Jonathan Garrick was undaunted even as the clouds darkened, the wind whipped and forecasters warned of possible tornadoes. He loaded his wife’s van with a drill, nails and screws, adamant that he’d make good on a Facebook promise.
“I know there are some still preparing and shuttering up. Who from Estero to Naples still needs help? I have drills, extra bolts, spacers, etc,” he wrote the day before Hurricane Irma would thrash the Sunshine State.
The Movement market leader in Naples, Fla., had just spent nearly six hours shuttering the home he shares with his pregnant wife and four kids — three daughters, 19, 9 and 5, and a 2-year-old son — and braced to ride out the seventh (maybe more) major hurricane he’s endured since moving to Florida in 1995.
But as the ferocious Category 5 Irma roared across the Atlantic, Garrick, 39, decided it was useless to sit and wait when he knew people needed help.
“In a storm, for the first few days before, people go comatose,” he says. “They don’t know what to do if they’re staying.”
In Florida, homes built after the passage of a 2002 code enforced by the Florida Building Commission come with hurricane protection, mainly impact glass and shutters. But those homeowners still need labor and tools — drills and screws that penetrate concrete — to safeguard their houses. Plus, there are hundreds of people living in older homes without that defense.
Garrick aimed to give a helping hand. Starting the Wednesday before Irma hit Naples, Garrick estimates he helped a dozen or more people shutter their homes over the span of four days.
“I’m not handy, by any means; I have a mortgage banker’s hands,” he says. “But, when you get into action, you just start helping. Most of the people had the supplies. I had the hands and the drill.”
‘I felt like Jesus showed up’
As Garrick worked, several miles away, Allyson Kopp Lawary panicked.
Lawary, her husband and two children, a 13-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter, hunkered down at her father’s home. They moved to Florida from Cincinnati in 2012 and, until Irma, had never experienced a hurricane.
After realizing they didn’t have the proper hardware to install their shutters, they hoped a handyman they worked with in the past would be able to help. But when he didn’t show to do the work, Lawary began to worry.
“I started to panic. Literally, at that moment, I got on Facebook and saw Jonathan’s post,” Lawary says.
Along with an offer to help, Garrick’s post included his phone number. And while Lawary, who works for a printing and marketing company, had never met or spoken with Garrick (although they were Facebook friends), she decided to give him a call.
“I called him, told him what was going on,” Lawary says. “He was like, ‘No problem.’”
Garrick drove to the Lawary home, about 40 minutes away, and helped Lawary’s husband attach the shutters to their home.
“My husband was like, ‘I have never met anyone like this man,’” Lawary recalls. “‘This guy comes up with this beard and is the nicest person. Literally, I felt like Jesus showed up.’”
Even as she and her family pick up the pieces after Irma, Lawary, who assumes she befriended Garrick on Facebook to network, marvels at how their lives intersected.
“It was literally a God moment when I saw his post,” she says. “It was one of those moments where the right people come at the right time. (Garrick) had enough faith to put that out there and follow through.”
God said stay. So, he stayed.
Garrick first started helping friends and colleagues the Wednesday before the storm. Between answering emails and ordering inspections, he drilled industrial-strength aluminum shutters to doors and windows.
He kept that pace into Saturday, when supplies grew scarce and storm drew closer. “At that point, on Saturday, we were dodging tornadoes because of the storm’s outer band,” he says. “People weren’t ready. Their homes weren’t ready. People weren’t prepared.”
Although determined to help, Garrick was aware of the danger looming. Physically, he was exhausted. Mentally, he was drained. Not only did he worry about Irma’s impact on business (real estate is a primary industry in Naples), but he questioned whether remaining home endangered his family.
He and his wife, Kelly, prayed, asking God if He wanted them to leave. The answer: “God was not giving us the desire to get out,” Garrick says. “My wife and I kept checking in with each other. We both kept getting the message that we’re supposed to stay.”
So, they stayed, and Garrick worked.
“When you throw yourself into something like that, that’s what helps,” he says. “Throwing yourself into service is asking God for clarity.”
Now, the aftermath
Like millions of other Floridians, Garrick and his family are dealing with Irma’s aftermath. It took him and his neighbors six hours to clear the roads in their neighborhood of downed oak trees.
“The cleanup has been exhausting,” he says. “It’s going to take a couple of months.”
But he’s okay with that. For a few days, Garrick brought calm to people on the cusp of panic. He forged connections with strangers, and actively demonstrated love for neighbors — the ones he knew and the ones he didn’t. When you’re part of a company that espouses those values, he says, it’s not hard to do.
“I know it’s cheesy if you’re on the outside but we exist to love and value people,” Garrick says of Movement. “This is a company that does things differently, and it’s needed. This Movement of Change in our communities, in our families, in our people, it’s needed to put focus on other people, instead of ourselves.”