Kenya Taylor, 20, and her family of seven are now living in the gym at Venice High School. They came after being rescued from their North Port home that was destroyed by Hurricane Ian. They boarded a boat with only a few belongings and the clothes on their backs.
"We were walking and hiking with our bags and stuff like that, with the kids – we finally got to a church, and they told us they were going to take us to shelter," Taylor said.
She and her family have been at the shelter for three days, and despite the circumstances, Taylor is using her time to pass along positivity and help the people around her sleeping area.
"I watch other people's kids and stuff like that especially if they have to use the restroom I understand what stress they're in," Taylor said.
Holding each other up is how they are staying strong during difficult times. Taylor and her family are a few of nearly 400 people from Sarasota County posting up at school grounds.
Principal Zoltan Kerestely said they can stay as long as they need, and volunteers are working in 24/7 shifts to make them as comfortable as possible.
"We basically have a group of people getting people organized to have lunch in the cafeteria, shelter in the gyms, we have other rooms for people who are medically independent," Kerestely said.
Venice High School students and teachers are volunteering. Public buses and cars are taking people to check on their homes or go to places like work. Donated clothes and toys also line the cafeteria tables.
Taylor even said her little niece walked in and thought it was Christmas.
Administrators didn't want to turn away people with pets, so they are keeping dogs in what was the boy's locker room and cats are being kept in a separate classroom.
The principal said some of the building did get wind damage from Hurricane Ian. Right now, he doesn't know when classes will resume, so they will remain a shelter as long as possible.