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The Power of Community

I am a believer in people; the goodness we bestow in times of need, heartache and disaster. This past week has been no different following the wrath of Hurricane Michael on our beloved Gulf Coast. Seeing our neighbors, surrounding counties, regions and neighboring states come together to help the Big Bend, Florida’s Panhandle and Leon County restore not only our sense of normalcy, but our hope is what the word community is all about.

Community. It’s one of my favorite words because it not only emulates the essence of humanity, but also lends to what we are seeing today; which is similar to what we witnessed in 2017 with Hurricane Irma and in 2016 with Hurricane Hermine. I can say wholeheartedly; our community is strong; our community is brave; and our community is resilient. I could not be more proud of the place my family and I call home, or those we share this community with.

Prior to Michael’s arrival to now (nearly two weeks later) and for many years to come, we have and will witness the tireless efforts of our government agencies, volunteers, community organizations and nonprofits playing a critical role in the recovery and relief work. Long-term recovery and rebuilding though will largely rely on those of us who live in these communities; from rebuilding each home, to neighborhood cohesion to community recovery - it will depend on us, as neighbors, joining together to make it happen.

Tallahassee should be proud for the efforts demonstrated locally, but for leaders within our community recognizing the significant needs in our western neighboring counties and deploying efforts immediately to help provide some relief in each affected area. Efforts like these aren’t possible without people like Jeri Bush with VolunteerLEON/Leon County Government, who also manages disaster preparedness, response and recovery efforts through the Big Bend Community Organizations Active in Disaster (COAD). Through COAD, organizations are able to determine needs, assess available resources and deploy relief to those in need which includes but is not limited to: meal locations and distribution sites, shelter and comfort stations, damage assessment logging and business operations status checks and animal sheltering needs.

Jeri’s role is made a little easier with the coordinated services of the human service nonprofit community: North Florida American Red Cross, Salvation Army, 2-1-1 Big Bend and America’s Second Harvest of the Big Bend just to name a few. Legal Services of North Florida whose footprint spans the entire affected area, is assisting many storm victims with short and long-term legal needs. Counseling services offered by agencies with mental health counselors to allow for grieving and acceptance of loss to move forward. After school programs extending services to children from outside areas to provide a sense of normalcy despite their current chaotic reality. Red Eye Coffee who recognized what a cup of coffee could mean to a first responder and citizen in Calhoun County recovering from a devastated community. Trent Smith, a former Blountstown resident who saw the devastation of his hometown and coordinated a grass roots recovery effort to help the local hospital and residents still in shock. Or F3 Tallahassee, the local men’s crossfit/rucking group who have traveled across counties cutting and removing trees/debris from homes of those who have no means to pay to have it done.

It’s the services/deeds like these that really elevate the power of nonprofits, the power of people and the power of community. I want to share my heartfelt thanks and gratitude to every single UPHS Member agency who has played a role and lent a hand in the pre-and-post disaster efforts, as well as, our Mayor Andrew Gillum, our local elected officials, City/County staffs, first responders, linemen/women and the countless volunteers whose dedication and commitment throughout this disaster should make you all incredibly proud to call Tallahassee-Leon County home.

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