Being the president of your homeowners’ association can be a rewarding position, but it can also be a demanding one. Following Hurricane Ian, Ken Burnette, president of the Boca Grande North Condo Association, has found the job not only to be demanding, but heartbreaking, too.
“We are still in the assessment phase,” he said, still a bit stunned by the devastation in his own home, as well as that of the entire condo community. “And we can’t even begin to start our own rebuild until we get the building fixed. It will be a long process and it will cost tens of millions of dollars.”
Ken and his wife, Barbara, were on their way home to Boca Grande from a short vacation just before the hurricane started to threaten the Island. A friend advised them to turn back around and stay safe, but they knew they had to get home, secure it as well as they could, and grab a few clothes and other important items.
After the storm they returned home to find not only their home in shambles, but also widespread damage throughout the development. “Thank God we came home when we did,” Barbara said. There was six inches of water throughout their home, and the smell was “atrocious,” she said – “like dead fish.” They discovered the condo above them was destroyed, with the roof open to the elements.
They got a key to the condo on the top floor, and knew they had more than their own home to worry about repairing. Now there is a team of engineers, adjusters, construction workers on site to start the process of securing the homes and determining what needs to be done.
Ken said only a few condos in Boca Grande North are occupied this time of year, so he and Barbara, along with others who were on the scene, committed themselves to contacting owners, assisting them long-distance to secure their important possessions, sending pictures and being present when insurance adjuster and other professionals needed access.
“We went into every unit, since I am the HOA president, and determined the extent of the damages,” Ken said. “Actually, it was pretty gratifying, being able to help our neighbors, and being there for those who don’t live here year round.” He constantly reassured his neighbors that “you will be able to rebuild, do reconstruction, but there is no time line.”
He said the first priority was to get the buildings dry, to get tarps up, to secure plywood – which is hard to come by after such a large, powerful storm. Roofers and others were doing these tasks over the last few days, and mold and moisture mitigation would be done on the heels of these tasks. Ken noted that the roofs, outside walls and other facets of the buildings would be covered by the HOA, but furnishings and other personal items are not. He is heartsick to know some owners had no insurance coverage, and that some friends may decide not to return.
For Ken and Barbara, leaving is not in their plans. They love Boca Grande and the Island. This is their home, and they will rebuild. They have lost a lot, since they so recently finished months of painstaking work to make this their dream home, where they planned to spend the rest of their lives. But the storm did not steal that plan from them, but gave them new opportunities they have not yet identified.
In the midst of the devastation, Ken and Barbara see goodness. Among the news reports of grifters and con artists preying on those hurt by the storm, the Burnettes see neighbor helping neighbor. They see professionals who have helped them build their dream home now come to their aid, using their business’ funds and materials to help restore that dream. They see representatives from Samaritan’s Purse, a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization providing spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world, bringing hot meals to people who are suffering.
“Good people are showing up,” Ken said, “and it makes you feel good.” It is that good feeling they know they have found in Boca Grande North, and they will not let a storm named Ian take that from them.”