“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’
—Matthew 25: 34-36
We are a blessed community, in more ways than one.
Last Wednesday when Hurricane Michael was bearing down on the Panhandle of Florida, no one really expected, or believed, the devastation it would cause, not only in Florida, but also in Southwest Georgia and Southeast Alabama. We’ve been through hurricanes before, so just how bad could it be?
Bad. Horrible. Devastating. Life-changing.
Houses, gone. Businesses, gone. Churches, gone. Crops, trees, cars, boats and just about anything in its path, gone.
I’ve lived almost my whole life in Enterprise, give or take a few years in college and a first job, but I’ve never seen anything like this. I was in college when Hurricane Eloise came ashore in 1975 but I lived here when Hurricane Opal visited the City of Progress in 1995. And I was here when the monster tornado ripped apart our town in 2007.
But Hurricane Michael is a different story. There are literally thousands of people without homes or jobs now. That reality began to sink in with me last Saturday. I guess I hadn’t thought of it that way but now there are people who not only have no place to live, but no way to pay for anything, unless they were able to have savings accounts or family to help them.
If you know anything about the Florida Panhandle, you know that there are too many small communities to count north of Panama City, Southport and Mexico Beach with people who are not wealthy, who live day-to-day and are poor by today’s standards. A lot of them live in trailers on dirt roads in very rural areas where they don’t even have a close neighbor. Many of them couldn’t afford insurance so whatever the winds and tornadoes took Wednesday, they won’t be able to replace nor will they be able to relocate.
If this horrible storm had come inland 20-30 miles to the west, this would be a different column. It would have done tremendous damage to Enterprise. Instead, our neighbors to the east including Dothan, Ozark, Hartford, Slocomb, Cottonwood, Ashford and Headland, among others, were the cities who got the worst of it in the Wiregrass. Eufaula and Columbus, Ga., weren’t spared either.
People in our community began stepping up to the plate late last week to help those in need, and rightly so. When the tornado of 2007 ripped a path straight through the heart of Enterprise and destroyed two of our schools killing eight students and one citizen, the response from all over the Southeast was overwhelming. Bay County Schools in Panama City was one of those that sent help.
Now is the time for us to pay that kindness back. The Southeast Sun has asked for those organizations and businesses who are offering aid for evacuees to give us information to spread for those who are searching for a home, a place to lay their head. Most of these people have come here with nothing but the clothes on their back. No food, no furniture, no pots and pans, nothing. Not even a bar of soap.
This is going to be a long-term commitment, not just a wait-until-the-power-comes-back-on deal. A good portion of these individuals and families may never return to where their homes once stood. They may become permanent residents of our city. But in the meantime, they need help.
It’s time for the City of Progress to show why it has that name. We are calling on our city officials, and county officials, to lead the way and make those who are hurting and homeless thankful they came to the largest city north of Panama City that managed to escape the storm. The non-profit organizations are already in gear. It’s time to pay it forward folks.
If you are providing aid to those in need, please send your information to email@example.com, call 393-2969 or post it in a private message on our Facebook page. We will upload information to our website as quickly as we receive it.
It is not only our responsibility, it is what Jesus calls us to do. Feed the hungry, aid them in finding a home, invite them into your homes, give them clothing. Help them to just survive.
Caroline Quattlebaum is co-publisher for The Southeast Sun and Daleville Sun-Courier. The opinions of this writer are her own and not the opinion of the paper. She can be reached at (334) 393-2969 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.