In the days before Irma hit, it wasn't clear to anyone where the damage would be most felt. Lena Conner and her husband Harold opened up their home in Sebring to all of their family and friends for shelter. 10+ guests filled Lena's home and they all braced for the coming storm.
Little did Lena know, Irma would badly damage her home, the modest structure that has stood on the same property and on the same country road in South-Central Florida since before I was born. Even in my earliest childhood memories, I remember people -- extended family members, adopted children, and disadvantaged folks from different backgrounds -- popping in and out of that house. Everyone was always welcome in Lena's home. In addition, Lena has raised 8 children in this beloved home.
The home is leaking and exposed to the elements in places. As of September 17th, Lena and all of her refugees are still without power and water. They are relying on a single generator and gas is dwindling. Recently, several financial setbacks have left Lena and her family feeling helpless. Helpless, but not hopeless. For this strong woman, there is ALWAYS hope. To her, simply waking up each morning with love in your heart is a blessing. And, she's right.
For as long as I can remember, Lena has dedicated an entire room in her home to providing around-the-clock care for her adopted son (and Harold's biological son), Michael, who was left with traumatic brain injury after a car accident when he was 9 years old. He is a paraplegic fed with a feeding tube. Without she and Harold's tireless care, Michael would not be able to make it on his own. In the wake of Irma (without electricity and, more importantly, water), caring for Michael has become very difficult.
Michael's is just one of so many lives Lena has touched and continues to touch. After my uncle (her brother) passed away, she took my cousin (his daughter) under her wing as an adopted daughter. That's just one example of the hard work she does without ever asking for a single "thanks."
Lena has a Master's Degree in Diagnostic Mental Health and Rehabilitation Counseling and has spent most of her life putting that degree to use in psychiatric units and beyond. But it's her natural intuition, honest heart, and positive outlook on life that make a bigger impact. She has even talked me through some of my toughest times -- times I thought I wouldn't get through.
Lena Conner is my aunt, but she's much more than that, too. She's a hidden gem of a human being with an amazing life story. She's someone who has dedicated her entire life to helping others, and who doesn't deserve to struggle like this. It is time to lend a helping hand to someone who has spent so much of her time, energy, and years selflessly serving others.All of the funds received will go directly to my Aunt Lena and her immediate family in the form of a check or direct deposit. Your donation will rebuild the parts of their house that were destroyed by Irma and help them maintain provisions like food, water, and hygeine needs. I've set a goal, but whatever you can give helps immensely. If all funds are not used, the remaining balance will be donated to the Red Cross for further Hurricane relief.
Thank you so much for engaging with my story. If you can't afford to donate, please share and leave a word of encouragement for Lena Conner!
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