Hurricane Ian left a path of devastation when it made landfall west of Fort Myers Sept. 28.

Many living in the Tampa Bay and Fort Myers area are still dealing with the damage and devastation left in its wake, but much needed help is on the way just in time for Christmas.

Bishop Gregory L. Parkes asked parishes and missions in the Diocese of St. Petersburg to hold a special collection in October for the needs of people affected by natural disasters, including Hurricane Ian.

“Our hearts are moved with compassion for all those who have suffered damage and destruction due to Hurricane Ian, especially our brothers and sisters in the Diocese of Venice,” said Bishop Parkes in a Sept. 30 letter about the collection sent to all parishes in the diocese.

Venice is a neighboring diocese of St. Petersburg.

“This collection will benefit our brothers and sisters in Christ who are impacted by natural disasters, particularly the residents of southwest Florida,” he added.

Many throughout the St. Petersburg Diocese held special collections for donated items and funds, including several Catholic schools.

For example, St. Peter Claver Catholic School in Tampa held a drive-thru donation event to collect needed items, and at Clearwater Central Catholic High School. students and families raised over $15,000 in disaster relief.

Bishop Parkes traveled to Venice Dec. 21 to present a $250,000 check to Bishop Frank J. Dewane, who heads that diocese. The funds are to assist those impacted by Hurricane Ian in that local area.

“I thank the faithful of our diocese, for their generosity and we pray for all those that have been impacted by the hurricane and storms,” said Bishop Parkes.

A check also was presented to Maggie Rogers, Executive Director of Catholic Charities Diocese of St. Petersburg, Dec. 9 for $238,000.

The funds will be used in part, for repairs needed at the San Jose Mission, a housing community that serves low-income families involved in agriculture or aquaculture industries in Hillsborough County. The community suffered $550,000 worth of hurricane damage.

“Some of the funds will be used to repair the roof damage at San Jose Mission,” Rogers told Gulf Coast Catholic, St. Petersburg’s diocesan news outlet.

“In addition to food, clothing and emergency supplies,” she said, “much of it has allowed us to send staff members to assist our Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice counterparts who have been overwhelmed as well as provide mobile showers to the people devastated by Hurricane Ian.”

“This was a tough year for storms here in our area as well as our neighbors in the Diocese of Venice,” said Bishop Parkes. “Thanks to the generosity of our people, not only are we able to assist and help those who sustained damage here in our diocese, but also to give hurricane relief to those who were affected in the Diocese of Venice.”

Since 2017, the generosity of its parishioners has enabled the Diocese of St. Petersburg to donate over $1 million for disaster relief around Florida and several other states, including Louisiana, Kentucky and Texas, as well as Puerto Rico, Haiti and the Bahamas.

Camario writes for Gulf Coast Catholic, news outlet of the Diocese of St. Petersburg.