peoples lives in ways we don't even know. Please use #dingstrong in your social media posts regarding the Refuge, your happy memories or current thoughts. Thank you for caring. 

We are #SanibelStrong' #SanCapStrong and certainly #DingStrong.

Any updates, news, links to resources, or ways to support the Refuge as well as other organizations who are helping island residents directly can be found at dingstrong.org. Everyone has been impacted and please consider supporting those organizations important to you directly via their online giving pages.

Next Week:  The DDWS will be sharing some new and improved efforts with our mindfulness programming for kids and adults.  Share wonderful news of our Wildlife on Wheels (WoW) team planning to get back out on the road to educate and inspire and so much more!  

Photo by Diane Doran

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