Avondale residents band together in wake of Irma

Gay Ngin and Tyler Morris

Even before Hurricane Irma made her presence known in Jacksonville, The ILRC (Independent Living Resource Center) under the direction Executive Director Tyler Morris was putting evacuation plans into place for its clients.

On Sept. 9, The ILRC had staff and Disability Ambassadors in special needs shelters to offer extra support for disability sensitivity throughout the storm.

Immediately following the storm, the office began making calls to check that clients were safe and their needs for independence were being met.

On Sept. 15, The ILRC extended its office into the community. Staff and their families traveled around northeast Florida to provide support and assistance, including debris removal, food deliveries, and more.

“At first, this request was daunting as I was overwhelmed with my own clean up,” said Deidra Simon, The ILRC Deaf Consumer Program Coordinator/Deaf Advocate. “However, I was humbled and forever changed by the total devastation of people’s homes in the Black Creek community. All we could do was offer a helping hand, give hugs and say a prayer.”

The days were long for Morris, and they didn’t stop once he headed home to Cherry Street. A condominium on nearby Mallory Street was flooded and its residents needed help.

One of those was the indomitable 80-year-old Gay Ngin.

“I won’t remember today as the day Irma came; I will remember it as the day I met Gay.
In her 80 years, she’s seen a lot,” said Morris. “I admire her most for her fearlessness. She was at peace, if things didn’t go well today.”

According to Morris, Ngin was raised on a farm. She worked three jobs growing up. She told him about a time she was robbed when she was working as a waitress; it was one of only three times that she called off for work. She was saving the money for Christmas presents.

“We cooked for our street tonight,” Morris shared on social media. “I asked Gay to cook the chicken teriyaki, a dish she had promised to fix me after the storm; I just happened to have chicken. Her face when she knew that she could contribute is something that will, until the day I die, be with me.

“As she sleeps in my home, knowing her condo is flooded, I am humbled by her spirit. She is a force stronger than any hurricane. I’m so glad we found one another,” Morris said.

By Kate A. Hallock,
Resident Community News

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