Stories of Change

Meliton and Margarita Cruz have been migrant farmworkers for 25 years. In 2018 they returned to their small trailer home only to find it ruined by Hurricane Michael. With help from CWS partner Panhandle Area Education Consortium they were able to cope with the long-term recovery needs!

Long-term Recovery from Hurricane Michael in 2018

Yes – it has been almost 2½ years since Hurricane Michael, but we continue to see the long-term effects, especially on our most vulnerable populations.

The following is one such account:

The last 25 years have been met head-on with hard work, providing for family and determination to overcome the daily obstacles encountered by the very people who provide the food on our tables. This family is La Familia Cruz.

Meliton and Margarita made their way from Mexico, saving every penny they could and finally becoming legal permanent residents – a dream come true for them and their three children. Since then, they travel yearly from their home in Quincy, Florida to Immokalee, Collier County, Florida, to Tennessee, back to Immokalee and finally returning to Quincy – and all along the way picking the beautiful tomatoes we look forward to in our burgers, salads, sauces and much more! This has been their yearly routine for years.

This is not an easy life, and Hurricane Michael proved disheartening to them when it eventually affected the only home they have ever owned in Quincy, FL. They call it their “trailita” (“little trailer”), and they are very proud of this place they call home.

During their many journeys, they have experienced many other disheartening situations such as: being robbed at gunpoint of all their money and immigration papers just a block from the U.S. border, simply because they wanted to see their parents in Mexico; losing work due to crops devastated by weather, and now, facing the uncertainties and restrictions of COVID. Regardless, they have never given up and continue to work every day as much as they can.

Margarita said, “Every time we felt we were making it and getting ahead, something new happened.”

When Hurricane Michael hit their trailita, it was a water pipe that was one of the many needed repairs from this disaster that hit the Florida Panhandle area in 2018. Unfortunately when repairs were being assessed, the water pipe damage was missed and when they received a water bill for a little over $300 they were unable to pay due to an extremely limited income, even working every day of the week. They did not have the money, and Margarita came to share about her family’s dilemma with CWS local partner Panhandle Area Educational Consortium, which includes a Migrant Education Program among many of it’s outreach services in the north Florida area.

Thanks to the funds provided by CWS, PAEC was able to help the Cruz family pay their water bill and resume their access to this basic need: water! Running water, a critical factor in our daily lives.

Through the PAEC/CWS partnership and generosity, the Cruz family was given a “hand-up” towards improving their quality of life. The one thing I can assure you is that their faith continues to fuel their energy. Without a doubt they are grateful for your support!

There are ongoing long-term recovery needs among families affected by Hurricane Michael. Sadly, among immigrants like the Cruz family, the needs very often go unnoticed or unaddressed due to barriers to access services normally available to other Michael survivors. [With help from CWS,] organizations like PAEC help to bring their unmet needs to the table. 

This story was written by Dr. Maria Pouncey, Administrator for Instructional Services with the Panhandle Area Education Consortium.