Midland resident and Salvation Army volunteer Ben Romero spent two weeks cooking meals for Florida residents.
FORT MYERS, Fla. — It has been about two months since Hurricane Ian devastated Florida. The Category 4 hurricane killed more than 100 people and was the largest hurricane to hit Florida since 1935.
“Their lives have changed dramatically,” said Salvation Army volunteer Ben Romero. “And all the property they had, I mean, they all lost… Everything is lost: photos, documents, everything they had is lost.”
Despite the obvious distance, this volunteer from Midland Salvation Army knew it was his mission to help.
“Ben has been one of our greatest volunteers,” said Capt. Robert Coriston, Midland Commanding Officer of the Salvation Army. “He represents our shelter, volunteers to prepare meals, transport clients and he does everything we ask him to do. To me, he is the greatest volunteer you can find: a heart for service and a heart for Jesus.”
During the hurricane, Ben was asked to do what he did best: feed people.
“The first time we got there I was feeding about 300 people,” Romero said.
“Once they opened up the island I ended up feeding about 750 people a day and of course that’s with a whole crew there.”
750 people per day. People who had just lost everything
“The situation was pretty bad,” Romero said. “It was more than I thought it was going to be.”
But even in the worst of times, their spirit never broke
“Their spirit,” Romero said. “They are so great. I mean they lose everything, but they have hope. […] They wanted to pray for we. And we were there to pray for them and they helped us as much as we helped them up.”
With Ben at the helm, Floridians ate well.
“From burgers to tacos to barbecue, they had it all,” Romero recalls.
In a situation like this, we underestimate what a hot meal can do.
“Believe it or not,” Romero said. “Give them a hot meal: that’s all they really wanted. They were tired of eating baloney sandwiches and peanut butter sandwiches. But just give them a hot meal and talk to them and tell them that God is on their side, you know, to help them. took them out, they were so thankful for that.”
It’s not Ben’s first time either. It has also contributed to the recovery of other hurricanes. Helping is what he does best.
“They called and specifically asked for Ben this time because of his performance in the last hurricane,” Coriston said. “So normally they would say, ‘Hey, can you send a team? ‘Hey, can you send your mobile kitchen area too?’ This time they were like ‘Hey can you fire that Ben guy?’ […] Ben is the epitome of who you would want because he has a friendly smile. He’s a good cook. He has this ability to almost make you forget about your predicament.”
“If I could have stayed longer,” Romero said. “I would have stayed more there.”