Children and Families still Struggling After Hurricane Michael Need Your Help

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by Gaye Smith

Tropical Storm Michael turned life upside down for so many of our fellow Georgians in the 13 counties that were declared major disaster areas. The devastation is widespread, but the good news is that relief is already happening.

Georgia Family Connection Collaboratives have partnered with local churches and trusted relief organizations to provide immediate assistance and long-term recovery to children and families in their communities. They’re serving up hot meals, providing basic supplies—like personal hygiene products, non-perishable food items, bottled water, and formula, and they’re cleaning up after the widespread devastation. But there are so many families that still need help. Will you please help?

Here are just some of the counties where you can provide vital relief to those in need:

Baker County

Some areas of Baker County are still without power and will be for unknown amount of time. The greatest need, according to Baker County Collaborative coordinator Jessica Jennings, is water and monetary donations made out to Baker County Board of Commissioners with “Disaster Relief” in the memo line.

Other needed items are: flashlights and batteries, hand sanitizer, bug spray, cleaning supplies, paper products—plates, toilet paper, paper towels—and canned food.

Sherry Baile
County Manager and EMA Director
167 Baker Place, Newton GA, 39870

Calhoun County

“Driving through Calhoun county three weeks ago you would have seen acres of pecan orchards, towering pines and 100-year-old oak trees, and of course acres and acres of what we like to call ‘Georgia Snow—the cotton crops were at peak harvest, said Calhoun County Family Connection Collaborative coordinator Alicia Varnum. “Now, as you weave around the mountains of debris along every road side, the landscape is dotted with blue tarps on roofs, huge roots standing in the air, stripped fields of cotton, and you realize that there are as many pecan trees on the ground as there is still standing.”

“We only have one grocery store in our county, and it took four days for them to restore power, and several days after that until they were able to restock milk, meat, fruit and vegetables, said Varnum. “We all had to travel to Alabama or parts of Albany just to find milk and bread.”

Varnum said all the counties in Region 10 are dealing with the same—or more—devastation. Among the greatest needs in Calhoun County are financial donations so families can restock their refrigerators and freezers, and help removing downed trees.

Alicia Varnum

Colquitt County

“Never in all my years of association with the Food Bank have I ever seen the shelves and freezers so bare,” said Colquitt County Family Connection Collaborative on Children and Families Executive Director Janet Sheldon. “Please help this organization, which helps so many.”

Facts about the Food Bank:

  • It is completely volunteer-run and has been since its inception.
  • Donors pay all expenses.
  • Last year, Hurricane Irma wiped out all reserves
  • This year, Hurricane Michael has done the same. The Food Bank is out of many staples, including bottled water, shelf milk, cereal, and toilet paper.
  • Fresh vegetables also were hard hit, and no donations coming in, it will be awhile before fall crops are ready, if not destroyed in fields.
  • Food donations for individuals and families are vetted by DFCS and the Southwest Georgia Community Action Council (SWGACAC). Extras go to CrossRoads Homeless Shelter, the Senior Center, Serenity House (domestic violence shelter for women and children) and the Emergency Shelters that have sprung up to offer housing to those in need.
  • Friday Backpacks are providing food for children over the weekend and donations also are made to Serenity House. Colquitt County has so many children living poverty that all students receive free breakfasts and lunches.
  • Direct donations have been made to people (unvetted) coming to the door from other places, because they have no food, job, or home.
  • The community supports the Food Bank at churches, banks, the hospital, schools, the Moultrie US Post Office, the Arts Center, and other organizations gathering donations of products, and sponsoring fundraisers.

“The Food bank is well supported by our community, but the current needs have outstripped the present resources,” said Sheldon. “If you would like to find out where to drop off food or make a financial contribution, please contact the Food Bank in Colquitt County.”

Andrew Christenson, Director of Food Bank
309 3rd St. SE, Moultrie, GA 31768
229-985-0725, office, 8-12, M-F

Laura Keith
Chair of Board and a Day Supervisor

Janet Sheldon
Executive Director, Family Connection of Colquitt County

Grady County

“Grady County was devastated, but now is doing well compared to Decatur County, Miller County, Early County, and I think the worst area, Seminole County,” said Grady County Children and Youth Coordinating Council Executive Director Nola Daughtry. “So many people were in need and communication was down for more than three days. The people here had to rely on each other, so we leaned on, cried with, and supported each other. Neighbors, city, and county linemen helped each other remove the trees from the roads, so we could get emergency vehicles through; we opened our homes to our neighbors, family, friends, and anyone in need. We’re in recovery mode now. Everyone has power and students are back to school. Meanwhile, our community is making sure everyone has something to eat and we continue to send food to those who are homebound.”

According to Daughtry, the greatest needs in Grady County are debris removal and disposal, and funds for repairs or relocation or home placement until homes can be restored. So many in our county have depleted their saving and checking for gas to fuel their generators and to replace all the food they lost.”

“When communication, power, and cell towers began to come back online, that’s when we were able to spread the word to everyone where the substations were set up,” said Daughtry. “Churches, schools, and business stepped up to reach everyone in the community. Grady County is doing much better and we still have a long way to go before structures and homes will be restored, but we learned that we can do more when we unite. I have never been so proud of our community!”

Richard Phillips
Emergency Manager Director

Pastor Johnny Moore
Family Worship Center
1760 US-84, Cairo, GA 39828
Distributes water and ice and has been preparing meals.
Food needs: meat, milk, pasta, cheese

Financial Contributions:
Grady County Family Connection Disaster fund account
Linda Johnson
Vice President, United National Bank
229-377-7200 x7250
Supply Needs: Gas cards and Walmart cards

Nola Daughtry
Executive Director, Grady County Family Connection

Seminole County

Seminole County was among the counties in Georgia hardest hit when Michael left a trail of devastation, and where the only casualty from the storm was reported in the state. An 11-year-old girl in Seminole County was killed after debris crashed into her family’s home.

Seminole County Family Connection Collaborative coordinator Billie Lee Houston said the families there desperately need:

  • Personal hygiene products for men, women, and children;
  • Diapers—all sizes—even adult;
  • baby wipes;
  • baby formula;
  • non-perishable food items;
  • toilet paper;
  • cleaning supplies; and
  • insect repellent.

The drop-off site is a warehouse set up at the Clover Leaf Cotton Gin building no. 5, 3207 HWY 84 West Donalsonville, GA 39845. The warehouse is open hours 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.

The warehouse provides resources to the three distribution locations for the public, AG Barn, and Lake Seminole Baptist. This is a group effort with Seminole EMA, GEMA, Seminole County Family Connection, and a Disaster Relief Group with volunteers from across the state.

I’m personally collecting monetary donations for the Friendship House, an after-school program and tutoring center here in Donalsonville,” said Houston. “They lost the roof and the gym floor, and they don’t have insurance on the building that will cover the damage. Friendship House is one of our Collaborative partners, and the donations we receive will help them continue with this critical program for our children and their families. If you know someone wanting to send money and they are OK with it going to that please send it to my address for family connection.

If you would like to volunteer or send a donation, please contact:

Billie Houston McLendon
Coordinator, Seminole County Family Connection Collaborative
229 309-0531

To learn more about how you can help with these or the other counties in the region, contact:

Rachael Oliver,
Georgia Family Connection Partnership Community Support Specialist