It's been years since Bressler Amery & Ross managing principal Wes Holston did manual labor.
As a law student, Holston worked construction during summer breaks from 1979 to 1983 to earn money for school. But he hadn't been on a work crew in decades—until Saturday, when he and 69 colleagues traveled to Everglades City to rebuild structures damaged during Hurricane Irma.
Now Holston and his staff want to spread the word that thousands of Floridians still need help in the wake of the deadly storm.
"There's plenty of work left," said Tanya S. Lambrechts, an associate in the firm's securities practice group in Fort Lauderdale. "It was important to help the community in more than a monetary way."
The law firm partnered with Habitat for Humanity of Collier County for post-Irma recovery and cleanup. After donating to a South Florida nonprofit, It chartered a bus to transport Miami and Fort Lauderdale employees to one of the hardest-hit areas in the state.
"Even as of Saturday, most of the commercial buildings were not open," Lambrechts said. "People were still living in trailers, instead of their homes."
Irma made landfall in the Florida Keys Sept. 9 as a powerful Category 4 storm with winds gusting up to 130 mph, before unexpectedly changing course to slam Florida's west coast. It killed at least 42 people in Florida, cut power to millions of residents and caused billions of dollars in damage.
"Habitat homes weathered the storm with no structural damage, but our neighbors in Everglades City weren't so fortunate," said Habitat Collier CEO Lisa Lefkow.
Law firm staff undertook major projects, gutting a historic home, helping to renovate City Hall and making repairs to the landmark Rod & Gun Club. They hauled furniture from flooded buildings, performed yard work for elderly homeowners and did several so-called muckouts involving debris removal and cleanup.
"I haven't built up the calluses on my hands like I used to," said Holston, who represents broker-dealers and financial institutions. "People couldn't have been more gracious."
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