Best cleanup crew: The staff, volunteers and horticultural experts from across the country who swarmed Naples Botanical Garden had the virtually impassable walkways cleared and open for visitors exactly three weeks post-Irma landfall.
Best post-storm beer: Cheers to whatever the bartenders at Stan’s Idle Hour in Goodland poured when this iconic watering hole reopened in late October.
Best reason to say “aawww!”: Residents came together and bought teddy bears for every child at the Everglades City School—many of whom lost everything, including beloved toys.
Best stormy romance: Widowed Bentley Village residents Denise Praz and Joseph Mazur evacuated to an Orlando hotel with about 400 other residents, met over breakfast one morning and spent much of their monthlong stay in each other’s company. When they got home, they decided they didn’t want to part, and last December they tied the knot.
Best generosity: We could never list every example of financial aid, donated labor and good, old-fashioned neighborliness, but to exemplify Southwest Florida’s compassion: The Collier Comes Together Disaster Relief Fund amassed more than $2 million to distribute to nonprofits helping residents recover; the Southwest Florida Irma Relief Fund generated $1.7 million and counting.
Related: Hurricane Stories
The hospitality industry rallied together for the greater good in the wake of the Category 3 hurricane.
Most generous free food post-storm (mom-and-pop operations): Jonesez BBQ, Purple Spoon Culinary, A Cajun Bowl (which has since closed but will live on as a food truck)
Most generous free food post-storm (large-scale restaurants): The Continental, Campiello, 7th Avenue Social
Most hard-fought recovery (tie): Bleu Provence and Bistro La Baguette (formerly Le Lafayette)
Best ongoing fundraising and awareness-raising: Sea Salt