ALPHARETTA, Ga. – Alpharetta city officials recently honored the volunteers who stepped forward to assist those displaced by Hurricane Irma in September.
One of the honorees, in some ways the one who contributed most, is himself a Florida man who lost everything in the storm.
At a ceremony Oct. 2, Mayor David Belle Isle presented a proclamation recognizing a host of residents, businesses and city employees who played key roles in providing relief to Irma’s victims.
They included YMCA Director Scott Doll, who initiated the city’s actions by calling the mayor and getting the city to open its facilities to displaced visitors.
It included Christine Young, supervisor at the Wills Park Community Center, where close to 70 people found a place to stay while their homes in Florida and South Georgia were besieged.
Not present at the ceremony, however, was David Noringer, a Florida storm refugee who came up a day before Irma made landfall. He spent the next four days setting up cots, serving food and volunteering in other capacities at the Community Center.
“He wasn’t just an evacuee,” Belle Isle said. “He came here to help.”
Young, who supervised arrangements at the Community Center, said Noringer was a tireless worker.
“He didn’t have to do these things,” she said, “but he insisted he needed to earn his keep. He took the initiative to do things without being asked.”
This wasn’t Noringer’s first bout with adversity.
A Chicago native, Noringer, 40, moved to Hudson, Fla., eight months ago from Brooklyn, where he grew up.
Disabled by wounds sustained in a robbery years ago, Noringer was renting a room in Hudson, working part time on a crab boat to help make ends meet when Irma came calling.
He said he called an information line for evacuee information and was referred to the Alpharetta shelter.
“I was the first one to check into the shelter, and from my understanding that was the first time they were doing an evacuation,” Noringer said. “As soon as I got there, I jumped in with whatever I could help with.”
Noringer greeted incoming families and gave them a tour of the facilities. He assembled cots, served food and volunteered for other odd jobs to show his gratitude.
When the shelter closed down on Sept. 12, he helped pack up the cots.
His reputation as a workhorse spread. The mayor stopped by for a visit. Another city staffer came by to shake his hand and present him with a job application.
When he returned for Florida, Noringer found everything destroyed.
He was ineligible for FEMA assistance because he had no lease on the room he was renting. So, he packed up a couple of weeks ago and headed to Phoenix where he enrolled in a resettlement program.
“I just had a thought in my head,” he said. “It’s still warm. In Phoenix, I don’t have to worry about snow, and I don’t have to worry about any more hurricanes. It don’t rain in the desert so I don’t have to worry about getting flooded anymore.”
He said he’s trying to start over in Phoenix with a positive outlook, but he’s keeping his fingers crossed about a job in Alpharetta.
“I most definitely would like to get back,” Noringer said. “The way the community came together in such a short period of time, it brought tears to my eyes.”