Are you thinking about moving to Naples but worried about leaving your community that you have known for years? You likely have so many questions, including;

  • Will I fit into the Naples way of life?
  • What are the people like?
  • Will I be accepted into groups?
  • Will it feel like home?
  • Is there a sense of community?

All of these questions can be explained by talking about Hurricane Irma. On Friday, September 8th, my family and I checked into our community shelter. We are fortunate that our neighborhood restaurants and gym are hurricane rated. We arrived, along with about 200 residents. I wasn’t sure what to expect being in relatively tight quarters with mostly strangers. Families claimed their hurricane living space and set up for the remainder of the storm. When a hurricane is headed your way, it’s a waiting game. There is nothing else to do except prepare. And then sit and wait. As we all waited in the shelter, people wandered around talking to other residents and making the best of our situation. There were still people awake and laughing at 2:30 am. The next day was more of the same, except that Irma was due to make her first appearance. By Sunday, people were beginning to get anxious. We lost power a few times early in the day making it difficult to keep up with Irma’s track. Anxiety was also building as people began to worry about their homes and the impact Irma would have on the place we call home.

Irma Community | Sonja Pound | Realtor

As the eye wall approached, people were gathered around the windows watching as trees bent to near horizontal. As the storm intensified, we all continued to share stories, ask questions and watch in awe at what Mother Nature was capable of. We were without most power. The kitchen was powered by a generator, so we continued to be well taken care of. Many staff members brought their families to the shelter so they could continue to work and make sure all members were safe and taken care of. I can’t say enough about the staff of Grey Oaks Country Club. Everyone from the managers (Joe and Chris), chefs (Mike and Ryan), servers (Natasha) to maintenance employees. Joe and Chris worked around the clock. They slept a few hours each night, and were right back to managing their club and assisting members. So many were there and all pitching in to help. And the best part; they did it with a smile on their face and with genuine concern. From the stories and photos I have seen on Facebook, Grey Oaks is not the only club that sheltered people during the storm.

Naples is a community overflowing with people that don’t hesitate to assist when needed. Click To Tweet

To watch a brief recap of Irma, watch this: Hurricane Irma Video

Through the entire hurricane, not one person was unpleasant. Even with the stress of perhaps not having a home to return to, everyone was helpful and upbeat. Our club shelter served food and had plenty of water on-hand. But, people were still sharing their personal snacks and food they brought into the shelter. Teens were actually talking! Imagine that? A group of them, including my children, sat and played UNO for hours. They talked and laughed with old and new friends. It was so nice to see them connecting on a more personal level, all while Hurricane Irma was wreaking havoc on our neighborhood. There was a true sense of community among strangers.

Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.
-Vince Lombardi

As were are now in the recovery phase of Hurricane Irma, neighbors continue to help each other. I have been in contact with several neighbors that were out of town for the storm. We all help each other. We check on each other’s homes. We offer to help clear debris, provide food and water and have each other over for meals. And those that were well prepared for a hurricane, and have generators, have offered to open their homes to those without power. We cheer when a neighbor’s power returns even if ours has not. And this is not just in times of natural disasters. I find Naples people to be genuine, friendly and supportive – all day, everyday.

I had the opportunity to talk with so many strangers about their life in Naples, their children, pets and activities. I hope to run into many of them again. People tend to come together when times are difficult, but I find that in Naples, people are always ready and willing to offer help. To answer the question about a sense of community – yes, Naples is a wonderful, accepting and helpful community. It does not take a natural disaster to feel that sense of community. It takes a willingness to put yourself out there and try new things. It takes being open to new people and new activities. It is just like many other things in life – if you put effort into meeting new people and forming strong relationships, it will happen.

Will Naples compare to your current community? Maybe. Perhaps you will feel even more at home here, as you get to know the people of Naples and what our city has to offer. You will find that most people are not from Naples or even Florida. We have many people from Ohio, Minnesota, Michigan, Kentucky… At one point, everyone that has moved here had to find their new community. With people so open and friendly, you will too. If you are looking for great groups to join or have suggestions, please post in the comments below.

It’s important for you to know that we are ready for our seasonal friends and tourists to arrive. Please watch this video to see how Naples has quickly recovered from Irma, due in great part to our sense of community and willingness to help one another. We are happy to welcome you back to enjoy all that is Naples, Florida.