Ave Maria University
AMU Provides Hurricane Ian Relief to Southwest Florida
On Saturday, October 1, 2022, a group of Ave Maria University students, faculty, and staff went into Naples, FL, to help those affected by Hurricane Ian.
Led by AMU’s President, Mark Middendorf, a group of 60–70 volunteers left campus at 8:00 a.m. There were many more who wanted to help but had to stay on campus because they did not fit in the University vans. The students that stayed shared that President Middendorf personally asked them to go to the Our Lady of Guadalupe Chapel on campus to pray a Rosary for the victims of the storm.
“It was utter devastation there. It was incredibly generous for students to volunteer and be witnesses of the ‘Ave joy’ to the community; they were following Mother Teresa’s example by seeing Christ in everyone and being beacons of hope to those in need.”
—Mark Middendorf, AMU President
One group of students helped residents collect valuable items from the mud inside their homes and took debris out to the street, while another group went to St. Ann’s Catholic Church in Naples. Some members of the University also went to help the community in Fort Myers.
“It was so heartbreaking. There was mud and trash everywhere, and the people there were in desperate need of help.”
—Maria Isabella Talafuse, AMU Student (’26)
John Gargano, director of Campus Beautification and AMU alumnus (’17), helped clean up the storm’s aftermath in Naples using his own landscaping equipment. Local news outlet NBC 6 was on the scene and interviewed John, along with President Middendorf, and some of AMU’s students.
One of the places Ave Maria helped clean was the home of an elderly couple who were very appreciative of the students’ efforts. Another was the home of Ave Maria’s founder, Tom Monaghan. President Middendorf shared that the students were able to rescue items of personal value to Monaghan, including a statue of Our Lady he got as a child, and the green jacket he wore to the University’s inauguration. Middendorf emphasized that helping Mr. Monaghan’s house was a small act of kindness for “a man who has given so much to the world.”
Residents in the different areas—some of whom lost their entire homes to the storm—were deeply moved by the help they were receiving from AMU volunteers, and they warmly thanked them with tears of joy in their eyes.
“It was faith in action. People were very thankful for the outpouring of support, and it was beautiful to see everyone acting as one body.”
—James Stella, Director of the Mother Teresa Project
Community service is not rare among AMU students, and service opportunities are not scarce either. The Mother Teresa Project at AMU offers multiple opportunities for students to volunteer throughout the year, and even sends them on domestic and international mission trips annually.
If you would like to help with the University’s volunteering efforts, or would like to donate to the cause, please contact James Stella.