Florida families comforted by Jasper's hospitality

By James Phillips, Daily Mountain Eagle
Posted 9/13/17

While taking a few moments to charge their cell phones at Jasper’s First Baptist Church, Josh Alexander and Rose Wayne, a married couple whom evacuated their Florida home last week, talked Monday about the kindness they had seen in their few days …

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Florida families comforted by Jasper's hospitality

Posted

While taking a few moments to charge their cell phones at Jasper’s First Baptist Church, Josh Alexander and Rose Wayne, a married couple whom evacuated their Florida home last week, talked Monday about the kindness they had seen in their few days in Walker County.

The couple, and Liam, their 3-year-old son, had stayed at the campground at Clear Creek Recreational Area for a few nights, but with the threat of heavy rain and strong winds forecast for Monday evening, they had moved to the shelter set up at the church.

“The people in this community have been so kind to us,” Wayne said. “We could not have imagined having a better experience as we were evacuating from the hurricane than what we have had here in Jasper.”

The family left their camper home on Indian Harbour Beach, near Melbourne, Fla., on Thursday night, and after a few stops, made their way to Clear Creek, because that is where Wayne’s sister landed to wait out the storm.

“We first stopped in Bay Minette, but Irma was following us. My sister loves to camp and had all her camping gear. She found Clear Creek online and told us to come here, so that’s what we did,” she said.

While at Clear Creek, the family consisted of the couple, their son and two small dogs, along with the sister and her dog. The sister and the animals had continued on to family in Arkansas by Monday morning.

“We are waiting here until we can get back to see how bad our place is damaged,” Alexander said.

Wayne said the family is thinking about a permanent move.

“We were just talking about how wonderful it has been here. We kind of want to stay,” she said. “This place has been so different from anywhere we have ever been before. It has been so friendly; we really hate to leave.

“He may go back and see if the camper is still there,” she continued. “We could probably sell it and start fresh here. We had been talking about moving anyway. This has been what we needed. Maybe this is where we were supposed to be and Irma led us here.”

Stormie Gregory and Charity Bell are friends who live north of Tampa Bay. The women and their children, 8-year-old David Gregory and 7-year-old Ethan Bell, made the trek from central Florida to Jasper late last week.

“The boys are scouts, so we thought we could make this a camping trip,” Stormie Gregory said Monday afternoon at Jasper’s FBC. “We originally thought about camping in Talladega, but there was still a lot of people there. We wanted to get away from the chaos, so we found Clear Creek online. It is the most beautiful place that we have ever camped.”

On Monday night, the women and their children were set to stay in a local home, before heading back to Florida on Tuesday.

“We joked that if my home had gone to Oz that I would want to move here,” Gregory said. “It is such a wonderful place, filled with kind and compassionate people. Everyone that we have met has treated us like family.”

“This has been such a great experience,” Charity Bell said. “We would love to come back here and spend some time under different circumstances.”

The two boys met some time back on an Upward soccer team in Florida and struck up a friendship. While the close living arrangement had tested their friendship some over their time at Clear Creek, they were still having fun together at the church.

“It has been something that we won’t forget,” Evan Bell said.

“We are still friends,” David Gregory added.

While the shelter at JFBC was used by several families since Sunday, it was closed Tuesday after a lunch was served, because evacuees were headed back home or had made other arrangements.

More than 400 evacuees were in the city at one point with most staying in area hotels.

Jasper Mayor David O’Mary said he was happy the city could be a safe haven for Florida families.

“This community is always going to be a place for those in need and will always extend the hand of servanthood,” he said.