Lorraine Davila Hurricane Ian

County employee volunteers aid to victims of Hurricane Ian in Florida

County employee Lorraine Davila spent her Thanksgiving holiday helping people sift through the remnants of their destroyed and damaged homes on Pine Island in Lee County, Florida.

The victims of Hurricane Ian are still cleaning and clearing the immense damage from the Category 4 hurricane that hit Pine Island in September, knocking out a bridge that connects the island to Fort Meyers, Fla.

Davila, 32, of Highland, works in the County’s Real Estate Services division handling commercial real estate leasing for hangers at Chino Airport. She began working for San Bernardino County in June 2021.

She decided she would forgo the traditional turkey and fixings and spend her holiday helping others less fortunate than her to recover.

She joined California Volunteers, a state-led volunteer corps launched in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, to mobilize Californians to help in natural disasters. She asked her supervisor and used her own vacation time and hopped on a flight funded by disaster-relief organization Team Rubicon to get to Florida.

“I don’t lose money or lose sleep to give my time up to help a person in need,” Davila said. “This is me serving my God.”

Davila’s task on Pine Island was to evaluate the damage to people’s property and homes and assess whether anything was salvageable. While there, she and Team Rubicon evaluated the damage and cleared the wreckage for about 20 homes, but she said that didn’t even make a dent in the work that needs to be done.

“The magnitude of the damage - I was not prepared,” she said. “It looked like a post-war zone. Most of the people from Team Rubicon are veterans and they are familiar with this type of devastation, but for me, it was very moving. I had not seen that before.”

At one point, Davila met an elderly woman who lived alone in her mobile home and didn’t have any family.

“The mobile home was completely demolished and there was no way of saving it,” Davila said. “There was too much water damage and I told her it was best for her to get a replacement mobile home.”

The lady pulled Davila aside and thanked her for her work.

“She said, ‘I wish I had a daughter like you,’ and I choked up in the moment to hear that - to hear a random stranger tell me something like that was wow,” Davila said.

Davila plans a return to Pine Island during the Christmas holiday because there is so much more work to be done to help the victims recover.

“I knew I wanted to do something that was going to humble me,” she said. “It was worth the sweat and worth the mosquito bites on my body. With all that personal discomfort I was able to find hope. I hope my story inspires others to give back and be part of the bigger picture.”