Giving Thanks

How Sarasotans Affected by Hurricane Ian Plan to Keep Thanksgiving Traditions Alive

From gathering at the grandchildren's house to cooking for the community, these Gulf Coast residents carry on the spirit of the season.

By Laura Paquette November 22, 2022

Overlay of Hurricane and Thanksgiving Dinner, Gulf Coast residents affected by Hurricane Ian find creative ways to give thanks this year.

Gulf Coast residents affected by Hurricane Ian find creative ways to give thanks this year. 

For many of us, there’s no place like home for the holidays. But for those affected by Hurricane Ian, in some cases, home no longer exists. This Thanksgiving, residents of the hardest-hit areas on the Gulf Coast find themselves staying in hotels, renting temporary housing or bunking in their adult children's homes.

Despite the challenges, three Gulf Coast residents share how they're adapting their Thanksgiving traditions to celebrate and give back to their neighbors in the spirit of the season.

Th following responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Sasha Lindenmuth of Desserted by Sasha Cuban Cafe stands in front of her food trailer

Venice resident Sasha Lindenmuth, owner of Desserted by Sasha Cuban Cafe, looks forward to cooking a Thanksgiving meal for a family affected by Hurricane Ian. 

Sasha Lindenmuth, 35, Venice Resident and Owner of Desserted by Sasha Cuban Cafe 

How were you affected by Hurricane Ian?

“We lost power at our house and had a roof leak in one of the bedrooms. Because we have a young baby, we couldn’t stay in our house without power, so we stayed with a friend in St. Pete for two weeks until our power came back. During that time, my husband commuted nearly two hours one way to Venice for work.

"I also own a food trailer for my business, which had been parked against the side of our Venice home. The trailer and my business kitchen in Fort Myers were OK. After the hurricane, I reached out on social media to see if there was anyone in need of food and took my trailer out to residents of Venice Ranch Mobile Homes. I ended up cooking as much food as I could for people who hadn’t had a hot meal for days after the storm. You could see how thankful they were to receive food from the looks on their faces.” 

How has Hurricane Ian affected your Thanksgiving?

“We are back in our house now with power and will have a normal Thanksgiving, but there will be a lot of people who can’t celebrate the way they want to due to financial issues or because they're still picking up after the storm. This Thanksgiving, my business will adopt a family in need who was affected by the hurricane. I'll cook them a Thanksgiving dinner, including marinated and roasted pork called pernil, beans and rice, side dishes and dessert so they can feel a sense of normalcy.”

What words of encouragement can you share with people displaced by the Hurricane during the holiday season?

“Don’t give up! Whatever curveballs life throws at you, don’t let that hold you back. The wind blew through Venice, but we’re still standing.”

Doris Hardy, Sanibel resident and former presient of the "Ding" Darling Wildlife Society

Doris Hardy, former president of the "Ding" Darling Wildlife Society, will spend Thanksgiving with her dog. She looks forward to returning to her home on Sanibel Island and volunteering at the island's education center. 

Doris Hardy, 80, Sanibel Island Resident and Former President of the “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society 

How were you affected by Hurricane Ian?

“I’ve lived on Sanibel Island for 20 years, and I built my house, located on a bayou, to be hurricane strong. The house itself was fine; the roof held up and the living areas were unaffected. However, my two garages were flooded by the surge, so I lost my car. I’d spent a year replanting for birds, butterflies and bees, and the wind blew all of those plants away. I’m currently in my third temporary residence, and I hope to be able to return home by the end of the year, assuming that electrical and water issues are fixed."

How has Hurricane Ian affected your Thanksgiving?

“Most of my family lives in Arizona, and I see them during other times of the year. I always spend Thanksgiving with my dachshund, Chauncy Chattanooga III. I used to order Thanksgiving dinner for four from Bailey’s General Store on Sanibel. I would have leftovers and of course, shared some turkey with Chauncy. This year, I’ll have to reinvent something and find another place that does takeout.

"Despite everything, Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, and we have so much to be thankful for. Hopefully, someone will take me to Publix and I can have dinner, go for a walk with Chauncy and give silent thanks. I wouldn’t be able to survive the hurricane, or anything else, without my dog. She is my family.”

What words of encouragement can you share with people displaced by the Hurricane during the holiday season?

“Pause, reflect and look around at all that you do have and focus on that. Try to get outside of yourself and help others. That doesn’t mean you can’t cry or pound your fist on a pillow, but don’t let it overtake you. Keep your sense of humor and perspective.”

Carol Strange (center) with her family

While Carol Strange's (center) family business, Sanibel Seashell Industries, must be rebuilt after the hurricane, she's excited for her family to be together for Thanksgiving. 

Image: Carol Strange

Carol Strange, 81, Fort Myers Resident and Owner of Sanibel Seashell Industries

How were you affected by Hurricane Ian?

“My husband and I live in a retirement community and were not displaced. However, both the store and warehouse for our family business, Sanibel Seashell Industries, were destroyed by the hurricane. Two of our children are also homeless because they lost their homes on Sanibel.”

How has Hurricane Ian affected your Thanksgiving?

“We want to keep our family together for Thanksgiving. This year, we’re doing a Thanksgiving reversal, because my husband, myself and our children will celebrate at our adult grandchildren’s house, where our children will also live until their homes are rebuilt. Everyone will bring something to eat, including traditional Thanksgiving foods and vegetarian and gluten-free options to accommodate everyone. There will be turkey, stuffing and too many desserts. Everyone is healthy and we have lots to be thankful for.”

What words of encouragement can you share with people displaced by the Hurricane during the holiday season?

“It’s not a sprint; it’s a marathon. We should take care of ourselves and our health and keep going one day at a time. There is so much that we cannot control, but the only thing we can control is our attitude. As long as we stick together, we’ll be fine.”

To help communities affected by Hurricane Ian enjoy Thanksgiving, consider donating or volunteering with All Faiths Food Bank, Harry Chapin Food Bank of Southwest Florida and FISH of SANCAP.

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