Elly Claire was all smiles at her Big Pine Key house on Angelfish Road on April 6 as Habitat for Humanity of the Lower Keys volunteers made repairs.
They were busy cutting drywall, hanging doors and painting new walls.
Swimmer Diana Nyad was one of those volunteers. She and Bonnie Stoll of EverWalk, a national walking initiative, were in Key West from Monday to Friday leading 10-mile walks daily.
“Bonnie and I came here to do a walk and thought, ‘Let’s not do our usual thing where we walk all day long. Let’s walk 10 miles then volunteer for Habitat,’” Nyad said.
She swam from Havana, Cuba, to Key West in 2013 and said she fell in love with the city and lived there for four years after her 111-mile swim.
“All my life I’ve read about the good works of Habitat. Living in the Keys, we came to know the generosity of spirit here,” Nyad said, adding it “broke my heart” to see the Keys devastated by Hurricane Irma.
“You just want to go help, but sometimes you’re in the way,” Nyad said. “But one of the jewels of the United States is that you can say, ‘What can we do to help?’”
Claire said her house was basically a wading pool before volunteer groups showed up to help.
The U.S. National Guard helped with the floors along with Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers and mold remediation teams with nonprofit All Hands and Hearts.
Then, Nyad and the EverWalk team worked all last week on other interior improvements.
“I could not have saved my house without the volunteer groups who helped with this demo. I’m deliriously happy,” Claire said.