in the Wake of
On October 10th, 2018, Hurricane Michael made landfall in Panama City, Florida, with winds reaching over 155mph. Hurricane Michael was the third most intense Atlantic hurricane to make landfall in the contiguous United States, reaching a near catastrophic Category 5 storm.
While our Scenic Highway 30A corridor beach communities suffered only loss of power, our neighbors 35 miles to the east in Panama City, Lynn Haven, Callaway, Mexico Beach, and Port St. Joe and others were not so lucky. Hurricane Michael ripped through them a path of total destruction. leaving behind an atmosphere of nuclear-war like devastation. Insurance agencies and the federal government estimate the damage to exceed $8 billion dollars. This includes the initial repair estimate of Tyndall Air Force Base, which alone suffered $5 billion in damage, making Hurricane Michael the most expensive natural disaster to ever hit the continental United States.
Meanwhile, while our local area mourns, neighboring Walton county neighbors stepped in with relief efforts at an immensely impactful level. Each of us at Coastal Luxury were blessed to be involved in immediate relief efforts within just a few days after the impact. Scenic 30A’s very own Jessica Proffitt Bracken of Proffitt PR and real estate agent/philanthropist Hannah Martin were among those who immediately volunteered to help people and businesses in need. Bracken explained, “When the hurricane hit just miles from where we live, Hannah Martin and I felt it in our beings that we had to head over there and do something, whatever that may be for our neighbors.
We were grateful to team up with the folks at The Sonder Project and Hope Panhandle in daily initiatives to give back,” said Proffitt.
The Sonder Project is an established organization that started as a group of volunteers who aimed to strengthen their community and evolved into a movement that aids communities across the globe. The Sonder Project took initiative by providing significant financial support and boots-on-the-ground volunteers. Based out of Walton County, the group has mostly focused on the Millville and Springfield areas by helping families who need tarps and roofing. They have collected toys for numerous families and are assisting in the needed demolition of many homes.
Locals from 30A also teamed up with Hope Panhandle, a nonprofit organization formed by community leaders and local business people in the aftermath of the storm in order to respond to widespread area needs. Upon seeing the devastation left behind by Hurricane Michael, Hope Panhandle immediately organized and assembled a group of dedicated volunteers to help offer hurricane relief to residents.
Founders of Hope Panhandle, Mara and Reese Harrison, grew up in Lynn Haven, and while they have been long-time residents of Rosemary Beach, Lynn Haven is their hometown as well as the location of Reese’s business. The devastation was near and dear to them. “We found out that my husband’s dentist office in Lynn Haven had a hole in the roof, so when we went over to go check on the office, I also checked up on some family friends that could not get in touch with others. They reached out to me via social media, and from there we took our RV over to the parking lot and started serving others food. Volunteers from 30A communities used the Ohana Institute School as a kitchen area. From there, we started served thousands” said Mara explained. “We got in touch with the right people, and next thing we knew the whole community was working together and trying to rebuild, almost like a family. It really is a testament of humanity where there is a need, and then there are the people there to help out when the government won’t” she also added.
“I was blown away by the devastation. I have never had to witness anything like that in my life. It was a complete shock to see families that had lost everything. The thing that was most overwhelming though was the amount of love and help that was being poured in by the neighboring communities” said Hannah Martin.
With the help of countless relief efforts, the community will continue to rebuild as a long road to recovery lies ahead of them. “God worked through us and so many and continues to do so every day. We are so blessed to be part of a community of people who rolled up their sleeves at the onset and continue to do so much for so many. This is a marathon, not a sprint, and help will be needed for years to come. May God bless all involved,” said Proffitt.
“To watch people and communities come together in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael has truly been awe-inspiring. It has united us all. I have met so many amazing souls that I did not know before this devastating storm that took so much from so many. The grass-roots volunteer effort has been amazing; however, it’s now time for us all to give even more of our time and resources. Our neighbors now need us to help them rebuild. Hope Panhandle is transitioning to helping make homes habitable again. Together we will rebuild, and welcome families back into their homes. The future is bright for the Florida Panhandle — It will rise again and be better than ever.”
~ Paige York
To find out more on how you can help with Hurricane Michael efforts, visit thesonderproject.org and hopepanhandle.org to donate today!