After hurricane, Vogelbach fundraising for hometown

October 7th, 2022

NEW YORK -- In the Fort Myers, Fla. area, the name Vogelbach resonates. Mets designated hitter grew up there. He, his parents and some of his good friends own homes there. He intends to live in Fort Myers for the rest of his life.

When Hurricane Ian made landfall about 20 miles northwest of Fort Myers, Vogelbach was at Citi Field, preparing for a game against the Marlins that, at one time, might have seemed like the most important thing in his world. The tenor quickly changed as Ian wiped out large swaths of the community that he loves, flooding roads and houses, destroying homes and bridges, cutting off power and displacing large portions of the population.

“Seeing pictures as the hurricane goes through, your mind goes to places that you probably don’t want it to go to,” Vogelbach said. “But stuff like this just puts life in perspective. This game that we play is obviously very important, and I love it. But there’s a lot more to life than wins and losses. Hearing about and talking to people that literally have worked their whole life for things, and they’re gone, it really does put it into perspective.”

When Vogelbach steps into the batter’s box this weekend for his third career postseason series, he will do so with much more than baseball on his mind. Although his house suffered only minor damage in the hurricane, Vogelbach has a close friend whose home took on five feet of water while his cars floated away. Vogelbach’s aunt and uncle endured significant flooding. Another one of his good friends took a job with Community Cooperative, a local non-profit working to provide aid in the area.

It is to that organization that Vogelbach has entrusted his own donations of time and money. Shortly after the hurricane, Vogelbach set up a fundraiser to benefit Lee County Strong, a Community Cooperative fund established to provide short-term relief for residents and, eventually, the building blocks of long-term recovery.

“This is not our first hurricane,” said Stefanie Ink-Edwards, the organization’s CEO. “This is probably the biggest, most impactful one I’ve ever been through, but we’ve done this before where we see a lot of people during this phase of after the storm. It’s a lot of relief: ‘I need food, I need water, I need basic hygiene, I need temporary housing.’ The recovery side is what’s going to take a long time for our community, and that’s getting people back to work, getting kids back to school.”

Because Community Cooperative is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that does not accept government money, it can operate in a freeform manner. That, according to Ink-Edwards, allows the organization to act quickly and nimbly. When Ian damaged the Matlacha Pass Bridge connecting Pine Island to mainland Florida, cutting off all vehicle and foot traffic to the residents there, Community Cooperative loaded a boat with ready-to-eat meals and emergency supplies and sent them across the waterway.

“I don’t have red tape,” Ink-Edwards said. “I don’t have a mothership organization telling me what to do. It’s literally us, boots on the ground. And so we’re able to find solutions for people quickly.”

The organization relies on donations from people like Vogelbach, who grew up in Fort Myers and starred at Bishop Verot High School in the city -- “Everybody knows who he is down here,” as Ink-Edwards put it. Now in his seventh big league season, Vogelbach came to the Mets in a mid-July trade from the Pirates, producing an .830 OPS with six home runs and 33 walks in 55 games. He will be the Mets’ regular DH against right-handed pitchers in the postseason.

In quieter moments, Vogelbach will continue to check in on the progress his hometown is making. Earlier this week, Vogelbach struggled for words when talking about the destruction on Fort Myers Beach, as well as all the damaged businesses that had been in town for decades.

“They always think something like this will never happen to you until it does happen,” he said. “The one thing about Fort Myers is the people that are in it. It’s going to take a while, but I believe that people are going to come together, and we’ll get it back to as close as we can to what it was before.”

Those wishing to support Community Cooperative’s Lee County Strong fund can do so directly at