While I’m usually not one to hide my pride for the community that we all call home, I am especially proud of Jasper and Walker County this week for the warmth and hospitality that we showed to Florida residents who evacuated to here due to …
While I’m usually not one to hide my pride for the community that we all call home, I am especially proud of Jasper and Walker County this week for the warmth and hospitality that we showed to Florida residents who evacuated to here due to Hurricane Irma.
I spent a little time Monday speaking with families who were seeking shelter at Jasper’s First Baptist Church. The overwhelming thoughts from those folks about our community are that we are one of the friendliest places on earth.
“This place has been amazing. The people here are unlike anywhere else I have ever been. They are so friendly. Everyone wants to help us. That is what is amazing to me,” said Stormie Gregory, an evacuee from just north of Tampa, Fla.
I spoke with at least four different families, with all of them commenting about how friendly and helpful our community had been. One family even mentioned they had already had thoughts of moving to Jasper because of the love they received as evacuees.
“Hurricane Irma led us here. Maybe this is where we are supposed to be,” said Rose Wayne, an evacuee from a small island near Melbourne, Fla.
Adam Hicks, pastor at Desperation Church, said people from throughout the community came together to help anyone who found themselves stranded in the area.
“We want to take care of them while they’re here and make sure they have a positive experience,” he said.
While often times churches can find themselves competing with each other or at odds with each other for a variety of reasons, that wasn’t the case earlier this week. As many as 15 churches, of all denominations, worked together to meet the needs of the nearly 500 people who waited out the storm in Jasper.
“Jesus’ last prayer before He went to the cross was that we would be united,” Hicks said during an interview with the Daily Mountain Eagle. “To see all the churches coming together is exactly what Jesus was praying for. We have church in different buildings, but we can impact the community together.”
While many people who reached out to evacuees in the area were associated with churches, there were many who were not as well. Individuals from throughout Jasper did everything from buy food for a family to offer to house people in their homes for a few days.
The impact of Hurricane Irma here locally was not devastating at all. Our community should be thankful that we didn’t see as much as of the storm as was forecast at one point. The impact our community made thanks to Irma will be felt for years, maybe a lifetime or two. We still have people who are in Texas helping residents there get through the devastation from Hurricane Harvey, and I have already heard of groups who have left to also help out in Florida.
Our willingness to reach out and help those in need is just one of the many reasons that I’m so proud to call Walker County and Jasper my home.
James Phillips is editor and publisher of the Daily Mountain Eagle. He may be reached at 205-221-2840 or firstname.lastname@example.org.