NEW SMYRNA BEACH, Florida. – Just before Hurricane Ian hit, Austin Strongwater says people who live at his RV park in New Smyrna Beach told him there was never any flooding there, but that there had been. The storm filled the park with feet of water.
He and his girlfriend Andrea Robbin’s motorhome were flooded and they lost almost everything.
“It was waist deep in water. All of our stuff was washed away. We didn’t have insurance. So we lost all of our clothes,” Strongwater said. “All of our stuff and that’s pretty much where we are. Just trying to put all the pieces back together.”
One of their cars was also flooded. Now the couple are trying to pick up the pieces, while preparing for a baby on the way.
“We went through a lot of hardship like I couldn’t get back to work because I lost my car,” Robbin said.
Strongwater’s friend Kevin Moore wanted to help out, so he held a raffle to raise money.
“I feel like if I can do something, I should do it,” Kevin said. “I just had a baby myself. I have a 7 month old. It’s a stressful situation.”
Moore lives in Palm Coast and considers himself lucky to have escaped Ian’s wrath, but seeing his friend lose everything has him wondering how he is helping the couple. He decided to use what he does for a living: tattooing.
Moore said he was offering a full-day tattoo session worth $1,200. Raffle tickets are $50 each. So far, he’s raised $1,700, but he hoped to raise even more.
He works at Unify Tattoo in St. Augustine, but up until four years ago he had a different career. He was an ironworker.
He said he broke his neck at work and he couldn’t do this kind of work anymore.
“I was hungry. I had nothing to eat. I ate blue cheese several times for dinner. I started drawing portraits of dogs for people and people ate it. I was gaining 50 $ and I was like, ‘oh I can eat.’ Cool,” Moore said.
The drawing turned into a tattoo which became a career. He says he knows what it’s like to start over with nothing.
That’s why he splits whatever he earns between the Strongwaters and the Nelson family of Ormond Beach.
He has never met them, but saw their post on Facebook and asked how he could help. Moore said they have three kids and have everything they own on their lawn.
“I just understand what it’s like to lose everything, so I think it’s my duty to help people if I can. All I can do. I don’t have much, but I can do it. If it helps, it helps,” Moore said.
(Those who wish to help can contact Moore on his Instagram page here.)
The families he helps said they couldn’t be more grateful. “I couldn’t believe it. He’s a great friend. Super grateful for friends like that,” Strongwater said.