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October 12, 2017 10:00 PM

Port Vermillion

Vermillion, SD

The destruction and aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria have changed many lives forever, including four of KELOLAND's newest residents.

"Home was St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands," Bob Perkins said.

That is until Hurricane Irma hit. It destroyed the boat Perkins' family was living in. Perkins, his girlfriend Jessica Mangiaracina, and Jessica's kids Briley and Stryker couldn't buy food anywhere.

"We had a slingshot in my backpack, I shot a chicken, I plucked it, I threw it in a pot of water, I cooked it," Perkins said. 

After a week, the family hitched a ride on a private catamaran headed for Puerto Rico. Only after a week there, Hurricane Maria hit that island.

"We have no stuff," Perkins said. "We don't have any stuff. I mean, we came out of there with three backpacks." 

"It's definitely made us a lot stronger, definitely made us a lot stronger," Mangiaracina said. "I guess if we can get through two Cat. 5 hurricanes, we can probably get through quite a bit." 

Again, they found themselves struggling for food. That is until a good Samaritan gave them $200.

"That couldn't have came on a better day," Perkins said. "I mean we were literally about to go hungry." 

About ten days later, the family left Puerto Rico on plane tickets bought by Perkins' dad. The only flight out took them to Atlanta, Georgia. The next day, another plane took them to Kansas City where Perkins has family. The past week has brought more legs to this journey: a trip to Cedar Rapids for another family visit, a night in Sioux Falls to see a friend, and a last leg, to Vermillion.

"We've been here, what, three days?" Mangiaracina said.

"Three days," Perkins said. 

"And, um, it's cold. It's definitely cold here," Mangiaracina said.

Yet this is where the journey ends. At least for now. They plan to stay at least until the school year is over. Even though their travels have ended, the tough times haven't.

"The struggle is still going...we still have little to nothing," Mangiaracina said.

"We're still right where we were. We're skating day-to-day on food," Perkins said.

Home is a house in Vermillion owned by a friend.

"It's the only home we have, right at this time," Perkins said.

And together this experience has opened new doors and, more importantly, one window.

"I think we've both seen each other at our highest and our lowest, throughout this ordeal. I mean, if anything, it gave us a window into each other's soul, somewhat," Perkins said.

If you'd like to help the family, visit their GoFundMe.

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