Sanibel Community House Diligently Cleaning Up After Ian

by SC Reporter Cassandra Wilkins and Publisher Shannen Hayes

The powerful Hurricane Ian was not discriminatory in its destruction on Sanibel Island, where it made landfall on Sept. 28. The historical Sanibel Community House was profoundly touched by the storm and remains closed for repairs.

The Sanibel Community House suffered from the destruction of Hurricane Ian, the category 4 storm which made landfall Sept. 28 on the island. It could be more than a year before the island gathering place reopens its doors to the community. SC photo by Shannen Hayes

“When you’ve had four feet of water, it’s a little daunting because you have to remove so much of the dry wall,” explained Director Teresa Riska-Hall. “All the beautiful wood flooring (from a two-year renovation project completed in 2016) that was $80,000 is gone. It buckled and sludge got underneath it.”

The extra foundations built to support the historical portion of the structure were moved by the high-end category 4 storm and damage to the kitchen will make it necessary to replace most items. Riska-Hall said the garage was also submerged in the flood water and a company was hired to help clean it out. Some of the outbuildings, she said, had six feet of water.

Community House staff are working diligently through the clean-out process, which has various stages. The first was to tear out the dry wall, which took several weeks. And fallen trees near the property had to be removed, which thankfully did not fall on The Community House.

Drywall has been removed from the Sanibel Community House after it was under four feet of storm surge from Hurricane Ian. The clean up continues. SC photos by Shannen Hayes

The 1200 amp electrical panel outside took on water, too. “We’ll have to get in line for that,” said Riska-Hall.

“The next phase,” she explained, “will cost a lot of money. It will involve our acoustical walls, which are filled with water. We have some toxic mud that needs to be covered up or removed. We can’t even move to the mold remediation, yet.”

It could be more than a year until The Community House is ready for gatherings again. It just depends on how quickly building supplies can be procured.

“We’re not even to the stage of ordering supplies,” said Riska-Hall. “We’re still in the clean-up phase. Nothing has been ordered. We’re simply trying to stop things from corroding. It’s really hard to ballpark a reopening date because that all depends on building supplies. It’s going to be at least a year, maybe longer, if we can’t get supplies.”

“We are holding out hope that we could open parts of the house,” she added.

The Community House was founded by the community and has been a gathering place since the “Founder’s Room” opened to the public in 1927. Riska- Hall said The Community House is “part of the heart of the island.”

“We take care of the gatherings of 104 non-profits, service clubs and organizations like the Garden Club or Art League,” Hall said. “We really try to weave through all those groups and assure The Community House assists them to success. The Community House helps to maintain and assure our small town atmosphere continues.”

Dontations to help The Community House make repairs or help its staff who lost their homes to the storm can be made at or through GoFundMe.

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